Cecil the Lion, redux

A story about a 4-year-old boy who managed to elude his parents and work his way into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo has been all over the internet and social media.  As a grandmother of three very active little boys, 1, 3 and 5, I can almost imagine this happening, though I still think his parents bear some responsibility (as does the zoo, even if this is the first time such a thing has happened in 38 years.) It’s this type of occurrence that makes me think those cute little leashes harnesses might not be such a bad idea, after all.

As unsettling as an event such as this is, even more disturbing is the fact that no small number of people have seemed disproportionately outraged that the gorilla was shot and killed in order to save the little boy.  One very plainspoken blogger/tweeter stated that the lives of every ape in the world do not equal that of even one human being, and he was viciously attacked by an international array of outraged animal lovers. The mindset of this group appears to be that humans are parasites of which there are already too many, and that the choice to kill the animal, even to save the boy, is an offense of the highest order.

The fact that we have to explain that the intrinsic value of each human is such that  this choice was a complete no-brainer is chilling to me. But that is where we are. In a world where nearly a quarter of all pregnancies end in abortion, it is already clear that unborn humans are regarded by many as expendable and inconvenient. There are even some who make the argument that infants who have already been born aren’t necessarily entitled to life, should they be somehow imperfect or disabled. So, I suppose it’s not too much of a stretch to rationalize that troublesome 4 year olds – being found in rather large numbers worldwide – aren’t all that valuable either.

While those of us with Catholic or other Christian sensibilities understand that the intrinsic value of each and every human lies in our being made “in the image and likeness of God”, that particular argument doesn’t hold water for the increasing number of people who profess no faith. But there are other, secular arguments for the unique value of humans. Humans, unlike animals, are “rational agents”, capable of making decisions. Wesley J. Smith eloquently makes a case for “human exceptionalism”, totally apart from the “image of God” argument:

“After all, what other species in known history has had the wondrous capacities of human beings? What other species has been able to (at least partially) control nature instead of being controlled by it? What other species builds civilizations, records history, creates art, makes music, thinks abstractly, communicates in language, envisions and fabricates machinery, improves life through science and engineering, or explores the deeper truths found in philosophy and religion? What other species has true freedom? Not one….”

This makes perfect sense to me; that a growing number of very vocal people find it unconvincing is cause for real concern.

Something tells me that the cats and dogs belonging to the folks so outdone by the “tragic” killing of the gorilla enjoy very comfortable lives. However, were I dependent upon these people and suffering from a serious illness, disability, or plain old age, I’d want to head for the hills.

“… the times that try men’s souls”

“These are the times that try men’s souls.”  Thomas Paine’s words from The American Crisis (and the title of that series of Paine’s pamphlets, come to think of it) seem particularly fitting, given the near certainty that the choice for our next president will be between a shady, thoroughly unlikable, possibly crooked enabler of her serial-adulterer husband, and a narcissistic con artist demagogue.

How, in the name of heaven, did we get to this point?

There has been a “perfect storm” of events that resulted in an election that will likely offer two of the most odious candidates ever to run for national office. For years now, there has been an angry, anti-establishment subset of Tea Party-type Republicans proud of their obstructionism and contrariness. To them, “compromise” is a dirty word, and any member of the party who dared to reach across the aisle in an effort to break up the logjam in Congress is a traitor and a “liberal.”  To me, Ted Cruz is emblematic of this group; however, even he is too “establishment” for those who have been wooed and won by Donald Trump.

Hillary Clinton’s seemingly inevitable candidacy has been a long time in the making, the final step in a carefully calculated march towards becoming our first female president. However, in the face of a voting populace eager to shake things up, an elderly socialist is giving her a run for her money. (Never mind that many of the fresh-faced young supporters of Bernie Sanders couldn’t define socialism on a bet. It’s all about the “feels.”)

The thing that I find most disturbing about the coming national debacle is that there is so little actual thinking and discernment going on. There are considerably fewer newspapers around, many local TV stations have relieved themselves of their most experienced broadcast journalists, and many people get their information from news outlets – online or broadcast – that reinforce their pre-existing biases. Liberals watch MSNBC, conservatives watch FOX, young people … I’m not so sure that many of them get much news at all, now that Jon Stewart has left his show.

Add an unprecedented level of anger – mainly on the part of less educated, middle-to-lower income whites – at immigrants, their own failure to realize the “American Dream”, and establishment Republicans for “selling out” and you end up with a toxic environment that results in the likes of a xenophobic, misogynistic, unprincipled nationalist as the virtually certain nominee of the party of Lincoln. Yikes.

It is ironic in the extreme that the angry “little people” have turned to a very rich (even if not so wealthy as he claims) member of the extremely privileged class as their standard bearer. Never mind the fact that he has been on every possible side of every major issue. He’s for trade, then against trade, against Planned Parenthood and then touting the “good things” they do, going to ban all Muslims from entering the country… but then announces “exceptions.”

The conventional wisdom has been that Republicans fall in line, but Democrats fall in love with a candidate during the primary season.  Republican primary voters have done everything but fall in line this year, and a substantial number of Democratic voters feel no great affection for Hillary Clinton; the love – largely from younger people – has been reserved for a crotchety, independent-minded, elderly leftist who will come close, but probably won’t win, the nomination.

I find all of this upsetting in the extreme, barely containing my incredulity  when I hear Catholic friends state that they will vote for Trump, either enthusiastically (!) or while holding their noses, as they view him as the lesser of two evils.  Perhaps if I believed he actually was the lesser of two evils I could at least consider him, but I don’t believe he is. I think he has perpetrated a con job on the American public, and that he is deeply untrustworthy, dangerously unpredictable, and would be a threat to world peace. Neither can I support Hillary Clinton, in large part due to her pro-abortion track record and questionable support of the first amendment, particularly with regard to freedom of religion. Then there’s that little issue of her perceived untrustworthiness that keeps rearing its very ugly head.

As a Catholic, I often find myself having to choose which candidate ticks the most boxes with regard to pro-life issues and other Catholic social teachings.  For the first time I can recall in 40 or so years of voting, I simply cannot bring myself to vote for either major candidate. And what a very sad commentary that is.