The subject of our latest Two Minutes Hate: 55-year-old Dr. Walter Palmer, a dental practitioner from the Minneapolis suburb of Eden Prairie. Early in July, Dr. Palmer, on a hunting vacation in Zimbabwe, killed a lion. Now he's in hiding, his office is under siege by furious mobs, and his patients have all deserted him.
All the emotional stops have been pulled out for this one. The mobs around Dr. Palmer's office are weeping and rending their garments. Mothers are taking their little kiddies—known in lion-speak as "midnight snacks"—to lay bouquets of flowers on Dr. Palmer's doorstep in memoriam for the lion.
I suppose the tots have images of Simba in their silly Disneyfied heads. Come to think of it, probably the "adults" do, too.
Sentimentality about animals is not a new thing in the world, of course. I can remember my sister, back in the Truman administration, crying when the hunters shot Bambi's mother.
That was fiction, though; my sister was five; our fellow-countrymen had just gotten through reducing Hamburg and Berlin to piles of rubble; and anyway Bambi's Mom was a herbivore. This fuss over the lion is way more preposterous.
Latest news as we go to tape: this incident—which happened in Zimbabwe, remember—is now a federal case, literally. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced on Thursday that it is investigating the killing. They will, they tell us, quote, "go where facts lead." [ US Fish & Wildlife Service Investigating Killing Of Cecil The Lion « CBS Minnesota, June 30, 2015]
Why all the hullabaloo? What are the facts? Let's take a look.
This wasn't just any lion. This was Cecil, a star attraction in Hwange National Park. That's a huge safari park—it's about eighty miles across—in the west of Zimbabwe.
The late Cecil was 13 years old at time of death, equivalent to mid-fifties in human years. He was named after 19th-century empire-builder Cecil Rhodes—as indeed was Zimbabwe, when it used to be called Rhodesia. Concerning Rhodes, historian James Morris had this to say in 1968:
Rhodes died in 1902, and was buried at a site of his own choosing in the Matopo Hills in Rhodesia, which he called The World's View. There, in a place of silent beauty, he lies with his friend Jameson and the dead of Allan Wilson's Shangani patrol—all the heroes of Rhodesia, awaiting one fears not the Last Trump but the next regime. [ Pax Britannica: Climax of an Empire, p. 298]
Rhodes was the man who said, "To be born an Englishman is to win first prize in the lottery of life." Read more >>