Cecil the Lion, Planned Parenthood and Moral Blindness

Cecil the Lion, Planned Parenthood and Moral Blindness August 1, 2015
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Photo credit: puliarf / Foter / CC BY

It has been interesting to see the overwhelming outrage in reaction to Cecil the Lion’s death in the media and on social media.

It is reported that Walter Palmer, the dentist who shot Cecil, is now in hiding. He is not even responding to calls from government officials investigating his safari hunting trip.

I think Max Lindenman over at “Diary of a Wimpy Catholic” analyzed all this well:

Neither love for animals nor concern over the environment has much to do with what’s happening here. That should go without saying. If either were fueling this onslaught, we wouldn’t see a dog or cat left without a home anywhere in America. We’d all be getting around on bikes and cooling ourselves with punkahs. No, the mob is running on a cheaper substance: animal-like blood-lust toward a fellow human being.

Although I do disagree with one thing Max wrote. I think the reaction to this is related to concern for animals, albeit an armchair concern. But Max rightly points out that this concern does not translate into real action by most people to address the welfare of animals here at home.

Let’s face it, if we really cared about animals, the first thing we would do is cut down our consumption of meat.

But it’s much easier to get enraged about a rich dentist who goes halfway around the world to shoot a beloved lion.

What really concerns me is that I have seen some of the same people express outrage about Cecil the Lion’s death and then in the same breath defend Planned Parenthood’s actions in these latest shocking videos which show employees and executives, right here in the United States, trafficking human body parts for what clearly seems to be monetary gain.

This leaves me feeling very baffled.

Why do we feel free to share photos of Cecil the Lion on Facebook but hesitate to share videos of people nonchalantly discussing the value of baby parts? Why are the Planned Parenthood videos so controversial while Cecil’s death elicits pure outrage?

Don’t get me wrong. It is both/and. Both of these issues should be addressed. They are not morally equivalent, but that does not mean that we should not speak up about all injustices and immoral behavior. It also doesn’t mean we need to downplay one moral outrage to highlight another.

But the initial silence in the media regarding the Planned Parenthood videos in comparison to the immediate outrage in response to a dentist killing a lion on another continent, leads me to wonder if our preconceived notions about certain issues can lead us to a moral blindness which, in this case, is astounding.

Camille Paglia, an atheist and feminist cultural critic, recently commented on the response to the Planned Parenthood videos:

 Now let me give you a recent example of the persisting insularity of liberal thought in the media. When the first secret Planned Parenthood video was released in mid-July, anyone who looks only at liberal media was kept totally in the dark about it, even after the second video was released. But the videos were being run nonstop all over conservative talk shows on radio and television. It was a huge and disturbing story, but there was total silence in the liberal media. That kind of censorship was shockingly unprofessional. The liberal major media were trying to bury the story by ignoring it. Now I am a former member of Planned Parenthood and a strong supporter of unconstrained reproductive rights. But I was horrified and disgusted by those videos and immediately felt there were serious breaches of medical ethics in the conduct of Planned Parenthood officials. But here’s my point: it is everyone’s obligation, whatever your political views, to look at both liberal and conservative news sources every single day. You need a full range of viewpoints to understand what is going on in the world.

Now, I don’t always agree with Camille but I find her ability to think about issues in a nuanced way to be really refreshing. I think we all can learn from her ability to see beyond the narrow confines of one worldview. In fact, reading her comments led me to make an examination of my own conscience.

It made me wonder to myself, “What are my “darlings”? What are my blind spots that keep me from approaching the world with a critical and nuanced eye?”

Am I missing the horror of something that is obvious to others?

Good questions for us all perhaps.


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