Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Day I Betrayed Cecil

By Mahlia Lindquist

Most people fantasize about sex, and so do I. But unlike most of us, I also fantasize about converting mean people to kind ones. In fact, I have a dream list of potential converts. 

Dick Cheney, Donald Trump, and the anonymous neighbor who called the police on me one New Year’s Eve, to name a few. Ditto for those who who park in handicap spots whilst not actually physically impaired. These are just mean-assed people. For their own good, as well as the greater good, they need an intervention to convince them to try niceness on for size. 

I imagine meeting my neighbor the tattle-tale, and imparting words of wisdom so compelling, so obviously from a place of intelligence and kindness, that he experiences a transformation, renounces his disagreeable ways, and thanks me. He promises to never, ever call the police on neighbors just trying to have a bit of fun on New Year's Eve, especially if it's barely midnight. Then he goes out into the world spreading love, cheer and good will to all mankind and animals. 

Speaking of animals, Walter Palmer, who butchered Cecil the beloved black-maned lion, is a recent addition to my list of fantasy converts.

When I heard the story of how Palmer and his guides lured Cecil from the protection of a preserve, shot him with an arrow, and finished him off after a 40-hour chase, my heart hurt. My heart hurt not just for Cecil, but for the decimation of rhinos, elephants, gorillas, whales, and legions of other species. My heart hurts even more when I consider what it means to be human, when the annihilation of hundreds of species is mostly a result of the rapacious appetites of my own.

When I added Palmer the lion slayer to my list, our imagined meeting had the same format as all of my other fantasy interventions: I would address him with courage, conviction and moral certitude.

Unfortunately, I discovered that I am so lacking in all three that I deserve to be on my own list of reprehensible souls. That, at least in my case, when fantasy collides with reality; courage, conviction, and moral certainty are easily displaced by shallowness and lack of fortitude.

I didn’t meet Palmer, but I did meet a version of him. His name is Stuart. 

Stuart and I met as I stood in line at my favorite coffee shop. We recognized each other from the gym and, as we waited for our coffee, enjoyed a cozy chat. Stuart is charming, funny and smart. And, oh yes, he is totally hot. 

Honestly, I would venture to say that  Stuart is one of the most beautiful men I have ever met.  At least on the outside. 

Stuart mentioned that he spends half the year in Africa.  “Oooohh,” I thought, “he probably works for one of those NGOs — charming, funny, smart, gorgeous AND an  international do-gooder.”  My version of winning the lottery. 

My imagination didn’t  just run away from me, it did in an olympic sprint. However, as always happens when imagination makes a run for it, reality beats it to the finish every time.

That ugly reality was Stuart's revelation that no, he doesn't work for an NGO. He is a professional hunter and leads safaris in Tanzania.

Unfortunately, fantasies die hard.

"Fascinating," I cooed. "I’ve always wanted to go on one those photograph safaris."

But, nope, Stuart was unabashedly specific; he uses guns, not cameras. 

Still, I couldn't wrap my mind around this genial man, so handsome on the outside, doing something so ugly.    

My heart, the one that hurt when I heard about Cecil, was filled with righteous indignation. But what came out of my mouth was tepid and mealy-mouthed.  
 Me: Oh how, um, <cough>, ahem …  interesting. Has all that publicity with Cecil hurt  business?  
Stuart: <snort> No, why would it?  
Me: Well, er, there’s been a lot of negative publicity, you know, killing a beloved lion, luring him from the protection of the preserve and all that. 
Stuart: Hah! With the $50k paid to kill an old lion, the public should be thanking the guy who shot him. The money he and other hunters pay goes a long way in protecting wildlife. Species are dying off due to destruction of habitat, not because of hunters. And who says Cecil was lured off the preserve? It’s normal to bait game, plus lions are free to wander. And, why does the outrage over a dead lion exceed the fury over the routine gunning down of innocents in our communities? Shouldn't we be talking about poor, abused and starving children? The threat to our planet from climate change and the poisoning of our oceans and rivers?  How hamburgers and hotdogs are made? The hypocrisy is sickening
What I thought was, can't we care about an old lion AND mass shootings AND the planet, AND the gross abuse of animals to satisfy our Big Mac cravings?  Isn’t it possible to protect habitat without hunting?  What kind of person kills majestic and endangered animals for sport? What kind of person likes killing so much he is willing to pay $50k for the privilege of the slaughter?  Wouldn’t it be infinitely preferable to pay $50k to protect habitat and not kill Cecil? I DON’T GET IT!!!!

Sadly, that monologue and concluding primal scream only happened in my head.

What I said was muted and lame, "well, there sure has been a lot of bad publicity, I wouldn’t want to be Palme."

When Stuart flashed a sexy smile and suggested we get together that weekend, primitive impulses almost allowed for an enthusiastic "ooohhh baby, your place or mine?!"  It was only through a miraculous flicker of my waning righteous indignation, that I coughed up a half-hearted, "sorry, I'm busy."

I walked away feeling an ashamed and spineless sell-out. All it took was a handsome face, charming personality (and killer body) to throw principles to the wind. For a few weeks I was filled with despair, no longer able to entertain fantasies of changing the world, one compelling and quick-witted conversation at a time.

I wondered if people who suffer from a depressed libido, unable to fantasize about sex, feel the same sense of loss and hopelessness.

But then, ever the first-rate rationalizer, I thought about how Stuart was an unfair barometer of my moral compass. After all, unlike Stuart, most heinous souls are just as repulsive on the outside. At least the ones on my list are. Besides, I didn't actually go out with Stuart. I am confident that if given the chance, I could redeem myself for betraying Cecil.

I am back to fantasizing about being a one-woman intervention wonder. However, in hopes that dreams do come true and I actually meet someone on my list, I am now careful not to include any hotties.

Fortunately, I won't have to delete Dick or Donald.


  1. I'm guessing your hot dude was not open to your perspective as to how he should spend his time in Africa.

    The only person we can really make better anyway is ourselves, and that only comes through self-reflection (which is probably more endangered than the lions).

    That's the most productive way to make the world better, and you are doing that.

    1. Agreed! That's why I only fantasize about interventions. This, like Most fantasies are best enjoyed in the imagination--or blog! Always a pleasure to hear from you. Thanks! Mahlia