There is a tendency, when a news report of national or global interest comes to light, to begin pinning stories against one another. I think this sprouts from people being diverse, and having diverse opinions and values and beliefs of what is or is not right or wrong. Unfortunately, these comparisons often fall into a repetitive cycle: something tragic happens, people rally behind it, a counter group begins to scrutinize those adamant about the issue, another huge tragedy takes place, the public eye moves on, lather, rinse, repeat.
Obviously, a current example of this is the killing of Cecil, the lion, by Walter Palmer, the American dentist. By now, most people have probably heard the story. Cecil was an important lion in Zimbabwe. He was well known to locals and tourists, and was part of a study conducted by a research team at the University of Oxford. Palmer, on a big game hunting trip in Zimbabwe, (along with a guide) lured Cecil out of the park, shot, skinned, and beheaded him.
When I heard about the story, I was angry and disappointed. It was an “accident” that should have never happened in the first place. Regardless of Palmer’s ignorance during the hunt, he should be held responsible for his actions. It’s also a wholeheartedly tragic loss, in my opinion. It’s heartbreaking for me to hear about something so natural, so powerful in the natural scheme of the world, killed by humans for sport, with weapons sadly not foreign to the animal kingdom.
All of this has come to the forefront of social media during the past few weeks. People joined together, created hashtags, threatened Palmer, constructed vigils for Cecil, and so on. For about a week, there seemed to be no change in the unrest of the public’s attention. Most of what I saw friends posting was anger and sadness and disgust over the whole situation, until a few new perspectives began to pop up.
The crime comparisons began.
Why is everyone so adamant about one animal when abortions are happening all over?
Who care’s about a lion’s death when soldiers are shot and killed every day?
Genocide exists! Famine exists! Stop talking about the lion!
Perhaps all of these statements hold some amount of truth and valid confusion regarding the situation. Just because one lion was killed does not mean the rest of the world stops turning. Terrible things do and will continue to happen, and with the media’s attention on one loss, it can often neglect other pressing issues and stories. Nevertheless, I don’t think the solution here is to drop one problem and pick up another.
In America, especially, we are so good blocking the progress of one situation by comparing it to another that is entirely unrelated. It seems a moot point, to me, to compare the death of a lion to the current discussion about planned parenthood. One regards animal rights and hunting laws. The other regards human/ women’s rights. Pinning them against each other won’t foster a solution to either situation. Whatever directions either issue takes, their outcomes are independent from one another. If anything, linking two unrelated hot topics together perpetuates the cycle of tragedy comparisons, and effectively stalls either discussion from being fruitful.
So, what’s the solution? How could we possibly stop the cycle of pinning news stories against each other?
First off, I would say that if you’re thinking about posting a story you’re interested in or passionate about on social media, post that story. If you are angry about global poverty right now, post about that. Don’t post about how you’re angry that another issue is getting more attention. Perhaps the only way for your interests to become a public concern is if you express your concern for them publicly.
Secondly, respect that people may have different interests or focuses. For some people, animal rights are their biggest concern. For others, it’s transgender rights, or putting an end to police brutality, or improving the prison systems, or providing kids in low income schools with better lunches.
I think we need people’s diverse interests to keep ourselves open-minded, and to keep striving towards a more productive, more justice-seeking society. Talk about issues that you are happy about, or want to see change in, or feel need to be talked about more, but perhaps without tearing down other important discussions in the process.