Who is Walter Palmer? Don’t Google him, just run him through your memory’s filters and we’ll get back to it.
We live in a culture of outrage. In my line of work, one of the things I have to do so deftly is walk the tightrope between empathy and calling out bullshit. Socially, humanly, I have an obligation to stand up for the people and things that don’t have a voice. Professionally, it’s my job to dissect and cut into a subject and find the truth.
How do you stay between those hashmarks? How do you take on true violations without becoming one of the pitchfork wielding monster chasers yourself? More importantly, why do we do it at all? What benefit is there to being righteously indignant over any subject in the first place?
Walter Palmer, by the way, shot Cecil the Lion. Remember that? You do now, I’m guessing. In June of 2015 the entire world wanted that man dead. Like, bring-me-his-head-on-a-pike dead. Now no one even remembers his name. No, no, I did! And maybe you did, but as someone who has asked that question repeatedly to crowds of people and been met with blank stares every time, I assure you that you are perfectly normal if you didn’t.
I bring him up because he is probably the biggest target we ever had before the whole #metoo movement, and like the Harvey Weinsteins and Kevin Spaceys, he served as a soft target.
I think people are mad. We’ve drifted out of the current of progress and settled into a stagnant little pool of complacency. They, whoever they are, charted such a predictable course for all of us. Graduate high school, go to college, run up debt, get married, buy a house, get more debt, pump out 2.5 children (who gets to keep all these half-babies anyway?), raise them as well as you can, and then send them off on the same cycle.
It’s boring. And there’s nothing much you can do about it once you’re in it.
You can’t take your frustration out on any of the real problems. You can’t punch your boss. You definitely can’t punch your child. You can’t even punch 8-am-on-a-Saturday-lawnmower-guy. They’re victims too, really. None of the things we’re mad at are available targets.
But let a guy shoot a lion. Let someone refuse to make a gay cake. Let someone tweet something even slightly controversial. The whole world turns their boat and opens up the gunports. Come about! And… FIRE!
All this screaming and yelling and pretending that we don’t make any of the same mistakes. Pretending that our own closets don’t look like The Killing Fields in Cambodia. It just feels good to yell!
And after a day of wishing death on people we’ve never met, we go home to the lives we privately don’t like and act like everything is okay.
The argument can definitely be made that this is the safer path. I don’t know how far back you can trace the scapegoat, but it shows up in ancient Greece and it shows up in the Bible’s Leviticus. Maybe the Walter Palmers of this world are saving marriages. I don’t know.
I know I am endeavoring to pay more attention to the battles I choose though. I try to live with as little anger in my day as I can, so just redirecting it doesn’t work for me anymore. Now when the news or the talk show hosts or the entirety of the internet tells me I should spend my energy hating something, I really try to decide if it’s worth it.
That hate is contagious, even when it is deserved.
We need more happiness. More stable relationships. More good deeds.
We need way less anger.
Just something to think about the next time our fingers start writing a scathing post about something that doesn’t affect us in anyway whatsoever.