The killing of Cecil the lion has filled the last week with outraged indignation expressed all over the media and Internet. It also provoked a Facebook conversation in which one person was even more outraged at the world wide condemnation of the killing of one lion, while it remains strangely disinterested in the killing of children by the thousands.
I appreciated her anger but don’t think she’s entirely right about it. For one thing, public outrage is not a very good indicator of the willingness of society to come to grips with moral evils. The killing of Cecil was an event relatively easy to understand, and the miscreant who did the deed was identified and held up to public ridicule. It was easy to generate public outrage over it. But what does that have to do with children?
Let’s start with the fact that animals and children share a popular status as symbols of innocence, but children are human beings, and they must take precedence. The problem is that all the ways in which our children are abused and killed are very complex, difficult to understand, and the guilty can often hide with ease. It’s hard to raise public outrage over problems that are so complicated, embedded in local culture, yet universally condemned. Moreover, the public outrage over Cecil will fade away as soon as the next lurid event comes along. Public outrage is fickle that way. Seldom does it have endurance. On the other hand, there is a small army of persons dedicated to stopping child abuse in all its forms. They are in it for the long haul and will not give up. Nor have the media ignored the issue. In depth reporting has taken place, and will take place again.
However, as long as the public is outraged over big game trophy hunting, it would be a good time to turn the spotlight on a different kind of trophy hunting. Because that’s what it is. Trophy hunting. It’s trophy hunting when men (and I presume women) deliberately engage in sex tourism that preys on young boys and girls in places where they can be captured, herded, kept, and driven into the sites of sexual trophy hunters. Thanks to media reporting, many of us are aware of the sex trafficking industry that makes a considerable profit off the children they control, but we may think it as a Southeast Asia thing far removed from our shores. It’s not. It exists right here with operations in most any train or bus station.
Not every big game trophy hunter pays big bucks to go to Africa for his kills. Some are content to bag their trophies closer to home and for not much money. The same can be said for those who trophy hunt our children. Why spend all that money to go to Thailand when main street in most any town can be as good, especially with the help of the Internet? And here is where our Facebook correspondent is wrong. Even in our small city, the community and the agencies that serve it are determined and untiring in doing what they can to prevent trophy hunting of children, pursuing those who do, and exacting appropriate justice.
My denomination, for instance, requires all parish leadership and anyone who works with children to undergo background checks and complete training in how to protect our children. The schools and non profit agencies working with children do the same. We know that leaves big gaps, but it’s a start. Our police department has a unit designated to investigate crimes against children, and they do so with considerable success.
So, no, maybe the kind of public outrage some would like to see isn’t there. But the long term, resolute work by many to bring a halt to trophy hunting our children is determined and ongoing. I don’t have much faith in pubic outrage. I think it is shallow at best. I do have faith in the hard work of many to bend to the task and never give up.