Friday, July 31, 2015

Lions and Dentists and Cops, Oh My

And then they were upon her. That's a line from Shirley Jackson's chilling story The Lottery, and even though I was probably about fourteen years old when I read it, I can still remember the hairs on my arms and the back of my neck rising up as my bewildered brain took it in and figured it out. If you've never read the story, go and do it and then come back.

God, I love a good short story. That one and Faulkner's A Rose for Emily are seared into my consciousness, and the line I quoted above is one that I kept thinking about over the last few days as the news of the big game hunter dentist's quarry trickled and then gushed out on social media. I find big game hunters just laughably gross, and this guy looked to be typical for the -- well -- breed, but honestly, I'm way more scared of the response I've seen on social media and in the press. There have been people with tiny stuffed lions and people dressed like lions lurking and protesting in the streets, people storming the guy's dental office and shaming him over and over. The internet mobsters have hounded him and his entire family, outed them and forced his business to shut down. I imagine they've gotten death threats, and you could probably figure that their lives are irrevocably changed, if not ruined. Whole businesses are already sprouting up selling lion tee-shirts, and it seems that nearly everyone seems to be caught up in it, jumping on the bandwagon. 

I feel uncomfortable. I find it terrifying that this asshole dude is figuratively being tarred and feathered, pilloried and otherwise destroyed because he killed a beloved lion in Africa. I'm aware that he perhaps is a stand-in for nearly everything that's going wrong on our planet -- the rape and exploitation of all that's beautiful and natural -- but I still can't shake the dis-ease.

On the other hand, I'm complicit in feeling a simmering rage about the apparent daily collision of civil servants and black people. The clusterfuck of cops shooting black people every single day for minor traffic violations or perceived insult is beyond belief, even as the deadly force is a stand-in for racism -- a deep-seated and pervasive disease that you could say is the rotten core of this country. The response, though, compared to that of the lion and the dentist, seems tepid. I'm not a moral relativist, but I find this unsettling.

The hysteria around the dentist is scary to me. I think everyone has gone out of their minds. They are literally upon him. Evidently, hundreds and hundreds of animals are illegally poached and slaughtered each year, yet the outrage is directed at one human being and his family. What next? 

While I wouldn't want an angry mob with pitchforks and burning torches to descend upon any number of police officers who have shot and killed black men and women for minor traffic offenses, what do we do with the rage?  

I don't have any answers, but I do think people should knock it off with the lion and the dentist. As for the rest of it, my own rage, simmering, is but a tiny drop and it behooves me, like many white people of privilege, to sit in the moment and listen. These are intense times, and during intense times, I'm going to go deeper within even as I listen, remain open and increase my awareness of what my fellow citizens of color are telling me.

I think the palliative for fear and anger is to stand firmly and wakefully in the moment. It’s like the old Zen master saying, “Come with me. Let’s fill the well with snow.” It’s a hopeless task: The snow melts; the process is endless. We don’t take action because we expect a certain result; we do it because it needs to be done. We pick up the shovel not because we’re going to fill the well with snow but because shoveling is the dharma activity of that moment. We show up for the impossible.

Bonnie Myotai Treace 


  1. I haven't had much to say on the situation with Cecil. We all know HIS name, don't we, even as the list of black victims of cops grows ever longer and we do not know the names of those who have died.
    That's a beautiful quote.
    You are a beautiful woman.

  2. Elizabeth you summed it up beautifully. We are I think pinning our horror on the dentist because we (or someone) can do something about it whereas the rest of the shit keeps getting worse and we are helpless that is those of us who are even looking at it. Thank you.

  3. I don't know. Maybe a couple of mobs with torches descending on the police who are killing 4 people a day would cause them to stop and think. A roar of public outrage even. Instead, excuse after excuse offered in comments blaming the victims and exonerating the police. As a black grandmother who has sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters out driving down streets in the USA everyday, it's beyond worrying. It should be unbelievable, except it's not.

  4. Elizabeth, thank you. You said it perfectly. You said it for me, who is just too tired and weary to say it again and again. You nailed it. Exactly this. Thank you.

  5. Good post, Elizabeth. It needed to be said.

  6. I keep wondering why we can't get a decent gun-control law passed, when there is all of this energy being released over the killing of a (beautiful, innocent) lion. What about all of the beautiful, innocent school children and fellow citizens right here?

  7. "The Lion and the Dentist" could be a title! This reminds me of when "we got Osama" and I felt totally uncomfortable with all the hip-hip-hoorah reactions. Death, violence, hatred, destruction for all! Yay?

    I think there is a massive problem nowadays of living in a blur and not actually experiencing our emotions, so we tend to channel or let off emotional pressure in response to "safer" things than say risking a more honest expression of opinion or feelings. The racial issues are too loaded, too close to home, the "pretty kitty" vs. "the villain" is safer and I think people unwittingly pour out backed up unexpressed feelings/energy when these mob reactions occur.

    Not sure if that makes sense, but it's something near to what I think...

    Good post. I admire how you can pin down your thoughts and express them so well!

    Happy Friday all.

  8. I'm going to lump all Americans together and I apologize but what in the fuck is wrong with Americans that they let this wholesale slaughter of their citizens happen at the hands of their own police force? I watched the video of Samuel DuBose being shot in the head by a cop, because why? I couldn't believe it. And even more, why aren't all Americans up in arms about this? Why aren't Americans pouring into the streets and demanding that their police force act responsibly and legally? I don't understand it and it fills me with dread for the future.

  9. A friend commented that it is easy to be so angry at the dentist because it doesn't cost us (the universal us) anything. We can vent our anger at him and feel superior and no one will challenge us. To show anger and do something about the treatment of blacks in the U.S., the treatment of missing aboriginal women in Canada, etc. would cost us something. I was thinking today that I like to blame the 'masses' - the 'masses' accept injustice, 'the masses' are greedy. But most people don't think of themselves as the masses but then who are the masses except us? Sorry I said the masses way too much to be good for anyone.
    - Karen

  10. OK, I'm going to go out on a limb here and disagree a little bit.

    I think the anger over the dentist is healthy and justified. I DO NOT sanction any kind of vigilantism, but I am impressed that people are so upset at the wanton killing of an obviously innocent animal. I'm glad so many people care so much. And frankly I am not at all sorry that the man's business is suffering -- he is representative of the wealthy, elitist, paternalistic powers-that-be that rape and pillage the resources of our planet every day simply BECAUSE THEY CAN. His indifference to his fellow creatures, both human and otherwise, SHOULD outrage us.

    As for the police-on-citizen violence, that should outrage us too. And I think it does. I don't need to point out that there have been marches and demonstrations and arrests and calls for legal action. But the morality of those stories is more complex, at least at first blush. We need to know the details of who did what and who acted how, and that can sometimes be hard to pin down.

    With Cecil, the morality is clear. The lion was innocent. The shooter is guilty. There's no argument.

  11. You are so right. So many people are so angry about so many things, and this rich, white suburban dude is an easy target for our anger, some of it absolutely displaced. I live just a few miles from this p*$$y (rhymes with goosey, is like a twat...) and I felt compelled to drive by his McMansion the day of the protests on my way to the veggie stand. I'm a huge wild animal lover, my death of choice would be one of those 'girl visits animal sanctuary and gets eaten' type deaths. I just wanted to see how such a scumbag lives. Don't feel too sorry for him personally though, he recently settled out of court for over $100,000 for harassing and fondling his dental receptionist for years. Even the vanity plate on his Porsche makes note of his desire for killing animals. He's a real piece of doodie. But yeah, displaced rage it is. The same day of the dentist protest, a local mommy dropped her dying toddler off at the hospital and then promptly asked the doctor when she could collect his insurance benefit. No one is protesting outside her work or home but perhaps we should be.

  12. I think that your decision to sit and listen is really wise. Attending to this whole present moment without making a decision about what to do about it yet, but to let the whole thing in.

    I wonder how we can make a space for all of this rage and helplessness. I don't really know how to help someone who is enraged. I don't know how to help someone who knows the answers to these questions and is intent on making other people change.

    I'm humbled and astounded by the world as it is. I'm happy to be in it.

    I'm happy you're in it, too.

    I think we're getting a taste of a world where there simply are no more secrets. Everyone thinks that's awesome...until it's their turn. I know I've done terrible things and I'm still doing them. Maybe I'll never be exposed to the wrath of the world for my private stupidity, but I suppose it's inevitable. The thing is, when we do wrong in private, we tend not to be very honest with ourselves about it, and we tell ourselves stories about how it was okay, it was justified for that one time, or it wasn't a big deal, or I deserved to be able to do it and I'll make up for it next time....yada-yada-yada.

    Like, what if we had to watch the footage of ourselves on the internet of the world every time we said an unkind thing or took something that wasn't ours or muttered something under our breath or cut in line or what what what. I think we'd be horrified.

    So sitting and listening, looking within is a good starting point.

    But maybe that's wrong, too. Maybe it's better to just leap into action and start telling the world it had better change or else.

    Maybe both are true.

    What a chickenshit I am, huh?

    I guess the way I feel about it is that error and confusion have a home in me, and I'm not as good a person as I give myself credit for, and I should probably check myself and my body, speech, and mind before I start fixing what's outside.

    Anyway, thanks, as always, for good food for thought.

    big love,

  13. You know what? After I read this post I did go out read the story. I got it from the library and it gave me the chills. The writing style reminded me of the book, Never Let Me Go. It turned out just as creepy.



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