Archive | July, 2015

Dear Cecil, beloved Lion of Zimbabwe, This is How Your Murder Should Be Avenged

30 Jul
Dear Cecil,
You were beloved by your people, a symbol of something precious, worth more than money could ever mean.  And then, you were murdered, dying over two torturous, fearful, confusing, angry and disastrous days, starting with an arrow, ending with a bullet.
The man who paid a mere $50,000 for the pleasure (oh, how I hate to have to use that word here!) of murdering you so evilly then took you treasures as his own:  your beautiful face, your mane, you entire fur-lined skin, leaving your meat and bones, your organs all, to rot in the sun like the waste he considered you, otherwise, to be.
Many have called for his death, as though that would be justice.  Even I, at first, considered it.  But that would not be justice.  Nor would locking him in prison for any length of time.
I say that, because there is a better, far better form of “an eye for an eye”, here.  Allow me to elucidate.
Cecil, you were a symbol of hope for your people, human and animal alike.  Your beauty was not only in your genes but in your health.
This murderer, this Dr. Walter Palmer, is guilty of many murders before yours.  He lacks empathy even for warm-blooded, spine-supported, internally skeletined creatures, mammals like our own human species.
In truth, it cost him more than the hunting guides’ $50,000.  There were travel expenses, and income loss from the days he planned to miss work (not to mention, of course, the additional days of income he continues to lose, now that the world is raging against him).  Let’s price that at $100,000, planned costs.  Then, there’s the price of having a professional mount your beautiful head and skin, so Dr. Palmer can look at it, touch it, and relive his evil many times over in his memories, while your people continue to mourn your loss.
$50,000, for an American doctor, as the news keeps referring to this dentist, seems quite a small hunting fee for such precious large game.  We must appreciate that from the perspective of the hunting guides.  Just how much food, shelter, medicine, transportation, and other necessities can such an amount, in American dollars, actually purchase in Zimbabwe?  How many wells could be drilled — not for oil, but for life preserving water!  How many social structures could be developed, so women are safer and freer, now, so their children, both male and female, can have better lives in this very next, upcoming generation?
 A hospital in Zimbabwe charged women $5 for each scream during childbirth – The Washington Post says the average income in Zimbabwe is $150 per year.  That $50,000, alone, equals one year of income for some 333 families — a full year!  Naturally, Zimbabwe can be expected to have a similar wealth gap to us, in America, where a handful of individuals own the equivalent of over 50% of our nation.  Remove such statistical outliers from Zimbabwe’s average, and that money might support some 2,000 households or more.
Forgive all the lead-up.  Here is what I think Dr. Walter Palmer must do, for justice to be achieved:
He should be sentenced to live out his life in Zimbabwe, working as a dentist, providing free care to every Zimbabwean (except the most wealthy), and with a state-sponsored income of $150/year.  All the costs for the dental practice should be supplied by the state, as well.
Christopher Hitchens once reminded us how dental disease was the cause of many deaths, once upon a not too distant past.  Dr. Palmer owes many lives back, for the ones he took.  Not only did he kill directly, but he killed the hopes and dreams riding on them, paid for by the very poor people who needed their symbolic and ecologic value.  He can only make amends by serving them, and by living enough like them, to eventually, hopefully develop compassion, if not also empathy.

Death for Dr. Walter Palmer would be a waste, benefiting no one.  A life of dental service to Zimbabweans, saving them from pain, poor health, and even, sometimes, death, lived on their poor level, for decades and decades, should be a far greater deterrent to other heartless, blood-lust hunters.

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Judaism & Atheism

7 Jul

At 16, one friend gave me Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Place” and another questioned why God would punish his kind and caring mother with so much pain, losing many family members over a few short years, each death unrelated to the others. He also questioned why God would punish innocent children, starving them to death in poor countries, and so on.

About 5 years later, I wondered in the same vein why I was being punished, knowing I’d done nothing worthy of the harsh, even brutal life I lived. For strength, I turned to anger, and for safety, I aimed that anger at God. I could not aim it at the individual humans involved, but God supposedly created them, so He was ultimately responsible.

I broke from Judaism. Despite or because of a comparative religions course, I felt zero attraction to any other religion. Eight years later, missing mostly the prayer melodies, I gave Judaism another try. Twenty years more, and I came to appreciate that Judaism was a culture worthy of keeping, God was not. My rabbi accepted this without argument and welcomed me same as ever.

I think Jewish culture, which praises good argumentation for its exercise in critical reasoning, just might naturally mature its bravest followers into non-belief. The disproportionate numbers of scientists, writers, philosophers, etc., along with my growing appreciation for the historical numbers of Jewish atheists, not just coming out of the Holocaust but even centuries before, are good signs.

Perhaps the legendary Abraham truly meant to destroy all idols and gods, but found the change too radical for others. Perhaps he compromised on one invisible god, just to help others transition.

XSince then, Christianity has added two back: Jesus and the Holy Ghost. Islam has effectively added back Muhammed, since Muhammed is treated like a god. Judaism at least hasn’t done that, and I am hoping, despite the few extremists on its right fringe, that the tiny population of world Jewry finds a way, in addition to science, to lead the world out of superstition.