Friday, May 08, 2009

For Shame

from Jacqueline

I’m so angry right now, I can barely start this post. In fact, I really don’t quite know how to start it, I am so upset. So, I’ll launch in anywhere, probably doing what my mother is apt to do in strained circumstances, which is start in the middle and work both ways at once.

I think the majority of people now agree – even those who wouldn’t admit to it – that since the election of President Barack Obama our international standing is gradually coming back on an even keel, and perhaps the rest of the world is beginning to see us as not quite the greedy, arrogant bunch of self-interested jerks they thought we were. Whether they were right or wrong is beside the point – it was rocky there for a while. But we now have an administration on a path that is drawing strength and respect through a willingness to understand that not everywhere is America and that we must do our best to demonstrate empathy for other cultures. There seems to be a renewed respect for all other beings that roam this earth, as well as the earth itself, and in that, surely, will be our salvation.

But we all have a part to play, don’t we? We are all ambassadors for this country – even me, the non-American. If I go overseas, I am representing both my adopted country and the land of my birth – in the manner in which I treat people in restaurants, shops etc. – and here at home I also have to remember that I’m an immigrant, and with that comes some level of responsibility to ensure my actions never cast a shadow over the reputation of all immigrants. OK, so that’s the preamble.

With the recovery of America’s reputation so tenuous at the moment, it’s amazing that a stupid woman from Kansas wanted this photograph of her to go whizzing around the world.

Teressa Groenewald-Hagerman, a 39 year-old village idiot, killed this magnificent creature with a single shot from a bow. She did it because someone dared her to, because a woman had never had such a kill before. It gets worse, because she didn’t actually kill the poor animal immediately. It took twelve hours for the elephant to bleed to death, and after waiting for it to breathe it’s last, she finally plucked up the courage – she was scared that it might rear up, I suppose – to stand atop its carcass for the revealing photograph.

On the website 'Hunts of a Lifetime' (and their website is full of village-idiots-with-their-kill photos) Ms Hagerman wrote: “A man by the name of Larry, who is a videographer for Orion Multi Media, bet me I couldn't shoot a buffalo or elephant with a bow. He indicated only one or two women had completed the buffalo with a bow and no woman had ever taken an elephant with a bow. Of course, I couldn't turn down the challenge.' On another site she added: 'The bow was awesome. I think it fit me well. I couldn't wait to get my elephant.” Regarding the slaughter, which happened near Bulawayo, the second largest city in Zimbabwe, she added: “I shot the elephant at 12 yards with one arrow. It was shot near dark. We went back the next day and found him. I was in the middle of 37 elephants when I took my shot. This was my first bow kill and first woman to take an elephant with a bow.”

Wow,Teresa, that’s some achievement for a plucky numbskull like yourself.

There’s more. She was sponsored by two companies, and she has been lauded by many for her achievement. Here’s one of her fans: “That has to be one of the best examples of setting a goal and working hard to achieve it.”

Beggars belief, doesn’t it?

And look, I know that people all over the world make idiots of themselves on vacation, from British lager louts at soccer matches, to unruly Europeans on ski- slopes and those high-schoolers in Aruba – we’ve all done something silly while letting our hair down, and sometimes it’s a gesture that is acceptable to us, but happens to be one of those things that mark us as being of a kind.

Yet there’s something about this level of violence – and the smug pride that went with it – that is beyond a nightmare. I can almost hear the cries of, “There they go again, Americans thinking they own the world.” And I don’t care if it is legal to hunt elephants in certain parts of Africa, or if some people see it as a reasonable cull; and right now, I don’t care if someone points out the poaching going on there, which of course I know about and of course it enrages me – none of that exonerates Groenewald-Hagerman. Wife beating is allowed in some countries, but that doesn’t mean it’s OK for an American, a Brit or anyone else to beat his wife if they happen to be visiting. This act is reprehensible. It speaks to such a terrible disrespect for all life.

I wish I could say I’ve managed to get that off my chest.

There’s a phrase I came across recently, that has been rolling around in my head ever since I read the words: wound agape. Agape has a variety of translations, but is generally thought to be divine love. Wound agape is given to mean the healing that is to be found in the wound itself. Stay with me, I’m going somewhere with this thought.

Here’s one of my personal heroines, Dame Daphne Sheldrick.

The second photograph shows how you might see her if you visited the baby elephant sanctuary she founded in honor of her husband, David Sheldrick.

At the sanctuary they care for orphaned baby elephants who have lost their mothers to the senseless killing by poachers and other nasty pieces of work that pass for human beings. You can read about her and the amazing work of the people at the sanctuary at this website:

Today I am going to foster a baby elephant. As an ambassador for the human race, it’s the least I can do. Perhaps in that act I’ll have a place to put my anger and sadness. Wound agape.

I should add that if anyone wonders if I put animals before people – that old chestnut – no, of course I don’t. I sponsor children in need too, and as readers of this blog know, injustice against any sentient being can really get me and my fellow Naked Authors going. I also know that those who will do harm to animals with ease, have it in them to do the same to a fellow human being.

As an afterthought, couldn’t that woman have found a better target in Zimbabwe? Much as I would be useless with a weapon, I reckon I could identify a suitable target by the name of Mugabe (and I know it rather contradicts my stance on violence again sentient beings, but I am sure you catch my drift). Interesting how a murdering tyrant allows bloodthirsty thrill-seekers into the country to massacre elephants.

And finally, having just fostered an elephant, I thought you’d like to see her. Here’s Sweet Sally. (Yes, I picked her for her name – in memory of my dear old dog, Sally, who passed away last September).

I hope your weekend is kind to you. And remember, being a good ambassador isn’t just a job for some big wig at the State Department.


  1. Unbelievable, and unbelievably sad.

    I saw the 60 Minutes profile of Dame Sheldrick last week, and it made me weepy.

    Good thoughts for all the good creatures, and bad thoughts for the nasty ones....

  2. from Jacqueline

    Rae - yes, both of those things, the sadness is framed by disbelief. The event brought to mind that old saying about fox-hunting: The unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible. I wish there had been another way for this misguided woman to bolster her ego.

  3. RE: Ms. Groenewald-Hagerman. Shooting a statonary target at 12 yards. Nazi executions come to mind.

    But this half-witted woman is not a disgrace to America. She is a disgrace to the human race.

  4. from Jacqueline

    You're absolutely right, Paul, however, there are many people overseas who will jump to the "she's an American" conclusion - and in truth, if Zimbabwe allows killing of elephants for fun, you can bet village idiots from all over the world are trucking on in there to have their several thousand pounds of flesh. Yes, a disgrace to the human race.

  5. I grew up in a hunting family in an area where schools were closed on the first day of hunting season. Back in a more innocent time, it wasn't unusual for a student to have a high-powered rifle in his locker.

    The first time I killed a deer was the last time. I had to hunt in jungle school, but that was for survival, not sport. That was also the last time I raised any kind of weapon against another creature.

    But this is not a hunt. This woman did not do this to feed anyone. This is a killing, a murder, a terrorist act against this elephant's herd.

    That people can get satisfaction from cruelly ending another creature's life, and be proud of it, is appalling.

  6. Hunting to feed your family is one thing, and it is honorable, but the senseless killing of something as noble as an elephant on a dare is truly disgusting. It wasn't even a hunt or a trial of wits against nature, it was 'oh look, a standing target, I think I'll shoot it'. And then they just walked off an left it lying there. I wonder if they looked to see if it had a young one? Probably not, she probably would have shot it too and justified it with 'well I couldn't just leave it to fend for itself, could I?' Cow!

    I've loved those baby elie orphans for a long while. I reread my book on them every now and then. And then sometimes, I paint elephants - usually baby ones.

    Okay, now I'm thoroughly digusted with Americans all over again and angry to boot. Poor elephants...


  7. from Jacqueline

    You're right, David, this elephant's death was a terrorist act of wanton murder. Hunting is something quite different, though I can't see the point of hunting for sport by people who are well-fed and have a freezer full of microwavable meals at home.

  8. Shocking. Can't believe this is legal.

  9. don't blame it on the americans, marianne. those idiots come from all walks of life and from every corner of this wonderful planet.

    this is so disturbing and disgusting, it turned my stomach.

    they should have made this imbecile sit there and watch this poor creature slowly slip away in agony. maybe that would have brought her to her senses - but probably not.


  10. J, I was having a relatively good morning until I read your post today.
    Paul, you are, dare I say, 100% correct and completely on the mark.

    I've never known [of] a woman trophy hunter, usually it's men who are the "pissing contest" participants.
    Personally, I try to persuade those who want to hunt and kill and animal, to invest in the proper camera gear and get that "kill shot" saved for posterity with a 16 x 20 glossy instead of a carcass on the wall.

    Furthermore, often times, these "hunts" are no more than shooting fish in a barrel. I would hope that the reason no woman before this idiot had ever shot and elephant with a bow [or, my guess, with anything else---certainly not for sport] is that THEY KNOW BETTER.......

    Finally, I recall a story of a teenage boy who was a recipient of a wish from the Make a Wish foundation. What was so ironic is that this teenage boy, who was suffering from some form of terminal disease, decided that his dream of a lifetime was to go to Alaska and kill a grizzly bear.

    Let me get this straight, he's thinking....gee as my dying request, I want to kill something.

    Word gets out, and Pierce Brosnan, who is working on a Bond film, offers this young man a walk on part in the Bond movie and the ability to hang out on the set for 10 days while they're shooting in Idaho.

    What happens: Despite the offer to be "memorialized" forever in a Bond film. The boy decides to go to Alaska and hunt a bear.

    Make a Wish arranges for the young man to go on a guided grizzly bear hunt in Alaska, actually on Kodiak Island.

    The boy goes and is unsuccessful in "bagging" a bear.

    So what happens, another chapter of Make a Wish sends him on another "safari" to fulfill his dream. Sadly, this time he was able to kill one of those majestic creatures.

    Guess he's proved he's a "real man" and can die happy now.

    Jackie, I agree with you in that I don't put animals ABOVE people. I do feel safer around, say, a grizzly bear than I do around the average Joe. Hey, I've never heard of a grizzly bear going into the 7-11 and killing everyone because the clerk said they were out of Marlboros.

    I support the right to arm bears.


  11. from Jacqueline

    Thank you, Sybille, Patty, Marianne and Jon for your comments and for responding so thoughtfully. You're right, Sybille, such people come from all walks of life around the world - they are their own tribe. And Jon, you may be interested to know that, while I was on the Hunts of a Lifetime website referred to in my post, I came across another site for an organization that brings the experience of hunting and fishing to children with life-threatening illnesses. I must admit, I had a bit of trouble getting my head around the hunting in particular (heck, I went fishing when I was a kid, still have my old fishing rod, but my brother and I were taught to "catch and release." And seeing as most of the fish were better swimmers than we were fishers, there wasn't a lot of either going on).

    Among other things, the website states that children can be given the experience of hunting black bear in Canada. Doesn't really sit well with me either. I would have definitely taken up Mr. Brosnan's offer - but then I wouldn't be looking to gun down a bear. I, too, support the right to arm bears!

  12. If you're wondering why she left the elephant suffer all night rather than end it with a mercy gunshot.....then she wouldn't get credit for bagging the elephant with a bow and arrow.

  13. from Jacqueline

    Paul, I just assumed she was a thoughtless, nasty excuse for a human being who doesn't appreciate that animals feel pain, have family units, grieve, love ... and that they remember. But sadly, you're right, she wouldn't have been able to say she "completed" her elephant if she had put it out of its terrible misery. It was only when I read the articles about her kill that I realized that "completing" was a term used by such people to describe the accomplishment of a kill. Thank God the only thing I ever get in a pickle about completing is a manuscript by a deadline.

    Pity it takes so much more skill to complete a really, really good wildlife photograph.

    There are times when I hope there will indeed be a judgement day.

  14. Yes, Paul, she HAD to let it linger and suffer because ANYONE could kill an elephant at close range with a elephant gun......but it takes a real sportsman to use a bow at a few yards.


    PS: sad thing is that in some states, yes, right here in the good'ol US of A, you can participate in a canned hunt of a trophy animal; and it's the same "sure fire methods" of hunting!

  15. Hmm...I'd bet a woman has never shot herself in the head with a bow, either. Twelve yards or not.

    I bet.

    Of course, it prolly wouldn't be fatal, either. Some brains are such tiny targets.

  16. ..or maybe I should just bet that a woman has never climbed Mount Everest in nothing but a bikini. Think she'd go for it?

  17. The Everest challenge sounds like a pretty good prescription for those who want to prove something to themselves out in nature - and I would like to see the likes of Teresa (I'm fed up with her last name already), try it. I've read Into Thin Air!

    I have just read an article about the relationship between humans and animals, and how we view animals - as servants, our prey, our guardians, companions? In the article, the following words from Jeremy Bentham (an English philosopher and social reformer born in the mid-18th century):

    "The question is not can they talk? Nor can they reason? But can they suffer?"

    Makes my heart weep.

  18. Jacqueline, there are many people in this world either born without empathy or who never see an example of it as they grow up.

    To varying degrees, everything outside their own skin is 'other.'

    This is the source of ethnic cleansing and other atrocities.

    Like Dave, I grew up in a place where hunting and fishing (and farming) were a normal part of life. This example is something else, some bizarre cross of the desire for celebrity and bloodlust.

    I'll bet the elephant never went out of his way to kill a human.