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: http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/
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.