Open Letter to Poacher Apologist, Dennis Anderson, Star Tribune

The national outcry over Cecil the lion’s brutal and tragic poaching by Walter J. Palmer of Eden Prairie, MN is roaring strong. Most news articles and comments I’ve read have been in support of Cecil and drafting of stronger legislation to prevent the egocentric, elitist “sport” of trophy hunting, especially where it concerns endangered animals. Amongst worldwide grief, outrage, and the coming together of people who may otherwise share nothing at all in common, I have occasionally had the misfortune of encountering poaching apologists. But none have been so blatant as Dennis Anderson, an “outdoors columnist” for my very own local rag, the Star Tribune.

Following five paragraphs of fluff in which he appears more interested in regaling readers with his sub par purple prose than in saying anything at all of substance, he locks and loads, and then shoots to kill.

Before I proceed, I want to make perfectly clear that I am not anti-hunting. Hunting has it’s place, but this is not about responsible, legal and ethical hunting. This is about poaching and trophy hunting, which is an entirely different kettle of fish. The following is my response:

Save for perhaps a handful of people, no one knows exactly what occurred that night — and it was a night — in Zimbabwe when Walter J. Palmer of Eden Prairie loosed an arrow from his compound bow (not a crossbow) at the lion that turned out to be the aforementioned Cecil.

And, frankly, save for hunters who have found themselves in similar situations and are curious about the details, no one really cares what actually happened.

For the perpetually agitated, facts only muddy the waters. — Dennis Anderson, Star Stribune

Your flippant dismissal of the global outrage over Cecil’s death reeks of the same sociopathic tendencies exhibited by Walter J. Palmer. It might also be interpreted as mouthwatering irony and projection, given your following arguments that have no basis in relevant facts and serve only to muddy the waters. Sound familiar?

What is known is that Minnesota archers who hunt in the evening, and who shoot a deer, often don’t pursue that animal until morning, for fear it might be pushed into the distance and never found.

Non sequitur. Even if this is true, it has no bearing on what is legal or even common practice in Zimbabwe. And deer in Minnesota are nowhere near being endangered. You’re just muddying the waters.

Furthermore, your very own rag reported in 2012 that night hunting of deer is not legal in Minnesota, and according to the 2015 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook, that has not changed to date. Yes, I know you said “evening”, but you are disingenuously trying to imply something altogether different in an attempt to equate what deer hunters in Minnesota do with how poachers in Zimbabwe operate. As an “outdoors columnist” since roughly 1980 according to your bio, I would expect you to know better. So either you suck at what you do, or you are a shameless liar.

Additionally, I grew up in the country in prime deer hunting territory and have known many deer hunters in my day. Every single one that I have spoken to has stressed the importance of making a “good, clean, kill shot” and would never dream of injuring a deer, leaving it to suffer overnight and tracking it the next day, for a variety of reasons — first and foremost, because it’s irresponsible, unethical and cruel. But, of course, being the Walter J. Palmer and poacher apologist that you are, your priorities aren’t nearly the same, are they?

Chris Collins, an avid bow hunter from Virginia said the following which echos every other dear hunter I have ever known:

If you don’t have the intent to eat what you hunt, don’t kill it. If you are hunting, you have to be absolutely positive that you are about to make a good kill shot,” Collins said. “What [Walter J. Palmer] does is a poor reflection on hunting.
Column: Cecil the Lion’s killer deals terrible blow to true hunters — Lee Tolliver

But you’re not really talking about responsible and ethical hunting in this piece, but rather advocating for the right of humans to kill endangered animals to stroke their own egos.

Vis-à-vis Palmer, countless reports have said that he shot his lion at night — which is legal in Zimbabwe and the way most lions are hunted there — and that his party tracked the animal for 40 hours before dispatching it with a gun.

Again, non sequitur serving only to muddy the waters. Even if shooting lions at night is legal and common in Zimbabwe, Zimbabwean officials have deemed the hunt illegal for various other reasons. You’ll forgive me, I’m sure, if I defer to them on the laws of their own land.

Another problem with the above quoted remark is that it’s a complete straw man. I have read countless news articles and pored through thousands if not tens of thousands of reader comments, and from what I’ve seen, literally no one has argued that the hunt was illegal or even unethical just because it started at night. But why deal in actual facts when you can spin irrelevant half truths to muddy the waters? Your perpetual agitation is showing.

Those countless reports, I am told by someone who knows, are wrong.

Someone who knows? And we should just take your unsubstantiated word for it after you have thoroughly discredited yourself? Not on your life, mister! Because despite your arrogant claim that anyone who doesn’t see things your way has no use for facts, you certainly are perpetuating more than one man’s share of complete and utter bullshit.

Other than that, we have, so far, only Palmer’s statement that he was unaware that anything untoward about the hunt was transpiring or had transpired.

And you accept Palmer’s statement at face value, while rejecting out of hand all facts and information that you find inconvenient. Are you even able to grasp how severely this discredits you, or do you simply think so little of your readers that you assume they won’t grasp this glaring contradiction?

More to the point, we have far more than Palmer’s statement, and I think you know it (assuming you read your own paper). Firstly, if Palmer was unaware that the hunt was illegal, then why, upon discovering Cecil was fitted with a GPS collar, did he not stop in his tracks and report the incident to the appropriate authorities? Instead, he allowed himself to become complicit in the attempted destruction of the GPS collar — which is NOT legal — and proceeded to behead and skin Cecil and then quietly leave the country before he could be made to answer to Zimbabwean authorities. Not exactly the actions of an innocent or even misguided victim. And certainly not the actions of someone who, as Palmer claims, pursues hunting “responsibly and legally”. In fact, Palmer himself said that he didn’t know it was illegal “until the end of the hunt” when they discovered Cecil’s GPS collar. This means that he did know it was illegal before beheading and skinning Cecil, and then leaving his corpse to rot. Responsible and legal my ass!

Regardless, for some people, the fact that the lion was killed outside a national park where otherwise it was safe only adds to the perceived injustice of the hunt.

Unfortunately, left out of this reporting — if perspective is important — is that the “park’’ in question is about one-sixth the size of Minnesota, or roughly the size of the state’s Arrowhead region, from Virginia to International Falls over to Lake Superior.

And your point is, what exactly? Oh, I know! Your point is to further muddy the waters to distract from the actual relevant facts. Again. The size of the park is completely irrelevant to the fact that it is a protected area. And to further put things in their proper perspective — if that is even minimally important to you — Cecil was not just killed outside a national park. He was baited and lured out of the national park, a practice deemed unethical by the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe. Also left out of your own reporting, is that this was not Palmer’s first offense. Again, from your very own Star Tribune (Seriously, do you even read your own paper?):

Palmer pleaded guilty to federal charges in 2008 related to the poaching of a black bear in Wisconsin two years earlier. Palmer and others transported the bear, which was killed 40 miles outside of a legal hunting zone, to a registration station inside the legal area. Palmer was sentenced to one year of probation and fined nearly $3,000.

Palmer is a serial poacher, and that is what you are defending and advocating for.

Your segment entitled, If things were reversed…, is so much whataboutery that it is not even worthy of addressing point by point.

But this:

What’s the chance that reporters from Zimbabwe, half a world away, report this story — and the intentions, motivations and agendas of its many characters, Rogers and the landowner included — accurately?

The implication here seems to be that we should not trust even our own media (including your Star Tribune) because it is relying on information received from “half a world away”. Simultaneously, and with shameless irony, you want to be taken at face value while admittedly refusing to acknowledge the undisputed and even proven facts because some anonymous (and perhaps imaginary) person “who knows” told you that the “countless reports” of what happened “are wrong”. And let’s not forget your lie error regarding Minnesota deer hunting.

Are you seriously suggesting that, in this day and age, facts and information cannot be accurately reported and shared globally and in real time? As a career columnist, I would expect you to know much better than that. Or perhaps that’s exactly where your own perpetual agitation stems from — journalists of your generation are no longer the only gig in town. Alternatively, the above quoted remark could be nothing more or less than a bunch of crypto-racism, passive-aggressively suggesting, “Don’t trust the Africans!

In either case, I feel compelled to congratulate you on creating a smoke screen, a false dilemma, moving the goalposts and poisoning the well in one blanket accusation poorly disguised as a question. In all my years on the internet, I have yet to see even the most skilled internet trolls pull that off. Need I explain what that says about you?

More on “perpetual agitation”: Your entire screed reads like that of someone who has become perpetually agitated by the fact that his preferred medium as a journalist is rapidly becoming obsolete; someone who is desperately clinging to the good ol’ days when journalists remained virtually unchecked by the public, had fewer options and little choice but to accept what was being spoon-fed to them by their local news outlets. Your own failure to adapt to this new and constantly evolving Information Age seems to have made you bitter and resentful of the fact that technology now allows us to fact check hacks, and we are no longer at the mercy of “journalists” like you who prefer to tell readers what to think instead of maintaining the slightest hint of journalistic integrity, ethics, or even decorum. Yes, it is time for you to abandon your perpetual agitation and join the rest of us in this wonderful and amazing 21st century. Failing that, can you at least pretend to have enough self-awareness or common courtesy to stop projecting your own issues of impotence onto the rest of world?

You owe your readers and the general public an apology, Dennis Anderson!


Lessons From a Hypercritical Mother

I was raised by a mother who found fault in everything I did. Even my most painstaking efforts to gain her approval were completely futile. She was impossible to please, so I eventually stopped trying and ultimately stopped caring. It’s a wonder that I learned anything positive at all from the woman, but I did, and I would like to share a few of the things I learned from a hypercritical mother:

Children are worthy of respect.

Novel concept, eh? Children are individuals; they are thinking, feeling human beings with minds and ideas of their own. While we may have no idea where they’re coming from sometimes, or why they do some of the things they do — especially during adolescence — children and teenagers deserve to be treated with the same dignity and respect afforded to those members of the human race who just happen to be older than them.

Being an adult does not entitle me to belittle or devalue someone simply because s/he is a child.

My son will be thirteen in less than four months. He is experiencing a lot of physical and psychological changes, and sometimes I feel like I don’t even know him. He is moody and cranky a lot of the time, even rude and disrespectful. Much of what I say to him goes in one ear and out the other, and sometimes his logic fails me. But snide, condescending responses to these things will only drive a wedge between us and broaden the gap in our communication.

It is my responsibility as an adult and a parent to model the type of behavior I expect from my child.

Adults are not automatically worthy of respect from children.

Respect is earned, and that applies to adults as well as to children. I will never insist that my son respect someone who disrespects him. That is not to say that I will allow him to behave disrespectfully toward another person, regardless of age. Not respecting someone and behaving disrespectfully toward that person are two different things. We can be courteous or civil to people whom we do not respect — it’s an important part of functioning in society. But if you want to be treated with respect, which I believe goes above courtesy or civility, then I’ll need a reason other than your date of birth.

If you want respect, then behave respectfully and respectably. Talking down to people, making them feel stupid or embarrassed for not seeing things your way or for not knowing or understanding something that seems obvious to you is not only disrespectful and hurtful, it is a form of emotional abuse that can permanently damage someone’s self-esteem, especially a vulnerable child.

Questions are good things.

I’m glad that my son is inquisitive, and that he comes to me with questions. I have always encouraged this and will continue to do so, regardless of how difficult his questions may become over the years. It keeps the communication flowing, and that is a vital part of any parent-child relationship. It’s important to try to give honest, straightforward answers whenever possible — even if the answer is, “I don’t know, but let’s look it up and see what can find.” I think this shows children that we’re interested in them, even if the topic doesn’t interest us that much.

On the flip side, my mother seemed irritated by questions. She seemed to regard them as some sort of intrusion, like answering to the likes of some snot-nosed kid was utterly beneath her. Even questions designed solely to make conversation or show interest were met with obvious annoyance and sarcastic responses. I learned at a very young age not to ask questions unless I wanted to be hurt and humiliated. I will not pass that lesson along to my son!

Different just means different.

Try telling that to my mother. She never seemed to understand that individual people have individual preferences and ways of doings things.

Wait, I take that back. She does understand that. What she does not seem to understand is that these kinds of differences do not make anyone inferior to her. Different just means different, and preferences cannot be incorrect by definition. There is more than one way to fold a bath towel, and none of them are right or wrong. They’re just different. Some people prefer mayonnaise, some prefer mustard. Neither preference is incorrect or inferior.

With my mother, there was never any room for individuality. As for me, my son’s emotional well-being and self-esteem are far more important than what he prefers to put on a sandwich, or having my dishes stacked to precision.

These are just a few lessons I learned from my hypercritical mother. I no longer have a relationship with her. The last and final straw was when I took my son back to my hometown and stupidly attempted to reconcile with her.

Nothing had changed. If anything she had become even worse over the years. She was just as controlling and critical of me as she had always been. But when she started directing her venom toward my son, I knew that it had to end. I simply refuse to subject my son to it. Shared DNA does not equal a healthy relationship and I will protect my son in every way possible from the effects of abuse in any form.

Do I always get it right? Absolutely not! I am talking to myself here as much as to anyone else. I hope that sharing this publicly will help to make me even more conscious, and accountable as well. I love my son more than anything in this world, and I want to do right by him in every way.


Why So Serious?

My son dressed up as The Joker last night. You can watch his award-winning performance below. OK, so he didn’t actually win an award, but this does make a Joker’s mama proud!

Compare to Heath Ledger’s performance:

Not bad, huh? 😀


Belated Labor Day Posting

Because I’ve been busy preparing for my husband’s arrival, and our long-delayed honeymoon, as well as my son’s return to school after summer break, I didn’t manage to squeeze in time to write the Labor Day post that’s been brewing in my mind. My son is off to school now, but Hubby arrives tomorrow, and I still have lots to do in preparation. That being the case, I would like to point you toward an excellent piece written by one Hippie Professor:

Many people believe that the government should play at most a minimal role in social programs – that we should let the free market reign. Any additional social needs should be addressed through volunteerism and not through government programs.

It is often stated quite bluntly – like this: “I have worked hard and I deserve the money I have earned so why should I be forced by my government to give something back to other people?”

[…]

Because your society is partially responsible for your success.

Think about it a second. You have worked hard all of your life – in school, in your job, running your business. Yes – you deserve to be rewarded for that hard work. But none of that hard work would have meant anything if you didn’t live in a society in which hard work could actually pay off.

And how does our society pull this off – what does our society do to help you obtain success?

Please read the rest of Labor Day Reflections to learn the many ways that society contributes to our success, and why we all have a responsibility to give back, likewise contributing to the success of society as a whole.


Health Care Reform — Myths vs. Facts

When one in three Americans say someone in their family skipped pills, postponed or cut back on needed medical care due to the cost; when countless bankruptcies are related to medical expenses; when the number of uninsured approaches 50 million; when government spending on health programs rises so rapidly that it jeopardizes other priorities; and when employers struggle to pay for the costs of health care, the fact is, we can’t afford not to fix health care. — AARP

Please read Myths Vs Facts regarding health care reform. You can also help counter the fear mongering.


Why We Need Government-run Universal Socialized Health Care

If you don’t “get it” after seeing this video, you just don’t want to.


In Loving Memory of Papaw

I found out this morning that my grandfather died a little over a month ago. I may write a separate post explaining why I wasn’t informed, but for now I would just like to pay tribute to my grandfather who I loved and thought of often despite what certain other “family” members may think.

My grandfather was a kind and gentle man, dedicated to his family and, yes, to his god. I watched him preach on numerous occasions, and his passion was evident to me even as a young child. I sat in the very front row of the tiny rural church where he was Pastor, watching in awe and singing my heart out when the time came to do so.

When visiting Papaw at his home in Mississippi, he was always the first one up in the morning. I’m sure he rose before the sun to pray while the grandchildren were still sleeping and the house was quiet. When I finally awoke, I would find him sitting in his favorite chair, Bible open on his lap. He would look up and smile, welcoming me with a cheerful (Mississippi-accented) greeting: “Mornin’, Glory!”

I went to stay with Mamaw and Papaw when I was thirteen. I’d been having trouble at home and in school, and my grandparents welcomed me into their home as a sort of safe haven. It wasn’t long before I had inadvertently started running with the wrong crowd and Papaw was none too pleased.

One afternoon, I was standing outside his house talking with a couple of boys, one of whom I knew from school. The other didn’t go to school anymore. My grandfather came out, grabbed me by the arm and marched me inside the house.

“You’re hurting me”, I protested.

“Not as much as those two will”, he calmly replied.

The next time I tried to speak to the boys, neither of them wanted anything to do with me. After sending me to my room that day, Papaw had gone back outside and caught up to the boys, who had wasted no time in getting out of there. He warned them both that if they ever came near his granddaughter again, he would kill them, and that no one in that town would believe the Baptist preacher had done such a thing.

It worked!

While I would never condone such threats, I later realized that Papaw was only trying to protect me. Oh, I was livid at the time, but what I didn’t know, and Papaw did, was that the two boys were heavily involved in drugs, including dealing, and had frequent run-ins with the law. He just didn’t want to see me go down the same path. That certainly doesn’t excuse what he did, but it explains it in a way that any parent or grandparent might understand.

Papaw was one of the few men in my life who I didn’t fear (I even feared my own father). I always felt safe when Papaw was around. He wasn’t going to hurt me, or let anyone else do so. He risked his own safety as well as his reputation when he confronted those boys, but none of that was as important to him as protecting me at the time.

Over the years, circumstances beyond my control lead to a distancing between my grandparents and me. Mamaw died more than twenty years ago, and there had been no contact for several years prior to her death.

I often greet my son in the mornings with, “Mornin’ Glory!” I think of Papaw every time I say it. This morning, as I came to Bonnie for my morning hug, I said it to her. I then explained where it had come from, and wondered aloud if my grandfather was still alive. She asked his name and looked it up on the internet where we discovered his obituary. Papaw died a little over a month ago, June 29, 2009.

He used to sit on his front porch and sing. I always enjoyed sitting with him, singing along if I knew the words, and listening if I didn’t. One of my favorite songs to sing with my grandfather was Church in the Wildwood. To this day, despite my views on religion, I sometimes find myself humming or singing it softly to myself. It still brings back warm and happy memories of the few short visits I had with Papaw.

So, I dedicate the following song to the loving memory of my grandfather, Reverend Charles Donald Fitzgibbon (March 10, 1923 – June 29, 2009)