Frank Miniter believes that TMZ was wrong about Donald Trump Jr.’s safari hunting and wrote a piece in Forbes about it. Frank’s bio at Forbes says this: “I am a bestselling author and a freelance journalist who concentrates on man’s struggle to be all he can be. My latest book is This Will Make a Man of You—One Man’s Search for Hemingway and Manhood in a Changing World.”
Frank’s piece in Forbes makes me think he might be right about what made a man of you in Hemingway’s world. But this world? Not so sure. I also think he’s wrong about Donald Trump Jr.’s safari hunting.
Certain things about being a responsible male change over time. At one time, for instance, it was perfectly acceptable for a gentleman to own another human being (or many other human beings) with darker skin. The conservationist argument of Donald Trump Jr. et al to hunt wild (and primarily African) game is one of those examples. It might have been acceptable at one time; it no longer is.
The action itself has never changed. A man (and many women rejoice at their membership in this unfortunate club) holds a well-made, perhaps esteemed piece of hardware to his shoulder, takes careful aim down a metal barrel through an open or telescopic sighting arrangement, calms his heart and his breathing, and squeezes a trigger. The sound always surprises.
The business end of the trajectory of the propelled metal missile, in the case that it was well-aimed, pierces the body of an animal. And, if well-placed, the animal falls and dies. There is a certain thrill to that, which I understand. But it’s not entirely different from the thrill of a well-placed round in a target far down range.
My central Pennsylvania boyhood was replete with game hunting. The victims were usually deer, game birds, or squirrels. I had friends who turned the meat over to a local priest, who would deliver it to those who could use the food. Almost all of the game ended up as food, whether or not the hunters could afford alternatives. So trophy hunting as a goal, I admit, is outside my experience.
Here’s the thing: elephants, rhinos, and the big cats in Africa are all caught in an extinction spiral. Humans are encroaching on their habitats, not the other way around. And yes, they are dangerous, and yes, they will protect themselves. But for reasons you either understand or you don’t, depending on your individual level of empathy, compassion, morality, and humanity, we do not have the right to contribute to their extinction. And whether you’re willing to believe it or not, methodology exists to protect human populations in those areas, and even to limit and discontinue the expansion of those areas, short of the continuation of big-game trophy hunting.
For me, there’s a huge moral issue also, especially regarding elephants. To kill an elephant is to produce a grieving hole in a village of intelligent, sentient beings. The cats have their own special intelligence, which also should inspire awe and admiration. But elephants talk, elephants love, elephants exist as irreplaceable citizens in a social order that is probably beyond our current understanding. When alternatives to big-game trophy hunting exist for the humans that live near elephants, it is despicable to allow the continuation of big-game trophy hunting.
I say this to the locals who collect the monies from the big-game hunters who travel from around the world to bag their trophies: How do you know, and who is to tell, what kind of monies might be collected from others who come not to hunt, but to look? To photograph? Is that not also a viable market that may spill in like waters through an opened levy if it is made available?
To the Donald J. Trump Jr.’s of the world I say this: The Hemingway hunter is dead. Today’s gentleman no longer owns slaves, and no longer aims a cannon at endangered sentient inhabitants of the planet. Simply because some small population of locals welcomes you does not mean that you operate in their best interest, or that they are even aware of where their best interests lie. Much of the world does not welcome what you do. Much of the world despises you. And taking all else into consideration on this matter, you no longer have the right to think of yourself as a gentleman. Or a gentlewoman.