July 12, 2014 by NowhereButPop
For the past week Kendall Jones has populated my newsfeed on Facebook. I’ve never met her and we’re not Facebook friends. People not only have an opinion about this teenager from Texas; they share a strong opposition to her. What everyone in America now knows about Kendall Jones is that she is a big game hunter who has gone to Africa to hunt and kill lions, leopards and elephants. Kendall Jones is a private citizen and what she does in her personal life is her own business, so long as she is not in violation of any laws, which to my knowledge she has not been. This is not opinion, this is fact. Nonetheless, the reaction to her pictures with and of her kills has been met with widespread and unanimous criticism.
One such article that someone posted on Buzzfeed claimed that what Kendall Jones did is the most cowardly thing someone could possibly do. Yes, shooting a defenseless apex predator in its natural habitat is the most cowardly and sickening thing that a human being could do. With all due respect, I think that any harm done to a child, and rape are much more deplorable than big game hunting. Yet, for some reason Jones has earned as much scorn and ire as anyone has since Jerry Sandusky, a monster of a human being, a serial rapist and pedophile. And that is something that I don’t understand. This could just be a difference of opinions, but I think it goes beyond that. The Kendall Jones firestorm has yielded a question about not only Facebook as a social media website, but also on the widening chasm in American society motivated by the increasingly partisan and antagonistic nature of modern politics. I always thought Facebook was a venue to post drunk pictures of yourself and post song lyric statuses. When did Facebook become a political soapbox? More appropriately when did social media become political media?
You could make the argument that, by nature, Facebook was bound to evolve, at least in part, into a political forum where the most dedicated to a cause would express their beliefs for all their “friends” to observe; Facebook does after all inquire about your political leanings. It could be the maturation of Facebook that has led to the growing trend of politics influencing social media, or it could be that as my peers and I get older and more involved with our beliefs we begin to vocalize them, more than we would have previously done. Has anybody ever really considered if this was a good thing though?
Yes, it’s great that people have their own beliefs and opinions as there is nothing worse than apathy. But, simultaneously, I’ve noticed that it is only serving to create strife and breed more narrow-mindedness and ignorance to other people’s belief. No current issue has made this clearer than the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case which dictated that companies have the right to exempt themselves from laws that are in direct violation to their religious beliefs. Dealing almost entirely with the right to have contraceptives covered by company insurance policy, the controversial 5-4 Supreme Court decision has sparked national outcry and response from both sides of the argument. Those in favor of the decision see it as a protection of religious freedoms that have been infringed upon since the Roe v. Wade decision, while those opposed to the decision view it as a blatant attempt by the government to promote a misogynistic agenda. They see it as the triumph of the religious favoritism over individual rights.
Maybe it’s because I don’t follow the news as much as I should, or quite frankly because I don’t feel strongly any which way in regards to legal hunting or whether or not my boss should pay for contraceptives for the entire office, but I fully understand that there are people out there who feel strongly about these issues. When the news and information is presented on Facebook, it provides a very pointed and, in some cases, ugly interpretations of one’s beliefs and opinions. Some people have posted articles on how it’s now open season on American women, while their opponents have openly said “First Obamacare, next we’re gonna take down Planned Parenthood”. Again, because I’m not an invested party, these allegations seem a little bit extreme, especially how both articles demonize and vilify the opposition. Because when the news, which is already biased enough as is, is put in the hands of opinionated and untrained amateurs, the information presented no longer becomes a medium to introduce new ideas and ways of thoughts, but an arena to impose itself onto someone else and crush the opposing belief.
Birth control, and really anything pertaining to sex is a sensitive subject in America. Religion as well, is a bifurcating subject with proponents and objectors on both sides. When these two hot topics coalesce as they did in the Hobby Lobby trial it brings out those who feel strongest on these matters. What makes an issue like this even more distressing is that there is no real right answer. Whatever you believe, and whatever your stance is on matters like these is the right answer to you, but that doesn’t give you the right to try and snuff out or damn anyone else for their convictions.
The last time I can remember a perceived bad guy that was vilified by American society at large was the Jerry Sandusky scandal and the Westboro Baptist ministry. The only difference though is that in those cases (I think we can all agree on), there was an actual and objective bad guy. Anyone who would victimize and prey upon a child is evil incarnate, and anyone who would protest the funerals of the bravest men and women this country has to offer out of a sense of deranged homophobia, and then cower behind the veil of freedom of speech is the epitome of a coward. But in the cases of Kendall Jones, Hobby Lobby, and Lawrenceville School, and other such incidents, the bad guy becomes those who don’t agree with us, and so we choose to hate them for that.
It’s easy to bandwagon onto a cause and join the angry mob because it gives us a feeling of belonging, but it’s also a dangerous mentality. The amount of hate that Kendall Jones has garnered is irrational and misplaced. People have labeled her an animal and one comment on Buzzfeed even recommended “deleting” her. Another such self-professed conservationist proposed that maybe Kendall Jones should be hunted. If we really cared as much about animal rights as we tell ourselves we do, post Kendall Jones, how come more people aren’t out there protesting the Japanese fishermen purposely hunting down endangered Dolphins just to sell their meat in tuna cans? Or, how come ritualized cock fighting in the Caribbean hasn’t yielded as much scorn as it should, given how we reacted to Kendall Jones. Is it fucked up that a 19 year old is posting pictures of herself cradling dead animals as if they were her own children? Yes; of course it is, but in this modern society of ours that prides itself on tolerance and ascribes to a live-and-let-live mentality, why is it that those self-same progressives are demonizing some kid from Texas and publicly calling for her execution? It’s because she’s doing something that goes against their own personal beliefs, and because of the way society is being polarized by politics, the normal reaction has now become the most radical. The more radical you are the surer you seem in your convictions, which would then allow you to stymie and crush the opposition much more easily.
There are radicals on every side of every argument. Radicals are the people on the right who believe that the United States under Barack Obama is more of a socialist state than was the former CCCP. Radicals are also the ones on the left who believe that the future of American society will look like something from a Margaret Atwood dystopian thriller. The truth, as with all things, lies in the middle. Does the Hobby Lobby decision give certain business the right to abstain from a law? Yes. Could it also create a scenario where a religion can declare a law null and void if it conflicts with their dogma, thereby rendering the law of the land moot and impotent? Yes, it certainly does. But the precedent is there for such a thing in the first place. In the past, certain religions were exempt from war time drafts (Quakers), and in Florida, it was ruled that animal cruelty laws do not apply to practitioners of Santeria when it comes to sacrifices as it is a function of a legally recognized religion. Is too much power potentially put in the hands of business and religions, because of the decision? Yes, actually it is, if a business can excuse themselves from a law based on religious beliefs. But then it raises the question of Obamacare in general and the constitutionality of that institution in the first place. I hope what I’m doing here is being comprehended; I’m not trying to pick a side, or even tell people to calm down, I’m trying to show that in all of these current controversies, there are almost too many ways of looking at them. It’s not just looking at it with a far left or an extreme right bias.
Can rich, white boys from suburbia be complete and utter dick-bags? Absolutely. Is lacrosse a moronic sport? You’re goddamn right it is! But, at the same time, is creating a maliciously, racially charged caricature based on stereotypes innately racist? Yes, it is.
When Kendall Jones goes to Africa and shoots an innocent leopard that has just rend a gazelle apart, and then posts those pictures up on Facebook, there’s going to be outrage. But we don’t have to crucify her for it, after all she didn’t do anything illegal. Instead of bitching and rallying against some kid who’s only known hunting and guns for her entire life, how about those people who want to see her hanged go out and change the laws so that if her actions are so deplorable and disgusting, we can make them illegal?
To paraphrase Jon Stewart, morals that you only keep when it’s convenient aren’t morals, they’re hobbies. When people post things on Facebook like how Planned Parenthood is a tool of the devil, it creates a black and white picture where there are only two sides to the argument…the most extreme sides. The Hobby Lobby trial serves as the best example as 24 hours later both camps were at each other’s throat. On the one hand were the misogynistic religious zealots, and on the other were the anti-theist baby killers. Again, it’s great that people are invested and active in American politics, but no more is it about compromise and a plan that everyone can agree on; the new way of thinking is that “for my way to win out, yours has to be completely and irrevocably destroyed”. Politics and social politics have become a zero sum game. I fear that there is no more dialogue, just two people monologue-ing at the same time.
There’s no understanding in war, hence the reason for the war; it’s gotten to the point in society where there is no understanding, true understanding in our culture either. One side needs to have it their way, while the other side can’t have it any other way save theirs. When it comes to understanding and tolerance, we overlook the most basic aspect of it: people may have different opinions and ideals than us. As long as those beliefs aren’t hurting anyone, it’s ok for them to have dissenting opinions from yourself. But, all too often we use derogatory words to describe opposing beliefs: “disgusting”, “idiotic”, “extremist”, are all words that have been used in recent articles pertaining to the Hobby Lobby decision, and the Kendall Jones controversy. For a society that is trying to banish words like “faggot” and “retard” from our collective lexicon, we’ve sure found a bunch of other words to mudsling with. And once again we’re attributing these words to people who are different from us, different in only their opinions of the world.
When it comes to personal politics, opinions, and ideals, the conversation has turned into an argument. Facebook is partly to blame for this; it gives us a platform and an outlet to speak out such hot topics. The way in which this is done, the things that people post, are normally from a less moderate point of view that tries to justify its own beliefs and ideals at the cost of somebody else’s. I don’t believe Kendall Jones is a bad person for hunting animals. However, I don’t believe in killing animals for sport. But just because I don’t like it, doesn’t mean that Kendall Jones can’t do it. I don’t believe that anyone who is pro-life is a fundamental misogynist. I don’t believe that anyone who is an atheist is looking to destroy every religious establishment. I don’t believe that it’s impossible to discriminate against a white person. I don’t believe that to prove your own point you have to maul somebody else’s. These are just some of my beliefs; agree with them, disagree with them, or call me a nut job, but don’t ever let me impose them onto you.