Ethics & Public Policy Center

Our Morally Disoriented Times

Published in Commentary Magazine on July 30, 2015



I’m not a big game hunter. I like animals, we have a dog that is beloved by my family, and I don’t know why anyone would take particular delight in shooting a lion. But the world-wide reaction to the killing of Cecil (which is briefly touched on by John Hinderaker here) is both amazing and illuminating on the times in which we live.

Walter James Palmer, the dentist who illegally but apparently mistakenly killed the famed lion, is now a notorious and hated figure. There are reports that he’s had to go into hiding. He’s been the subject of death threats. Celebrities and supermodels are excoriating him. The comedian Jimmy Kimmel was so overwhelmed by emotions that he teared up and almost broke down during his monologue.

I understand why Cecil’s death touched people’s human sympathies. But here’s my question: Why doesn’t the dismemberment of unborn children do at least the same thing? Indeed, why are so many people who were so profoundly moved by the killing of a lion so indifferent to the butchery that is routinely performed by Planned Parenthood and that’s been documented in several videos by the Center for Medical Progress? Will Jimmy Kimmel draw attention to, and weep over, the wholesale destruction of unborn children and the sale of their body parts — by an organization that receives taxpayer support, no less?

I rather doubt it. It’s fair to ask, I think, what is it about progressives in particular that causes them to be so deeply disturbed by the killing of an animal and so deeply committed to allowing unborn children to be aborted that they would even invent a constitutional right to allow it?

It would certainly be worthwhile to have this question posed to people like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and the leadership of the Democratic Party. But it never will be, in part because so many journalists share their attitudes, worldview and moral intuitions.

The killing of a single beautiful lion triggers a massive outpouring of emotion and grief and rage; the massive slaughter of unborn children is ignored when it’s not viewed as a sign of liberation and enlightenment. Such is the morally disoriented state in which we find ourselves.

Peter Wehner is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times.

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