Believed by many to hold magical powers, a single rhino horn is valued at half a million dollars. As a result, 668 rhinos were slaughtered last year. Then tack on over 100 game wardens in South Africa alone, who were murdered trying to protect them. To top that off, the western black rhino was declared extinct. 2012 was a bad year for rhinos.
I've had the pleasure of seeing them in the wild. They're truly spectacular animals, and the gentlest of giants. The tragedy here is that God, countless eons outside of space and time, lovingly formed this park-bench for birds in his mind. The rhino is a precious thought birthed from the creator Himself, and is therefore priceless.
This Poem of the Week comes from my latest book of poetry, Fishing for Nessie. Nessie takes a look at varying views among Americans, often seemingly logical conclusions based on skewed foundations, and this particular poem, There’s Starving Children in Africa, is based (as so many are – unlike the fictional characters portrayed within) on actual conversations that I’ve had with people - one conversation in particular that happened, ironically, the night before the western black rhino was declared to be extinct. What I like about my poetic narrator, Joshua, is that you can peer into his own inner turmoil as he figures out his own conclusion to the problem of starving children and endangered species.
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There’s Starving Children in Africa
a sad but ultimately true fact.
Not exactly a bullet point of altercation between
my elder brother Thomas and I, except for the question mark stumbling
block that erected his bathwater finger in my general direction
with fresh accusations that I was a fat idolater.
Really bro, I’d solve the problem of
African starvation if I could.
“You’d preserve an animal over a starved child?”
He asked, his cheeks suddenly dyed crayon red, nostrils flared.
Oh that. Yeah, I almost forgot. Aside from gourmet plates I’m kind of big
on animal preservation, too. It’s my one superhero weakness.
“I kind of think certain called men should dedicate their lives
to endangered creatures God-ordained wellbeing,” I said hesitantly.
“You would put an animal over someone who
was created in God’s holy image?” he squinted his eyes, fingers flumed.
I opened my mouth to answer him, but he wasn’t quite through.
“God’s holy image… chosen before the beginning of time to carry
the message of the cross through 6000 years of history,
which a rhino, mind you, cannot do.”
“Well, that’s definitely true,” finally interjecting, “but you do know
the census is still out there on the age of the universe,”
I said, holding both hands up like unequal weights,
“six thousand…. five billion.”
“See, my point exactly,” he fingered me again.
“What you’re really trying to say is: they were here before us
and therefore have more rights over a starving child.”
Well, no… not exactly.
“Tell me,” he said, “if you had the choice
between saving the last rhino on this earth or feeding a starving African child,
who would you sacrifice?” His wife Rachel set her novel down in wild preparation
to swing her eyes like a sarcastic pendulum
at my always-outrageous answer.
“First off,” I said, “this is a ridiculous scenario.”
His wife sneered from across the room. “But if you must,
it’s plausible that I’d likely save the rhino.
I’m not totally sure.”
“See,” he said, looking to Rachel’s bulldozers
for approval, “and that, right there, is idolatry.”
You figure somewhere in the world, on the night of the Watergate scandal,
a McCarthy era conservative and go-back-to-Russia hippie liberal
walked into a bar, not for the sake of a funny joke, but
to debate two standing positions.
One, that Nixon was the greatest Republican president
since William McKinley or Chester A. Arthur,
and two, that Richard Millhouse Nixon, however
you diced it, was a big fat honest to God crook,
the staunch liberal, of course, losing
that nights heated debate. You figure
it had to have happened.
It’s ironically funny and yet infuriatingly tragic, all in the same stew pot,
that, of all times in history to hold such talks, having ultimately
lost the debated controversy to a fundamental
brother superior, I would read in the news
on the following day.
THE LAST WESTERN AFRICAN BLACK RHINO IS DEAD.
The African Rhino: a loving concept, I figure, that God Himself conceived of
before the creation of our universe world, unconditionally
swept away forever with the breeze.
“I must confess,” I told Thomas and Rachel during our next
family gathering, “that I am a bit disappointed in myself.
To better answer your previous question, - YES, in your scenario,
I am so terribly sorry that, as it came down to it,
I wasn’t there to forsake the child
and save the last Rhino.”