Jared E. Bendis

In defense of the Trump Brothers Hunting Trip

It takes a lot to get me to write one of these but I’ve been watching all this vitriol pour out again on the net towards Trump’s sons and their hunting trip.

I’ve spent the last week grading papers in which my students had to talk about an issue of privacy or piracy.  The reason I make them write about this topic is that everyone has a feeling or an opinion but few can truly express in words or in logic what it is they mean and then to truly defend their position.

Let’s cut through all the emotions and look at this clearly.  Two brothers went on vacation, signed up for an ‘experience’ package, broke no laws, and had photos taken.

So what are they being accused of?

Animal Cruelty.  They killed animals.  Is it murder? No – because the animals weren’t people.  Was it poaching? No – because it was legal to kill where they killed and what they killed.  Was it hunting? Sure. You can argue how “challenging” it was but that’s something else entirely.  People go hunting in overpopulated areas or in stocked lakes when they know they will catch something.  We don’t get angry at fisherman.  We don’t get angry at most hunting.  If the Trumps had gone somewhere in the mountains and hunted deer – would there be this uproar?

What’s the difference between this and going deer hunting?  And again – let’s stop – if you find yourself equally angry at them if they had gone deer hunting then say that.  Say “I don’t like people who like to go hunting”.  The rest of the situation is irrelevant to you.  They went hunting – you don’t approve. I get it.  That’s a fine argument.  It’s a fine opinion.

So we continue.  What’s the difference between this and going deer hunting? It cost a lot of money.  That’s one issue.  Clearly this is a luxury thing.  And for some people the argument is “These people have too much money and shouldn’t be wasting it.”  Its a fine argument. But it is their money and they can spend it how they like.  Rich people can do rich people things.  I am not rich but I am sure a lot of people judge me on how I spend my money.  And they shouldn’t.  The Trumps have a lot of money and I would be offended if they weren’t out there enjoying themselves with it.  So – you don’t like rich people?  Say that.  I get it.  That’s a fine argument.  It’s a fine opinion.

But the animals are exotic/cute/endangered etc?  There is no question that for some seeing dead animals is difficult.  I lost my 19 year old cat 2 weeks ago and when she finally passed they asked if I wanted to stay with her a while. I said no. She was gone and I wasn’t going to hug and cry over her corpse.  It was a personal decision.  I don’t think hunters are sociopaths.  If I thought hunters were sociopaths I would have to think that all carnivores are.  I eat meat.  I have a hand in the death of the cow.  No I didn’t kill it myself – but I’ve killed and gutted a fish.  And when I reeled it in – I was excited – but I wasn’t in a frenzied blood lust.  There was a physical and mental challenge and I was caught up in that moment – not in the spiritually life ending murderous rampage that people are accusing them of.  (If the Trump boys are indeed sociopaths then you should be glad that these outlets exist for them. And if you don’t get that this last sentence was a joke then I plead you to stop reading.)  People are protesting that they wouldn’t kill a leopard.  I get it.  And you didn’t. No one is accusing you of killing one.  They admit they did it.  What don’t you like about it? That it is pretty? That is is rare?  It’s not a threatened or endangered animal.  Just because you wouldn’t do it – doesn’t make it wrong.  Even their father made basically the same argument.  People do have a right to live their lives the way they want – even if it offends you.

Then there is the elephant tail picture.  I don’t argue with PETA or side with PETA – ever – they are crazy – we know they are crazy – they know they are crazy.  But this picture shocks a lot of people.  Several years ago I was in Cameroon and when I came back I gave several talks about my time there.  While I was waiting to give one of these talks people were giving me deadly stares and really upset looks.  Why? Because I was wearing traditional Cameroonian ceremonial dress.  You could feel their venom.  How dare I?  And then I played the video.  The video of the local King in front of hundreds of people putting this garment on me.  Commanding me to wear it in pride and to go home and tell others about his people and my experience.  You want the world to be smaller you have to live in it.  If the custom was to hold the elephant tail – then you do it.  Going along with it is the right thing to do – in fact – that part of the story is what makes it have heart.  It wasn’t about pulling a trigger and walking away – it was about having a cultural experience.  At this point you can argue that you wouldn’t want that experience.  Fine.  You can argue that the world is full of backwards traditions and practices – and while it might be true – they are fewer than you think.  I get it – you are shocked and offended first and calmed and informed later.  Most people don’t get to the second half.  How many people bothered to look up what that tradition was before they condemned it? Because now you aren’t talking about the Trump brothers – now you are talking about being offended by another culture or that they wanted to take part of another culture. How small minded is that?

The meat didn’t go to waste.  That’s a point of protocol. And again they are being harassed for it!  People are saying that those people didn’t want the meat or if you really cared about them you would have just given them money.  How dare you? It’s not your or my place to tell these guys how to spend their money. It’s THEIR money.  I’m sorry you don’t like that they are rich. Let’s be really practical here – for most people complaining the fact that they went on vacation was wasteful itself.  That’s not right.  They stimulated the local economy.  You might not like it but they did.  I have traveled all around the world and trust me – people want your business.  And more often than not – people wanted my business NOT my handouts.

And they took photos.  And yes – we all have to admit this is terrible PR.  No one should have seen these photos.  And who posted them? The photos were from the travel company – and the stupid macho slogans bantered around are from the travel company.  Do you really want people judging you by accusing you with the slogans of the products you use?  The Trump brothers didn’t come out and do a commercial – we don’t have video of them acting the fool here and being all gun crazed yee-haw nuts.  As a photographer and a traveler the reality was probably a lot more sedate (and at times more chaotic).

Before I wrote this I reminded myself of the old axiom: “Never argue with an idiot.  They drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”

And then I read this tweet by Donald Trump Jr.: “I don’t apologize to cater to public opinion when I did nothing wrong. To do so would be to sell myself out.”