He died doing what he loved–being stabbed in the heart by stingrays.

You may have happened across the news that Steve Irwin, Australia’s “Crocodile Hunter,” from the show of the same name, was killed this month, much to the whimsical chagrin of everyone in the world.

Don’t confuse this; he was a conservationist, and a good one at that. The world could use a few more people who give a shit about it and how it works on a biological level; but in the particlar case of Mr. Steve Irwin, this obsession went way, way, hella way beyond reason.

I can still see my 12-year-old self squirming in front of the television, dazed by Irwin’s efforts. “You just gotta grab ’em by their hind legs,” he yelled to me as he manipulated an animal into physical coercion the likes of which is only elsewise seen by zoophiliacs. “They’re not so bad!”

Apparently, he was wrong. Mr. Irwin died at the age of 44, survived by his eight-year-old daughter, Bindi, his two-year-old son, Robert and his wife, Terri, succumbing to the poison barbs of a stingray’s tail in the Great Barrier Reef, doing shallow-water shoots for a new television series.

He made a valiant effort to inform the people of the world about the wonderful place in which we live, but it still must be asked: what in the ever-loving name of Vishnu was he doing purposefully hunting down the most lethal creatures he could find? There is a point in one’s life when one might feel reasonable hanging the “dangerous dude” reigns and picking up the reigns of “diligent, alive dad.” Let’s face it, if your friend looked at you and said “I think I’m gonna go poke a goddamn bear in the face,” you wouldn’t be that surprised to see him in a casket.

What’s profoundly outrageous about the situation, though, is the reaction to his death. A public funeral with 5,000 attendees? Ten stingrays found dead in the reefs in retribution? How many people could actually have known him well enough to want to avenge his death? And what kind of idiots missed the message so far as to actually kill animals in Irwin’s name?

Let’s face it, the real blame for his death rests squarely on many more shoulders than just the relatively docile–at least as far as deadly creatures go–stingrays’. How about Irwin himself, as discussed, for continuing to do something that he knew was risky, despite having hungry mouths to feed at home? Furthermore, how about the public for needing someone to wrestle alligators before they would be willing to make a half-assed attempt to care about nature?

If there is even one convoluted message to be culled from this wreckage it’s that we shouldn’t need a reality-TV aesthetic to sell a good idea. Perhaps if we weren’t so fickle with our attention, the best thing anyone said about Mr. Irwin wouldn’t be “he was a really popular figure and everyone loved his enthusiasm and his larger-than-life character.”

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