A tragedy happened over the weekend. A four year old fell into a gorilla enclosure in Ohio and officials made the difficult decision to kill the endangered giant in order to protect the boy. What ensued online, in protests, and in the media makes me absolutely sick: hateful assumptions about the negligence of the mother.
The parents of the boy have suffered the most natural, horrific consequence- watching helplessly as a 450 lb mammal approached and dragged their son throughout the enclosure, the medical complications of such event, and the lifetime of knowing that a magnificent creature paid the ultimate price for the safety of their child -possibly one who didn’t mean any harm at all. It certainly wasn’t the family day out they anticipated.
In 38 years, no one had ever fallen into the enclosure, so when scanning the environment for threats and risks as a mother, you are more likely to be looking for dangerous human predators than animal ones. Turn your back to grab sunscreen, a snack, tie another kid’s shoe, and easily, it happens. All the negative social media has a similar language and attitude: Your child deserved to die. The gorilla has more value than your child.
If we are hate-filled instead of thankful, Harambe died in vain.
Where is the grace? What are we supposed to do as parents? We simply cannot predict and prevent every accident, and it wouldn’t be healthy if we tried. We are reasonable, but things happen. We have to have space in our culture of naming and shaming to be human.
Grieve the death of the gorilla. It is an absolute tragedy. The authorities explored their options- tranquilliser or rifle and made a really hard choice. If it had been your child, would you want them to take a risk?
Let’s thank the gorilla, reflect on the tragedy, and hold each other close because one moment you are looking at zebras and elephants, and the next moment you are in a life or death situation where there are no winners.
Rest in peace, Harambe. We are sorrowful, but grateful.