Casting The First Stone



Regarding that horrifying incident at The Cincinnati Zoo ….

It’s easy to point fingers and blame the parent for the child sneaking off and jumping into the gorilla enclosure; that was my first instinct as well. “How could she be so stupid? How could she turn her back on her kid at a zoo, of all places? That would NEVER happen to me!”

Then, very quickly, I remembered how it can.

It can happen to any parent, unless you use one of those obnoxious backpack leashes. Kids are quick, they’re shifty and at a certain age, their explorer gene kicks in. I’m not making excuses for the woman. I don’t know who she is or what kind of mother she is.  But, according to more than one Facebook post by people who were actually at the zoo, she was also watching other kids, including one in a stroller. Ever gone to a zoo or any crowded place with more than one child? If so, you know it’s easier said than done to keep eyes on them at all times.

But some people out there don’t want to hear that. They want Instant Internet Justice. They want her beheaded, shot, maimed, murdered, sued and prosecuted because her four year-old son’s actions led to the death of a rare and beloved gorilla. I’ve made the awful mistake of reading some of the comments on Facebook posts about the incident and read some people post that the zoo should have let the kid die because it was his own damn fault he was in that situation. A four. Year. Old. Child.

The Internet, where every parent is practically perfect in every way.

Well, I’m not.

I think I’m a pretty good Dad, and because of my natural suspicion of most humanoids, I’m attentive as hell with my children WHEREVER WE GO. A lifetime in local TV news covering Child Tragedy stories will do that to you. But I know firsthand how hard it is to keep young kids directly in your line of sight at all times. It’s EXHAUSTING. We’re that insane family that goes to Disney World like once a month. Trust me when I tell you, it is taxing and we haven’t lost either of our kids (yet). I chalk that up to my dedicated paranoia and LUCK. Because you need a good dose of that for a confluence of events to not happen and distract you for even the slightest moment, and giving that young child an opening to go off and explore.

Most evidence I’ve read points to the fact that this woman wasn’t playing Candy Crush or texting oblivious on her phone; she was trying to corral a bunch of kids. That doesn’t sound much like negligence to me. I know the online mob doesn’t want to hear that. They just want to rage in lunatic manner because they’re upset that a gorilla who was in an enclosure at the zoo lost his life.

I’m a big animal lover. Had dogs most of my life, and we love taking our girls to the zoo to view these magnificent animals up close. But the zoo’s Dangerous Animal Response Team (I didn’t even know such units existed, let alone had clever Acronyms) made the right call. It’s not the perfect call, but in a situation where a four year old child is in the clutches of an animal that is AT LEAST six times stronger than the strongest human being, they made the right (and tragic) one.

I’ve seen the video numerous times; I know Harambe didn’t appear to be intentionally hurting the child, but did you see how he dragged the boy around? Even if he was acting in a protective manner, did you feel 100% certain that the boy was in no imminent danger? C’mon.

If Gods forbid, that was my child, I would want the zoo team to react in the same fashion. It’s awful that that beautiful creature lost his life, it really is. But once the situation went south, the priority is to keep the child safe.

What’s next? Well, instead of trying to prosecute the mom to satisfy the bloodlust of the Instant Internet Justice Warriors, maybe the zoo should just add a second layer of protection to make it even harder for the next kid with the dumb idea to climb into the gorilla’s personal space.

And perhaps the rest of us could take an extra second or two before firing away on our keyboards in condemnatory fury and think about how easily we could find ourselves in a situation like this.





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