life, love, and maybe babies

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

What a Zoo: My Unasked-For Take on Harambe and the Little Boy That Could

I'm taking a minute away from the infertility world to talk about the Cincinnati zoo incident from the weekend. I feel like we need to discuss this.

I don't usually take a stance on controversial issues because I typically have friends and family with their feet firmly cemented on both sides of whatever topic is trending. But something about this particular issue stuck with me.

First of all, I am a huge animal rights activist. Cecil the Lion being shot absolutely gutted me. I hate puppy mills. I think Pit Bulls are lovely creatures who are misunderstood and raised by the wrong people. I don't like to kill Lady Bugs. I would never wear real fur and I've tried 29 times to become a vegetarian. (I'm still working on that one. Bacon, people. Bacon.)


This was a child's life. An innocent little four year old boy who was doing what four year old boys do. Crawling, playing, testing boundaries. He managed to, according to the zoo, get "under a rail, through wires and over A MOAT wall to get into the enclosure."

Ya'll, he Mission Impossible'd himself in there. (The CIA should maybe recruit him after this hubbaloo dies down.) He wanted in and he was going to find a way to do it.

Reports have varied, but it sounds like at the beginning of the incident, the gorilla wasn't interested in harming the boy. Until the crowd got involved and understandably started to freak out. Then it agitated the gorilla and he became more violent, as the video shows. 

(Also, what kind of asshole takes a video of this happening? More on that later.)

All this aside, the fact remains, that little boy was probably going to be killed. Was the gorilla doing what gorillas do? Yes, it is a wild animal. Does that mean zoo should have sat by and let the little boy die? No. This was a total and complete freak accident that probably wouldn't happen again if you tried to recreate it three million times. 

What bothers me the most is the public outcry toward the mom of this child. I don't know her, and I don't know her story, but let me tell you a little story about me this weekend. 

My son is eight months old. He's essentially immobile, except when he's in his walker that he loves more than me. While cooking lunch on Sunday, I opened the pantry door to get out some bread. As I shut the door, I notice it was resisting. I thought maybe one of the hinges was broken. It never occurred to me that in the 2.3 seconds I had the pantry door open, my son had waddled over in his walker and stuck his meaty little fingers in the opening of the door swing. I HAD NEARLY CLOSED THE PANTRY DOOR ON MY SON'S FINGERS.

Incidentally, he's fine. There were tears and for a solid twenty minutes, I contemplated hurling myself off a bridge while screaming, "I'm a terrible mother!" on the way down. The fact that the one thing I love more than anything was hurt because of me was almost too much. And this was just some bruised fingers.

What if I had been that mom at the zoo? What if my squirrely little son had wandered off while I took a moment to ogle at the splendor of an amazing animal in front of me? 

Well, apparently you aren't allowed to do that in this world. The mom from the zoo has become a villain by the peanut gallery of nincompoops. Apparently she should have a leash or string around her child at all times. Because that's not weird or anything. 

Look, I get it. People think she was being negligent because that's an easy dart to throw. I, on the other hand, tend to err on the side of humanity and believe that she thought her kid was right next to her. For those that aren't parents, let me just inform you. Kids are smart. as. hell. They know when a parent is distracted and they take full advantage. Can we offer a little kindness to this mom whose son is laying in a hospital bed and whom she had to watch be dragged by a 400-pound (innocent yes, but still 400-pound) gorilla? Can we have some compassion, for f*ck's sake?

And now, the gorilla. My heart aches that Harambe is gone. This is by and large my main problem with zoos to begin with. We take wild animals and put them in enclosures so we can stare and laugh at them when they throw their poop at us. Then we're surprised when something unexpected happens and the animals act accordingly to their nature?


There's loads of outrage about whether a tranquilizer should have been tried first, but as I understand it, tranquilizers can take time and cause extreme agitation. The zoo had no way of knowing what the gorilla was getting ready to do, nor did they have time to sit around and think about what the Twittersphere would think. They had to act. 

And that sucks. The whole situation is a gigantic hurricane of suck.

I'm so torn. As a mother, I want the zoo (or amusement park, or Chuck E Cheese or Sky Zone) to do whatever they have to do to keep my son safe, even if he is being a little asshole. On the other hand, I know this gorilla  did nothing wrong. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and none of it was by his own choosing. He is dead because we feel the need to capture him and watch him for our own personal pleasure. But at the end of all of this, with the crap circumstances being what they were, I don't feel the  zoo was wrong. My heart breaks for the zookeeper that had to fire the shot. He didn't take that job hoping to get the chance to kill an endangered, beautiful, amazing creature. And yet, here we are. There is no cut and dry answer. There is a lot of drilling down into the nitty gritty that could potentially be explored. But that won't happen. It's easier to call the mom a piece of trash, the zoo trigger happy and the kid a brat.

Welcome to the human race.

I feel like this, along with other stories like fatal gun shootings, will fade into the background as the next news cycle comes in. And that makes me sad. Harambe is gone, but the boy is alive. A little boy who didn't understand the implications of what he did will reap the repercussions of this for a long time to come.

As for the mom in this story, I hope she's the innocent I'm making her out to be. I hope it doesn't turn out that she's a terrible mother who leaves her kid in a hot car while she runs in to the post office to mail a letter. I hope she doesn't sue the zoo. I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt, because I hope someone would give it to me. I hope my daycare provider sees my child's swollen fingers today and knows that life happened yesterday. Messy, sucky, painful life.

Lastly, you better believe I'm not blaming the walker company or the hinge company for my son's injury. And he will still play in his walker. I'm not going to wrap him in plastic bubble wrap. 


Be kind to each other. Be kind to animals. And be kind to yourself.


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