That God Damned Gorilla


Look, if I’ve got to explain the story behind the gorilla getting killed at the Cincinnati zoo, well then, you really must have looked hard to find me, because I can’t avoid it, and I try to avoid this shit these days like it’s the plague. To the point where there’s a fair chance I got the the name of the city wrong, and it may have been an Orangutan (I wouldn’t know for sure); I haven’t read one article past the headline, or more than a handful of the VERY typical responses. And here’s what I can already tell you:

There are a bunch of people pissed off at the zoo. There are a bunch of people pissed off at the parents. There are a bunch of people pissed off at the people pissed off at the people who are on the other side, and here I come, pissed off at all of those people. So, you know, fucking everybody!

Look, can we all just breathe for a second? From my limited interaction with this story, this is what we know:

  • A child entered am enclosure at a zoo.
  • Zoo officials took steps that resulted in the death of the gorilla.
  • The life of the child was saved (the actual risk to the child’s life is at varying levels of debate.)

That’s it.  That’s all we know.  I keep saying we, because I mean me, and almost every other person who makes some post on one side of the WHO’S AT FAULT debate that is the response of “The Internet.”

There’s a term I’m starting to lose patience for.  “The Internet.”  A good way for us to all sit back and point fingers at each other.  “The Internet reacted….”  Like it’s “Them.”  There is no “them”, folks.  It’s US.  We react to these stories online the same way we react to these stories in real life.  We hear the basics and make the rest up in our own heads.  Only now you get to see what’s in everyone’s head.

We have to blame someone.  It has to be someone’s fault, right?  The need to blame someone for all the wrong things in the world goes back so far you can pretty much tie it directly to the creation of just about every religion.  Finding other people at fault makes us feel secure in ourselves, because so long as someone is to blame, we can be sure we’ll never do wrong.

And then there’s the set of folks who take it too far the other way, and blame themselves for all the wrong in the world.

Blame is almost functionally useless.  In most cases it’s rationalism without the rational.

I’m not talking about clear negligence here.  I’m talking about the world as it is.  With imperfect people, and imperfect situations.   Nobody woke up that morning and thought, “Boy, can’t wait to kill a gorilla,” or “Oh boy, day at the zoo.  Can’t wait to drop lil’ Jimmy into the animal exhibit.”

First people are outraged over the death of the gorilla.  I get it.  Nobody wants to see the gorilla dead.  You know who else didn’t want to see the gorilla dead?  The person that shot it.  Again, I’m not reading past the headlines, but I’m assuming the person who did the deed was not some random poacher from the outback of Africa.  I’m guessing they were a zoo official.

Despite the outrage, one would assume the people who have spent their lives dedicated to the keeping and study of animals are not folks who are super eager to get them all dead.  These are people who love animals just as much, if not more (since they’ve dedicated their lives to actually dealing with them instead of just admiring them from afar) than most of the folks proclaiming exasperation over the loss of the animal.

Then the “Bad Mother/Stupid Kid,” outrage kicked in.  As a parent, you learn awfully quick just how quickly shit can go wrong.  It doesn’t require poor parenting, or neglect, or any other sort of blame-worthy adjective you’d like to throw on the mother.  Bad stuff happens sometimes.  Bad stuff ALMOST happens a lot more than we would like to admit, and even more times than we are even aware of.

This woman has just experienced possibly one of the most traumatic experiences of her life.  She will be admonishing herself for years to come over this even if she did nothing wrong.  I haven’t read past the headlines, but I’ve seen nothing yet accusing this woman of any intentional wrongdoing, other than the expected angry mob of “The Internet.”  I’m going to assume, until presented with evidence otherwise, that this woman simply lost track of her child momentarily.  I happens to VERY VERY good parents all the time.

The latest (as I write this) is the CLOSE ALL THE ZOOs response.  There’s a legitimate question there.  I’m not saying they all should be closed.  I (Dunning-Krueger be damned) believe there are legitimate reasons, beyond public spectacle, for zoos to be in operation.  I also believe there are ethical questions with zoos that may have not been completely answered.  So it’s worth a public discussion.

And that’s how this stuff should be viewed.  We don’t need to throw blame at each other here, but there are some things to be taken away from this sad situation.  That God Damned Gorilla lost its life the other day, and without rhetoric, I don’t think it has to be in vain.

The takeaways from this are simple enough:

  • Parents, hug your kids tonight, and tell them that you love them.  You never know what tomorrow brings.
  • There is a general discussion about the viability of zoos in general that the public is looking for.  It’s time to have it.
  • In the meantime, zoos around the world should be looking at current safety measures separating the public from the exhibits, and;
  • If possible, better training and procedures need to be implemented to allow for ways to defuse such situations in a non-lethal manner.

I’m sorry this animal was killed.  I’m sorry the mother, child, and park officials had to go through that.  Nobody woke up that day wanting to kill that gorilla.

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