America has lost more than a gorilla.
Whilst spending time in quiet contemplation, considering the ways in which young American men and women gave their lives for their fellow man and their country, our nation reeled from a new tragedy: a gorilla died. A big, sweet, innocent silverback was shot in cold blood by heartless zookeepers intent on preserving the life of the oppressor. Even now, one can hear the lamentations for this gentle giant’s sacrifice.
Will America recover from her loss? One doubts it.
This once-noble country has fallen into a moral abyss where a gorilla’s life matters more than a child’s and a parent’s worthiness is judged via sanctimonious Facebook post.
These truths used to be self-evident:
- Toddler boys are wily creatures who can escape the most attentive mother’s eyes (see also Roo, Kanga).
- Animals can be innocent and wholly natural while being deadly dangerous without meaning to be so.
- Adults have to make difficult choices and sometimes must harm something dear to save something even more important.
Reading the self-righteous rants condemning the terrified mother of this child, one wonders whether the judgers have children. Have they never had a child shove popcorn kernels up his nose, or his head through a banister, or placed his body on a fire ant hill or under a bees nest, or yank away his hand in a parking lot? (This is just one child, by the way.) Parenting is an endless heart attack wrapped in a stroke and tied up in a bow of gray hair. A curious boy (yes, Common Core hasn’t eradicated this species completely, yet) will do anything to get closer, go faster, climb taller, jump higher. Look at me, Mom!
Yet, society must blame the mother. Blaming isn’t enough. The village must ruin her. She must be burned at the stake of parenting perfection to demonstrate the blood-lusting crowds’ superiority.
Beyond the self-congratulation, there’s the deification of the animal. Watching the gorilla yank the child through the water, standing in front of him and guarding him like a new toy, and then yanking him to the other end of the enclosure, one doesn’t see malicious animal, but one does see an animal so big and powerful that harm to the child is inevitable or certainly likely.
When deciding between an animal and a human child, there shouldn’t be a decision. And yet, we have keyboard warriors convinced that there could have been another way. That taking precious moments to subdue the animal wouldn’t have resulted in a more horrible tragedy. A dead child is a more horrible tragedy.
The loss of the animal is sad and senseless. He was beautiful and minding his own business. Then, when presented with a novelty, he did what animals do.
Being adult means making difficult decisions. In the age of instant curated content, immediate technological gratification, and feel-good Facebook videos anthropomorphizing kittens, killing an animal can seem obscene. In the end, though, every parent would want the Zoo to make the exact same decision.
All aspects of life cannot be controlled. An iPhone or universal remote will not change some realities. A child is traumatized for life. His parents must live in the world as social lepers. And a beautiful, endangered animal is dead. Zookeepers who loved the animal had to choose the life of a child over one of their own.
This drama unfolded on the backdrop of a national holiday dedicated to remembering humans who laid down their lives for their friends and countrymen. The day is one that is easily lost and forgotten. The victims are dead. It is up to the living to speak for them.
In the cacophony, does the sobering and uncomfortable reality that President Obama is the longest wartime president in history penetrate the noise? Do the lives of the 2,499 men and women who’ve died during this president’s tenure resound?
Do their lives matter? Have citizens considered the choices made to send their countrymen into battle? Facing responsibility for these choices and remembering these grave losses is part of adulthood. It’s part of being an American.
It would seem that these lives lost, these untimely deaths, are drowned out today by the sturm and drang surrounding the loss of a gorilla. Tomorrow, the important signal will be lost in the noise of the latest frothy outrage.
America has lost more than a gorilla.
Photo credit: Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden