If you are at all connected to social media, I find it hard to imagine that you’ve yet to hear the story of Harambe the Gorilla. Just in case you live under a rock, here’s a quick summary:
- A family went to the Cincinnati Zoo
- A three-year-old member of that family wound up in a gorilla enclosure
- A silverback gorilla named Harambe grabbed the child and dragged him around the enclosure
- About 10 minutes later, the zoo staff shot and killed Harambe
- The child went home with minor injuries
The zoo, celebrity zookeeper Jack Hanna, and the rest of the common sense community agree that what had to be done was done.
It’s very simple: human life is the most valuable resource in the known universe, and animal life is not. Any animal that threatens to kill any human (whether in the wild, in the home, or in a zoo) must be put down. That’s just the way it is. If you disagree, you should reconsider your values before becoming a threat to the rest of us. Would you let a stranger die for the life of an animal? I sure hope not.
It’s certainly alright to feel sad about animals dying due to unfortunate circumstances. The yelp before a random, fictional dog’s death in a film grips my heart more than the demise of most human characters, and I’ll be a blubbering mess the day my pet sugar glider passes away. But feelings must not dictate our conscious decisions or moral code. Just about everything wrong with the world is the result of faulty reasoning or reason being superseded by emotion. And allowing a child’s life to hang in the balance in order to prevent us from feeling some temporary sorrow would be a moral catastrophe.
While feeling sad or even outright distraught is a normal and probably healthy response to learning about the death of a majestic and endangered creature, standing on the tower of hindsight from behind a computer screen and admonishing those who actually had to deal with the situation is dangerous and dumb.
We seem to be descending into mob rule to some extent. Be it the Bernie Sanders mob, the Trump mob, the anti-Trump mob, the Black Lives Matter mob (which I’ll come back to soon), the Environmentalist mob, the Feminist mob, the Islamic terrorist mob, the Nationalist European mob, or myriad others, a rift is trickling through society, and it’s a little unsettling. The Rights of the individual should be seen as the guiding light that shows us the way, but herd-mentality and primal groupthink are leading many of us astray. By seeking to invade the private lives of individuals until a speck of blame can be vindicated, we imply that our personal feelings and desires take precedence over our fellow man’s Right to privacy and presumed innocence. The mob members publicizing the personal lives of the family involved in the Cincinnati Zoo incident, calling for Child Protective Services to investigate their home life, and signing petitions demanding they be held accountable for a non-existent crime lead me to wonder if their penchant for equating animal life to human life is a result of their inability to be humane themselves.
For those of us in the common sense community, there is a major takeaway from all of this that should reinforce our affinity with Western values and rule of law. Our Constitution protects our Right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and to be secure in our homes, persons, and belongings. If these Rights were not recognized and protected, the mob could justify sending the government in with pitchforks to unwarrantedly seize the family and lynch them without a speedy, public trial presided over by a jury of their peers. That Bill of Rights seems old and outdated until the mob comes along. The preservation of our inalienable Rights was guaranteed for a reason. And for those who say the First Amendment protects the Right of the people to petition the government for a redress of grievances, the Ninth Amendment says that our Rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage the other Rights we maintain. Those Founding Fathers sure knew how to frustrate the immoral.
The fangs of many mob members drip with liquid vengeance. They need to cast blame and to find someone to string up in the public square. Some of those who come to terms with the fact that no person should be left alone with a gorilla for the sake of the gorilla, and realize that parenting is difficult and that accidents happen have set their crosshairs on the zoo and its “inability” to keep people from entering animals’ enclosures. From a practical standpoint, this reaction is one of the greatest threats to our way of life and freedom to Pursue Happiness. Smokers have been pushed out of bars, out of smoking sections, and nearly off of the streets in light of the mystical threat of second-hand smoke. Beaches are off limits to the public at night in many parts of the country because some people can’t clean up after themselves. Tedious, Orwellian lines stand between us and our airbuses because a few people decided to become terrorists. The list goes on and on. Do we really need to rethink zoos and regulate them because of one freak incident? Is this the society we want to create? I’d like to blame the government for using brute force to create a nanny state, but we’re doing this to ourselves. Before we demand more regulations and oversight and obsessive compulsive order, let’s remember to breathe and keep things in perspective. There is no crisis taking place at the zoo. This does not call for a crusade.
What’s more is the rapidly self-decimating, hypocritical ethos of the mob. While I can’t be sure and apologize if this is off base, I imagine that many of the individuals losing their minds over the death of Harambe the Gorilla are the same people who get offended by the phrase “All Lives Matter” when juxtaposed with “Black Lives Matter”. As you may already know, the child who fell into the gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo was Black, and that doesn’t matter. When people proclaim that All Lives Matter, it should be assumed that it is a reference to human life and an insistence that we be judged as equals instead of according to our ethnicity. So, when a human is at the mercy of an animal, all available measures to rescue the human must be taken. It seems, though, that many would be willing to risk the life of a child for the life of a gorilla, and that leads me to believe that human lives, whether Black or another color, don’t matter that much to some of us.
Gorillas are amazing animals. They are beautiful, intelligent, innovative, and looking into their faces reminds us of our ultimate ancestry. But by the same token, they are immensely powerful and prone to violence. The child who fell into Harambe’s enclosure was beholden to the gorilla’s brute strength for about 600 seconds, and he could have been ripped in half in any one of those blips of time. Let’s be thankful that the child and family will remain intact when the odds were not in their favor, let’s breathe, and let’s learn to let go.