On May 28th, a 4-year-old boy crossed the barrier and fell into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo. The gorilla was violently dragging and throwing the child. The Zoo’s Dangerous Animal Response Team made the difficult decision to put the gorilla down to save the child. I’m sure you’ve heard the outcry. Obviously it was a terribly unfortunate and sad event, but the actual event is not the purpose of my post.
The outrage directed at both the boy and his mother is stunning, and I will not remain silent. This is not acceptable.
In an age of technology where “once you’ve posted, you can’t take it back”, I’m shocked by countless posts and comments that have the potential to follow and harass this family forever. There are many people saying that the mother deserved to die. There are other posts suggesting that the child should’ve battled it out in a “survival of the fittest” showdown with the gorilla. Anger is everywhere, and it’s outrageous. Everyone knows “this”. People at the grocery store where this family shops know this, neighbors know this, people on the other side of the world know this—everyone knows.
Can you imagine the kind of thoughts racing through the mother’s mind as her son starts kindergarten in the days ahead? Forget the typical nervousness. She’ll wonder if the classmates’ parents are the ones who thought she deserved death, or worse yet, if they felt like her son deserved to die.
It doesn’t stop there. Think about this boy. Imagine that 5 years from now attends a classmate’s jungle-themed birthday party. One of the other partygoers has heard his parents talk at home. He makes a comment that this child can’t wear the gorilla party hat because he’s a “gorilla killer”.
What about 10 years from now when this boy is working on a research paper for school and stumbles across the sensationalism of this story. It hits him in a fresh way because he’s older and he can grasp the reality that everyone, everywhere knows, and that they hated him. You’ve told him that his mother is an “unfit parent” and you hated her too. Why is that ok?
He’s going to read your comments. They’re going to take up residence in his heart and mind. You have the ability to impact his future. And you’re telling him that his life is worth less than that of a gorilla.
I hope you never have to understand what it’s like to have your child text you from school to say that they can’t go to class, they are in the bathroom crying, completely destroyed by a social media post from a classmate about the event that happened in their life 10 years before. As you read their text you can barely breathe. Your heart breaks into a million little pieces. You want to run straight to that bathroom and bring them home and never send them back into the “real world”. But you can’t do that. You work through the aftermath of this situation. But it’s changed you, and it’s changed your child.
Your words carry weight. Your words shape lives—they have the power to uplift or to destroy. Choose wisely.