Let Humanity Win (My thoughts on Disney Gator Attack)

I have been at a complete loss for words since hearing about the 2 year old who was dragged away from his parents by an alligator at Disney, Florida.

This, hot on the heels of the worst mass shooting the US has ever seen, and the senseless gunning down of Christina Grimme, a beautiful, talented 22 year old…all in Florida, all in the space of a few days.

And while thoughts and anger, emotion and sadness has been filling my head and mind since these horrific events have unfolded, I’ve been at a complete loss on how to put those words down on paper.

But today I woke up to the news that a little body was found, mere feet from where his helpless dad had watched him be snatched as he tried to pry open an alligator’s mouth with his bare hands. A child… loved, cherished, cared for… very much like my own two children, and my heart breaks into a million tiny pieces.

Then I see the fury that is brewing on social media…fury, blame and anger aimed at the parents of the 2 year old, and it makes me want to bury my head in my hands and weep for what we have become.

People are citing parental negligence as the cause of this heart-breaking incident. But tell me…how many visitors walk that exact park each day? Each month? Each year?

How many children get close to the water’s edge, squeal with laughter and run excitedly back to their parents? How many wander around, happily creating memories, carefree and full of life?

Now tell me, how many have been attacked by an alligator while doing do? Disney has never had an incident like this occur before. And while Florida may be rife with alligators, they rarely attack humans.

NO ONE could have seen this coming.

The child was NOT unattended. He was NOT swimming. His parents were NOT negligent, and they DO NOT deserve this. No parent does.

The internet has killed our humanity. It has emboldened us to become horrible, horrible monsters … people we would never portray in real life.

Would anyone taking a dig at these parents have the guts to walk up to them, in this moment of utter grief, point a finger to their faces and say: “It’s your fault your child is dead. You should have been a better parent”

No one would dare say it to their faces, yet we sit happily behind our screens, the keyboard our assault weapon of choice, as we pick off strangers one by one.

Gorilla mom faced the internet’s fury when her child fell into Harambe’s enclosure. I admit, I was one of the first to point my finger. But in the end, my humanity won over my need to join the internet mob.

And a ‘mob’ is precisely what we’ve become. A bunch of angry, vile people, spewing words of hate and contempt to people we have never met, and will never know. We have become a society who has taken it as our duty to blame, to judge, and to tear apart anyone who has ever made a mistake.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a grieving mom, a panicked, helpless father…

It doesn’t matter if we made that same mistake last week. No one was there to see, and there was no tragic outcome, so it’s ok.

For all those thinking they know better and would have done better. Stop. Please stop.

A child is gone, his parents will NEVER recover from this pain and anguish. They will pay a price – far worse than you could ever wish on them – for the rest of their lives. So please, I implore you: Stop.

Stop letting anonymity make you less human. Stop letting your screen and keyboard make you the judge and the jury.

Please let compassion take over. Please, let humanity win.

 

 

 

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Open Letter to the Mom whose Kid Fell into the Gorilla Exhibit

To the mom whose kid fell into the gorilla exhibit,

I admit it: I mommy-shamed you. My first thought at hearing an endangered animal had been killed due to a child entering his enclosure, was to think that the parent – you, had been irresponsible. Then I heard you went to the zoo with 4 other children (5 in total), and I shamed you again. I further read that you worked at a day-care, and I questioned who would trust you to look after their kids?

So yes, I admit it: I shamed you. I sat behind my keyboard and screen and let the anger flowing within me come out the only way I knew how.

So today, when the social media universe has (somewhat) calmed, and pictures of the majestic Harambe is not flooding my feed as much as it was yesterday, I sit down to think about why I was so angry.

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I have always been an animal lover. I don’t eat meat, although this is not the standard by which an animal lover is measured. I am vocal against soulless trophy hunters who carry out atrocities in the name of sport. I stand up against dog fighting rings by signing petitions for harsher sentences for perpetrators of this heinous crime. I donate to charities that are actually doing something about the rapidly dwindling numbers of rhinos on our planet. I stand outside circuses and protest the use of elephants and lions for entertainment. I write challenging letters to laboratories that carry out terrible experiments on monkeys and beagles.  It’s not nearly enough, but I try to do what I can to ensure the animals entrusted to us on this earth are treated with dignity.

I wanted a scapegoat. And you made an easy target.

So when I heard that Harambe received a bullet to his head, and your son was sent home with a mild concussion and a few bruises, I lost it. I wanted someone to blame. I wanted a scapegoat. And you made an easy target.

But now that my anger is in check, I will admit I was wrong to shame you. In the realm of parenting, there isn’t a single one of us without sin. You made a lapse in judgement, a terrible mistake even, but you do not need to be crucified for that. I know I have made plenty mistakes of my own.

I heard about a toddler in my neighbourhood who drowned in his family pool a few weeks ago. His mom was meters away. The 2 year old just slipped away for a second, and now his distraught mother will live with that guilt for the rest of her life.

I am SO glad that you will not have to live a life of guilt without your son. I assure you, I was never one of those ‘activists’ saying “the kid should have died”. Even when my anger was at its peak, I realised the zoo officials had done what they felt was right.  I am heartbroken that a magnificent gorilla is dead, and that hopes for his species’ survival dwindles even further.

But I know that Harambe’s fate was sealed the moment your little boy entered that enclosure. They executed him for fear he may have harmed your son. And had he actually hurt/killed your boy, he would have been euthanized anyway. It was a horrible, no-win situation.

I will never claim to have the privilege to deem one life more important than another, be it animal or human. All I know is, if that was my child in there, I would have pulled the trigger myself. Because while I love animals deeply and passionately, there isn’t a single animal life I value over my child’s. Come to think of it, there isn’t a human life I value over my child’s either.

So, I’m sorry I shamed you. There are a million things you could have done differently…and I am sure you play them over and over in your head daily since the incident. I can only hope you learn the various lessons to be learnt from this ordeal. I know that it has taught me many lessons myself:

–          I have learned toddlers are sneaky little beasts, who are prone to doing precisely the opposite of what they’re told to do (or NOT to do).

–          I have learned that I need my village. And the next time I think of going anywhere that may be potentially hazardous, I will take along Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Patti, neighbour Sue and her cousin too. All hands on deck.

–          I’ve learned that accidents happen in the blink of an eye, so I will do my utmost best to pay attention at all times. I will try to stay off my phone and live in the moment.

–          I’ve learned that hindsight makes everyone an expert, so while I read about these tragedies around me, I’ll strive to be better and do better with my own kids.

And finally, I now place the blame where it should have been all along: on the people who think that animals in captivity, for the entertainment of others is acceptable. On Zoos and Seaworlds. On circuses and petting parks.

#EmptyTheTanks #EmptyTheCages #BoycottAnimalCircuses #RIPHarambe