Maybe you’ve had more than enough of the gorilla story. If so, I fault your limited imagination.
There is so much here! It’s a story so rich in metaphor and allegory and philosophical questions about parenthood, ethics, and humanity.
Just sticking to the facts, it is awful. Let me quote an essay in The Guardian by Ian Redmond:
Harambe is a KiSwahili word meaning “pull together” – a good name for a gorilla because gorillas live in stable family groups and they do look out for one another. Over the past 40 years I have had the good fortune to spend hundreds of hours in the company of gorillas in their natural habitat. Most of them were habituated – that is, used to, human observers with an understanding of gorilla etiquette – but misunderstandings sometimes occur. I have been charged by a nervous female who thought I was too close to a member of her group, a blackback (adolescent) male who I was filming feeding; I have been walloped and bowled over by boisterous blackbacks, treating me just like one of the family, and on occasion, been on the receiving end of defensive silverbacks giving their awe-inspiring screaming charge. But I’ve never been hurt by a gorilla.
Well, that makes me feel sad. This makes me feel sadder:
Clearly if a silverback wanted to kill a child, he could do so in an instant. But he didn’t. It would seem that the danger was more to do with whether the boy might bang his head on a rock while being dragged.
There were other possible outcomes. In two other incidents where children have fallen into zoo gorilla enclosures (Jersey in 1986 and Chicago in 1996) neither the gorillas nor the children died. It is cogent to examine the specifics of each case before drawing conclusions about this one.
Redmond suggests interventions other than killing the gorilla, like distracting him with his favorite food. And he doesn’t have a word of criticism for the boy’s mother.
Here’s a question though. Why didn’t the mother jump in to save her child? It was only a 15 foot drop. What’s her fucking problem? I haven’t been put to the test personally, and I have been stupid enough to take my eyes off my young children. But I have no doubt that I’d do more than stand there and yell, “Mommy’s here!”
On the other hand, how many random kids is one majestic gorilla worth?
I say random because I don’t include my own kids. Just being hypothetical here. An innocent gorilla, born into captivity with no choices at all. A member of an endangered species whose lifespan should be 35 to 40 years, killed because some bitch thinks the zoo is a playground for toddlers.
I don’t know what would satisfy my distress about the gorilla. I have seen a gorilla in captivity and even that is distressing beyond words.
Let’s move along into metaphor.
Are we not all gorillas in captivity? We’re stuck here, minding our own business, trying to make the most of our situations, and some happenstance that is not of our making comes along to freak us out or confuse us and no one asks us how we want to proceed.
Maybe some of us are zookeepers, acting in fear without empathy.
Or maybe we’re impulsive, selfish little kids, fucking shit up for others because we want a little thrill.
Or – and here I’m probably revealing too much – maybe we’re all stupid fat mothers who can’t protect our kids because we’re just not equipped for the job.
To support one of the charities helping protect gorillas in Africa visit www.4apes.com and click on gorilla. And visit Gorilla Doctors.