Monday, May 30, 2016

Gorilla Justice?

Unless you don't even have enough power to read this posting, you will by now have heard the story, watched the video, perhaps even posted a response or signed a petition about it: a four-year-old sneaks into a gorilla zoo enclosure, is grabbed by the adult male who slings him around through the water and into the concrete, and then is killed rather than euthanized in order to save the child's life.

Yes, however you look at it, it is a tragedy. It would be even if the gorilla weren't endangered. Beyond that, opinions abound. Some believe the zoo needs to beef up its barricades. They should have tranquilized rather than killed him. It's the parent's fault and they should be punished. Zoos shouldn't even exist. Whatever their answer to this, the solution for most everyone is one-dimensional, the answer either black or white.

Kinda like the gorilla, if you think about it. And that's the closest to levity you're going to get here.

I'm of many minds on this issue. Zoos can be either good or bad. It depends on animal treatment, the possibility of endangered species breeding programs, whether they can keep certain animals from going extinct, whether they teach respect, empathy and understanding among their visitors.

Barricades? Haven't seen them, nor how the kid got through, so I can't evaluate them here. I do know that there comes a certain moment in the young lives of certain individuals where any barricade becomes a challenge, mainly to demonstrate whether stupid is survivable or not. As they say on the news, alcohol is often a factor. But that's generally in older populations.

Tranquilizer? In an animal that size, it would take ten minutes to put him to sleep. Plenty of time to become more agitated, sit on the kid, drag him through more water, bash him against the walls more often and harder. The gorilla would have likely survived. The kid, not so much. The second that kid got in contact with an adult male gorilla, a tragedy was made. The only question then was how much the damage could be limited.

Yes, we all fondly remember the female gorilla a few years back who protected a young child who got into her enclosure. But remember: that was a female. In this case the females present with their young were swiftly persuaded to leave the enclosure.  But how do you socialize the very epitome of raging macho when you have perhaps a minute or two to do something?

The trickiest judgment is whether it's the parent's fault. I have the most problems with this one. I raised one of those kids, always exploring, pushing boundaries, hard of listening, easily going off on his own. I got lucky. I actually raised one of those kids. All those trips to the ER, hunts through stores and crowds to find wherever he'd wandered off to this time just because my back was turned for a few seconds, and he still survived years past long enough to make me a grandmother. Perhaps he'll become a grandparent himself. He was my escape artist. Locks didn't keep him in, belts were quickly undone, discipline rolled right off his back and he was ready for next time. He's not the kid who drowned, the kid who ran into the street and got run over, the one who got trapped in the fire he experimented with.


Had I only raised the other two, the "good" kids, I'd probably find it easy to jump on the blame the parents bandwagon too. All the usual preventatives, the normal levels of attentiveness, the typical disciplines worked with those two, so obviously a kid who crossed the boundaries did so only with the negligence of their parents.


I have a distant in-law who earned himself a wheelchair for life by being one of those escape artist kids. He was buckled - properly - in his child seat in back when Mom heard funny noises. Just a quick glance behind her showed that he was well through the process of undoing his belts, and that was all it took for their car to hit another vehicle and snap his spine. Blame Mom? That's a hard one.

The news is full of stories of toddlers letting themselves out of the house in the middle of a freezing night, or into the family pool to drown because Mom/Dad/Grandma/babysitter lost sight for just a moment. Plenty of folks get their five seconds of fame dishing dirt on the local escape artist toddler + family, and/or opining that the justice system really needs to get involved.

I do get the other side of that issue as well. I judge plenty of other parents. Back when I was one of them, about the only other adults I had to talk to were other parents of toddlers. Mostly we talked side-by-side or even back-to-back, eyes peeled in all directions to see who was getting into what at any moment. I had a comfort level with how long a time I could actually do the polite thing and make eye contact with the other parent.

It's very like my comfort level with looking somewhere off the road while driving. Short. To give you an idea, many TV shows where conversation happens in cars drive me nuts because the driver keeps looking at the passenger rather than the road. "Bones" is a prime example. Not only would we watch our own kids while we chatted, we'd watch all kids and alert the parent when attention was needed. It still drives me nuts to talk to a parent when I'm the only one who has any idea what the kids are doing. So yes, I can judge, too.

I just need more information before I do it.

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