The world doesn’t need to hear another blogger’s thoughts on the tragic incident that happened at the Cincinnati Zoo last week. And yet, somehow, here we find ourselves.
I’m not going to bother with a full recap. I’ll bet you know what took place, and if you don’t, you can probably get the full story from Googling something as simple as “zoo” these days. We all know what happened. The very plain facts: a child fell into an enclosure with a Silverback gorilla at a zoo and now the kid is safe and the gorilla is dead. In that one sentence, there are so many tragedies.
And the crowd goes wild.
With that one sentence alone, everyone on the whole internet knows exactly what should have been done better than the people who were actually on the scene. Who should be held accountable? Who’s the biggest monster in this scenario? The internet has the answers. People that you’ve known your whole life, turns out, are experts in parenting as well as Silverback gorilla behavior and zoo architecture. I can’t believe that they’d never mentioned those specific areas of expertise, before!
You can’t even mosey past the comments section without subjecting yourself to some of the most desolate places that human nature can go.
And why do we go there?
Why do we need to blame someone?
Why do we need to blame someone? Is it so that someone will be held accountable? I assure you that mother will never let a child out of her sight ever again. I promise you that even without one single other person’s input—she will carry the weight of what happened here for the rest of her life.
If you want to blame the zoo keepers, I am confident that this situation will not be cast as a one-off fluke. There will likely be conversations in place about issues of protocol and safety. They lost a friend, that day. If I was involved, I can’t imagine that I’d be able to fall asleep at night without trying to figure out how it all could have been done differently.
And if you want to blame the people who designed the gorilla enclosure in such a way that a child could easily find himself within it—this situation sparked enough madness that it’s going to be used as a case study in these matters for years to come.
And maybe you’re thinking, “you just said it! The madness that was sparked created an opportunity for change!” Yeah. It did. But maybe we can make change happen without death threats for those involved? I believe that we can. We’re better than that. You can not express your value for life—while calling for the head of someone else in the same breath.
You are a whole and complex person made of stardust and miracles. You are capable of so much and here you are… sharing poorly spelled, threatening memes as your way to facilitate change. Is that really how you hoped this would all go down when you saw yourself as an agent for justice?
But lets talk about the other people involved in this situation. Let’s talk about you and me and our need to point fingers and blame in the face of tragedy. Because when a kid falls into a gorilla enclosure or a gunman enters a public space or a friend’s marriage falls apart or a family member gets a diagnosis, it affects us. We have feelings about that. But we don’t even give ourselves time to consider those feelings. We go straight to “what was the cause of the fire?!”
In other, more primitive terms, we’re saying, “this makes me feel bad—who do I blame for my bad feelings?!”
Maybe if I can blame the right person, my bad feelings will go away. But they don’t. Hell, they get bigger and it just adds fuel to a fire that’s already on edge. We spin around to the most obvious target of our wrath and we unleash and why?
You can’t get rid of your bad feelings by deflecting them.
You can’t get rid of pain by running from it.
You can’t make a child safe by threatening to murder his mother.
It’s our instinct to ask “why” but in my experience, while it’s often the least helpful question to ask, it’s also the one we get so hung up on. We can’t get past it because it doesn’t always matter and we’re trying to make it matter. And assigning blame is the next best thing to answering the “why” question in order to help us quickly move past the bad feelings and pretend this never happened.
As much as I wish that I didn’t have to live with a condition like anxiety and panic, I wouldn’t trade it for all the things that it’s taught me. One of the things that I’ve learned is that when I get worked up and anxious—there’s no use in pretending it’s not happening. It prolongs the experience. Fighting it makes it fight back. When I’m overcome with feelings of fear and terror—or on my way down that path—the very best thing that I can do is sit up in a comfy place, hold on to something, and breathe through it–telling myself the true things until the moment has passed. And as a human reacting to tragedy, what if this was our first move rather than transferring our fear and hurt onto someone else?
You have to go through it. You can’t go around it. Assigning blame and hurling insults and memes in the direction of someone just because you feel uncomfortable won’t help anything. It’s just going to make the horror last longer. And when you’re going through it—when you’ve got something to hold on to and truth on your tongue, you’re going to make it through and you’re not going to come out of it battle scarred. Sometimes there’s just not a battle to be had.