Who is to blame?
This is the story circulating on Facebook about the gorilla who was shot when a 4-year old boy entered the cage at the zoo and was dragged around frantically in what appears to be at least six inches of water. Panicked onlookers observed from about 15 feet above. And now my FB feed and the news is asking the question... Who is to blame? We all get to be judge and jury from our armchairs and laptops. And we eagerly jump to it. Why? I suspect that the act of placing blame allows us to ignore the feelings of helplessness, fear, or other discomforts that can be triggered from all sides of this story. The mom's fear. The zookeepers grief and loss. The pain of the gorilla's life and death. The child's fear and trauma. The onlookers helplessness. And even the secondary trauma we suffer from watching the video. If you watched the video or read the articles, you would have to be a sociopath to not feel empathy and emotion, not be triggered in some regard. But instead of feeling that, we want it to go away ASAP so we jump to assigning blame so we can place our discomfort somewhere else (in the form of anger and outrage). I'm sure somewhere in the system there was a gap that created a series of incredibly unique, highly dangerous and ultimately sad, frightening events. There are likely a few pieces that when strung together create a scenario that will probably never be replicated exactly that way again. And there is is absolutely some learning available here as well. But when we all jump to blame, others become defensive (it’s kind of a law of nature, honestly). When you feel attacked, you protect yourself (just like the gorilla). And all opportunity for reflection, for learning, for taking care of the gaps and for feeling sadness and grief, or supporting another as they do, is lost. This much I know: I wasn't there. I don't understand gorilla behavior. I didn't witness the boy being dragged. I don't have any idea where the mother was and where her attention was, but God knows there were a few times in my mothering that I turned my back for a moment to attend to something and one of my two girls behaved like only a 4-year old can and will. I don't know if tranquilizers take too long. I don't know. And so I choose not to jump to blame. I choose to be an empathetic member of the human race who hopes that no one is hurt too permanently emotionally or physically, who feels thankful the child is okay and who feels great sadness for the gorilla. And I wish that, collectively, we could all be better. I hope that all the cracks in the system that led to this unfortunate series of events are reflected on, discussed, cared for and supported to help us all respond better in the future. Blame is a tool for numbing uncomfortable feelings and an attempt to pass them on so we don't have to feel them. Consider this instead of blame: Notice your desire to place blame and be curious what emotion or feeling may be brewing underneath. Turn your attention there, feel it to release it. Then project love and empathy. This feels better and is much more helpful and healing for our world.