After gorilla death, try empathy -- not blame
By Mel Robbins CNN Commentator
Editor's note: Mel Robbins is a CNN commentator, legal analyst, best-selling author and keynote speaker. In 2014, she was named outstanding news talk-radio host by the Gracie Awards. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
(CNN) -- What if it was just a tragic accident?
In today's finger-pointing, name-calling media world, can you even conceive of a scenario where no one is really "at fault"?
By now, you know the devastating story about a 3-year-old boy who climbed through a barrier at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden and tumbled into the gorilla enclosure below. For 10 harrowing minutes, the boy's mother and a crowd of zoogoers watched in horror as zoo officials scrambled to help. A 17-year-old western lowland gorilla named Harambe dragged him ("violently," according to witnesses) through the shallow moat in the enclosure and also seemingly stood protective guard over him. At one point, Harambe stood the boy up and pulled up his pants.
This scene must have been shocking to witness as it unfolded. And it became even more terrible when the zoo officials made the only decision they could: to fatally shoot their beloved Harambe to protect the boy, who miraculously was unharmed.
In this 21st-century age of viral connectedness, all of us are processing a muted version of that same shock and fear. And now we are doing what we always do: Starting to point our fingers in judgment.
We start with the parents: Arrest them! Charge them! They are to blame! The mother, more than the father, of course! What kind of parent allows herself to get momentarily distracted at the zoo, anyway? Come on! Because 3-year-olds always listen and they never dart away from their parents. So ... the parents are responsible! They must be charged with some kind of crime -- or at least publicly vilified for their stupidity!
While we're at it, let's blame the crowd, too. They were so busy filming the whole thing and screaming louder and louder -- making a racket that witnesses say agitated Harambe. If they had just shut up, maybe things could have been different. So let's round up the crowd, because everyone knows when a 3-year-old falls into a zoo enclosure, you should know exactly what to do: Stay calm and be quiet. Isn't it obvious?
And then the zoo itself, of course, is to blame. They created the attraction in the first place, they have animals in captivity that belong in the wild, they have an enclosure a child can slip through, and they made the decision to shoot the gorilla instead of trying to tranquilize it.
You can armchair quarterback the parents or second-guess the zoo's decision to shoot the gorilla all day long. The bottom line is that, as heartbreaking as it is, the zoo did what it had to do under the circumstances. When it's a decision between saving a child or saving an animal, you always pick the human being.
The whole episode is sad -- a child is safe, but another living being has died. What's even more tragic is our insatiable need to find fault in everything that happens in life. In that regard, we are all at fault here.
What if instead of lawyering up and assigning blame like we always do, we take a step back in this instance and try a little empathy? The parents didn't throw the kid into the enclosure, the crowd didn't mean to agitate Harambe and the zoo didn't want to have to kill him.
The situation was horrible for everyone involved. It was an accident. And I for one am thanking our lucky stars it wasn't worse.
Mel Robbins is a CNN commentator, legal analyst, best-selling author and keynote speaker. In 2014, she was named outstanding news talk-radio host by the Gracie Awards. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
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