Today my students kept asking me if I’d heard about the “whole gorilla thing.” Almost immediately, as soon as anyone mentioned it, someone else would say, “that mom should have all her kids taken away.” I would simply respond, “let’s trust local law enforcement to do their job,” and move the conversation onward.
But seriously. Woah. What is going on here?
I cannot move five feet, virtually or in real life, without running into someone who has already decided that a complete stranger deserves to have her family pulled apart, for a tragedy they didn’t personally experience and could not possibly fully understand. I have to wonder what in the world we’re getting from this as a society, that we feel the need to execute this stranger and her family when we have to know we don’t have all the facts.
It’s gotten to the point that I’ve pulled the plug on Facebook. For the meanwhile, I’ll continue posting there, but I refuse to read the news feed. It was bad enough seeing the non-stop barrage of “you’re an idiot if you’re voting for this person” posts, followed by the “if you really love your friends you’ll share this” posts, and the “only stupid people like (whatever)” posts. Now, to top it off, there doesn’t seem to be a single person alive who doesn’t have a vehemently held belief that either the zoo, or the mother, or both the zoo and the mother deserve to be prosecuted within an inch of their lives.
I deal with enough hatred on a daily basis without opening a door to allow more in, so sorry, Facebook, I’m gonna have to let the dead bury the dead on this one. (Or let the judgmental bury the judgmental, whatever). You’ll have to find another way to guilt me into buying your various multi-level-marketing products or to invite me to your parties that I can’t attend because I live out of state and am to anti-social to ever go anyway.
But back to the subject at hand: why crucify total strangers over a situation we can’t possibly understand?
There are a lot of things to consider. First, there’s the fact that women in the United States are incapable of raising their children properly. No matter what choices a woman makes (breastfeed or bottle? Cloth or disposable diaper? Back to sleep or side? Bassinett or crib or co sleep? Start on solids or puree? Veggies first or meats or grains? TV or no TV?) there is literally no right choice to be made. A large segment of the population is waiting to tell you how you’re ruining your kid, often very loudly and obnoxiously to your face in the store even though you are total strangers.
So, on the one hand, mother-shaming out of the blue to total strangers in a very real and hurtful way is a national past-time. So mother-shaming this particular mother is just like winning the mommy-guilt lottery. This is the Moby Dick of mommy-shaming moments, how could we POSSIBLY pass it up?
Second, there’s the fact that there’s a huge segment of the population who distrusts any authority figures and can’t wait to blame them for handling things wrong. In some cases, like Michael Brown and Freddie Gray’s death, there’s both good reason to distrust the authorities as well as evidence that perhaps they weren’t entirely wrong. In other cases, like the constant malingering belief that Barack Obama is going to steal your guns and impregnate your teenage daughters just to forcibly abort their babies, there’s not a lot of good evidence but the hatred remains. So who WOULDN’T want to hate on a zoo for killing an innocent animal just to protect a human baby? I mean, let’s hate on them hardcore! Even though none of us are animal behaviorists, none of us were there, the video is short and doesn’t show the most violent actions towards the kiddo, we’re obviously anthropomorphizing the gorrilla by describing it as “protective” when we don’t really know how gorilla’s express protectiveness versus possessiveness, etc, let’s just decide to blame the zoo because blaming authority figures is our second favorite past-time right behind mommy shaming.
Then, there’s the fact that everyone loves to feel like their opinion matters. Me too. Having an opinion that matters is fun. Mine matters a lot to me.
But last, and not least, I think we all just want a sacrificial lamb.
Boy, don’t we have a LOT of guilt as a nation? We do, and we have a lot to feel guilty for. Most of us enjoy lives of relative luxury, and the news reminds us on a regular basis of all of those people who have less than we do. The migrants, the refugees of war-torn countries, the people fleeing cities we’re currently bombing the hell out of. We live these privileged lives and routinely we see the evidence around us that it may not last. Our place of privilege in the world is threatened constantly: by our own greed and avirice; by a shaky economy based off of invisible money we don’t understand; by terrorism; by immigration; by jobs being constantly outsourced; by the cost of education skyrocketing while low-skills jobs pay less and less of a living wage; and so on.
We’re terrified. And in the collective mind, we’re not too far removed from the Judeo-Christian values that say that when society wears a collective stain, it requires a sacrifice. Sacrifices we’re all too happy to make. Welfare moms? Throw those bitches under the bus. Bankers who are just banking the way society has taught them to? Slash those golden parachutes. Politicians doing what we ask them to? Smear them. Mothers trying their best? Shame the hell out of them. And the gays, and the single parents, and the transsexuals, and the celebrities, and everyone else to. Whoever the news parades out for a public stoning, we are locked and loaded and ready to cast our own chunks of granite and rotten vegetables at their tear-streaked faces. And why not? We’ve got anger and fear to spare, and no-where better to put it. We’ll put it where the media tells us to.
Harambe shouldn’t have died, we say. Let’s stone them all.
Only in the midst of all of this, we forget that the world is a place where sometimes bad things happen even though no one meant them to, even though no one may have been able to prevent it. What we have, most times, isn’t a failure of foresight but a failure of imagination. Perhaps we could have never known such things would happen, until they’d happen.
As human beings we’re always learning from our mistakes.
Only we live in a society that has become intolerant of mistakes, so we take out our own anger and frustrations at our own failures for whatever sacrifice-of-the-week has been pulled out for us. The terrorists, the Kardashians, Johnny Depp, who cares? They made mistakes which we can paint as worse than our own.
Kill ’em all. Take their kids. Make them pay.
Anyway, I need out of the big societal rock-throw, so I’ll be stepping away from social media and focusing more on blogging as a way to unwind from my plethora of bad days at work.
Perhaps this is my own way of casting out for a sacrificial lamb. Who knows.
All I can say is that the more I see people polarized- willingly, gleefully polarized- the less willing I am to participate in a society that thrives off of division, instead of unity and understanding.
As my students would say, “byeeeeee Felicia.”