What If…Questions Worth Asking About Harambe and Cincinnati Zoo

The world is in an uproar over the shooting death of Harambe, the gorilla that was killed over the weekend after a four three year old boy fell into his enclosure. The world has literally gone crazy over the event, villianizing the mother, and crying out for justice for the seventeen year old gorilla.

Matt Walsh, a conservative blogger, tried to bring a different perspective into the discussion by reminding us of how many unborn babies were killed the same day Harambe died. At least one of the responses to his blog post was truly horrific; too horrific to even describe beyond saying the responder doesn’t value human life the same way I do. And has interesting taste in drinks…

The vitriol is pretty intense. People have incredibly strong opinions about the zoo, the parents, and even the value of the life of that little boy. But let me ask a question…

What if the boy had died? 

Think about that for a minute. Not how many babies were aborted on Saturday (though that number is gut wrenching and horrific). Not how terrible the mother was to be taking a a photo with her phone instead of keeping a vice grip on the arm of her three year old son (but consider that if she had, someone may have reported her to Child Protective Services). Not how terrible it is that a majestic and rare gorilla is dead. Think about it…

What if the boy had died? 

Or, what if it had been your child in with the gorilla? 

Think about the consequences of that outcome…

Then think about SeaWorld…a trainer (an adult, mind you, not a child) was killed by Tilikim, the “Killer” Orca at SeaWorld in Florida in 2010. The tide of public opinion is turning against SeaWorld and while they haven’t gone out of business yet, their popularity has certainly taken a hit. And this over a woman who willingly chose to swim with a known predator. They’re called “Killer Whales” for a reason…

We can all throw stones at people when they fail to meet our expectations. But, most of us would whither under our own standards of accountability. And let me ask another question…even if the mother was neglecting her son (though I don’t think she was), what difference does our judgement make? 

Racing to pronounce judgement on the mother, her young son, or the zoo staff will not change the outcome or bring Harambe back to life. It just won’t. Why are we investing so much energy on something that can not be changed?!

And, more importantly, what can we change about the circumstances leading up to Saturday’s tragedy? That is a much more valuable, if complicated, question, with few (if any) easy answers…

Memorial Day

Memorial Day…

a day for remembering…

For some, it is a day of fresh grief because the pain of loss is still new. For others, it is a day of solemnity and a deep awareness of the cost of freedom.

The focus of Memorial Day is to honor our military fallen.  Since the birth of our nation, over 600,000 have given their lives so that we can enjoy the luxuries of 21st Century America; cell phones, fast food, holidays, quiet evenings at home listening to cars driving by instead of hiding behind fortified walls listening to gunfire. We live in one of the best places on earth (political campaign slogans aside) because of the sacrifices of men and women most of us have never met. We don’t even know all their names. 

But someone does. Every single man and woman who has laid down their lives for the sake of our freedom left someone behind. Someone who loved them. Someone who may still feel the weight of their loss every day. They say being a spouse or family is the toughest job in the military. What we celebrate today is part of the reason why.

My father is one who knew the reality of that difficult job description…his biological father, Fred Garcia, was killed in November 1943, in a plane crash at Love Field in Texas. Having just taken off, his plane was filled with fuel, so there was little left…we have the flag from his casket, and an old photo. That’s about it. But my dad still has memories…

Most of his memories of Fred have faded over the years. After all, his dad had been off fighting a war, and my dad was young. They didn’t have time to make many. The one stark memory my dad has is of officers in wool uniforms approaching the door, that fateful knock, and his mother’s tears. Not quite three (but obviously quite aware), my father wrapped his arms around his mother’s legs and said in his best grown up voice, “Don’t worry, Mama, I’ll take care of you.”

This is the picture we need to remember on Memorial Day…families without fathers, children growing up without mothers, someone missing from the latest family photo. We need to remember, in the words of Abraham Lincoln,

What solemn pride must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice on the altar of freedom.”

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The question now is, what will we do with the freedom that has been purchased at so great a cost? Will we head to the lake to BBQ dogs or steaks on the grill? Or will we remember the sacrifice made by so many?