I generally do not participate in posting about controversial issues online. Even when I have very strong opinions, I bite my tongue… bite my fingernails… wring my knuckles and scream silently to myself or not so silently to my family about the most recent debate. Sometimes I’ll even write a commentary and save it amidst the plethora of other unseen writings I have hidden away in unseen folders on my computer desktop, but rarely, if ever, do I post my view on hot topics that are floating about in cyberspace.
This time and this topic put me over the edge. I can’t remain silent anymore. I have no intention of igniting a fresh spark in order to set off a new explosion on the already warring web. In fact, I have no intention of taking sides and shooting off my own weapons. I’m sure that some will find malice in my words, or a statement that they feel is begging for rebuttal, but that is not why I write. I write in the midst of a civil war that is anything but civil. I write because upon seeing one of the most recent controversies, my heart sank not just once or twice but countless times.
My heart first sank when I saw the video of a helpless child being dragged around by a large silverback gorilla, because I have a son who is exactly 4 years old and five other children as well. I put myself, for one moment, in the position of the mother watching her son helplessly from the sidelines and my broken heart sank.
Then, I read that in order to rescue that small child a high price had to be paid, the ultimate price, for the gorilla Harambe who was simply doing what he knew to do when faced with an unfamiliar threat (or helpless creature in need of protection), in his home (or prison). I read that this endangered animal, in his prime, needed to be killed in order to ensure the boy’s safety, and my saddened heart sank.
After that, I proceeded to do what one should never do when they want to be able to move on from an issue and put it behind them. (I do not mean this callously. I do not mean move on and forget, rather move forward and learn.) Still, I HAD to know what people were saying, because, of course, people are always saying something. So I read the comments below the story. I read and read and read, and my heart sank, and sank, and sank.
People were casting judgments that they had no business casting because they were not at the zoo that day. People who know nothing of this woman, this mother, other than what they saw in a video or heard online, insulted her, called her names, said she should have her child taken away, and hated on her. My disgusted heart sank.
Grown men and women pointed virtual fingers at a four year old child and called him names and called him worthless and yes, even called him a murderer. They hated him with words and wished him ill-will in his future. My astounded heart sank.
People debated and rebutted. They called each other uneducated, idiots, morons, and the like. My sickened heart sank.
People stood with picket signs for a cause they believe in, but what was first created to be a peaceful form of protest, was anything but peaceful. Children held signs that name called and belittled. I wondered at the purpose of teaching our children hatred and violence at such young ages. I say violence, because we all know the lie that exists in the words, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” My disappointed heart sank.
Can’t we all just agree on what is true, and learn from it? Can’t we stop arguing about the things we don’t know, the things we are making hurtful assumptions about? What are the truths in this situation? A beautiful endangered animal was killed, and it is a very sad thing. A beautiful little boy lives today, and this is a very happy thing. It is possible for joy and heartbreak to exist simultaneously. The existence of one does not diminish the importance or realness of the other. Fighting and arguing and hating will not change these things. Name calling and pointing fingers will not bring “Justice for Harambe.”
We all have a voice, but if we truly desire to make a change for something, then our voices must be ones that people are willing to listen to. They must be voices that have something worth saying, and voices that speak those things in ways worth listening too.
There is much to learn from this situation on every side of the spectrum, but let’s not create a war where no war exists. Your fight is not against the person on the other side of the country or the world, who posts comments underneath the latest issue.
Why do we waste our time and our breath fighting with people who have no power to bring change about in the first place? Look at what is, and decide what can be. Then look at what can be, and decide what should be done. Finally, see what should be done, and DO it… respectfully, peacefully and graciously. We will still take sides and disagree, and that is to be expected. We will still be called to arms and called to speak out and called to take a stand, but just remember that if you must fight, then “fight nice.” Do it for this mother and her child. Do it for Harambe and all other animals that we have the responsibility to care for. Do it for the unborn and helpless, the broken and misunderstood, the hurting and hopeless. Do it, but do it nicely. Isn’t that what our parents have been trying to teach us all along?