The Blame Game

I nearly didn't write this post. It is such high profile and emotive story at the minute. There'll probably be lots of people who disagree. But I've dipped in and out of a few rage inducing Facebook conversations surrounding it and just felt the need to jot down my thoughts.

I am, of course, talking about the four year old boy who fell into a gorilla enclosure at Cincinnati zoo over the weekend. In order to protect and rescue the boy, zookeepers had no choice but to shoot the gorilla - a decision that has sparked worldwide outrage. And what does the world do when it's outraged about something? Find someone to blame, of course.

Before the dust had settled and the facts were revealed, the vitriol had started. I'd say that about 80% of the blame, the anger and the passive aggressive memes that I've seen via social media have been directed at the parents of the little boy rather than at the zoo who housed a 450lb gorillia in an enclosure that was penetrable to a four year old. At best there have been accusations that the parents were negligent, at worst some pretty sick (hopefully not serious) suggestions that they should have been shot instead of the gorilla. And in between there has been a shit ton of superiority and judgement and 'I would never have let that happen to MY kids' remarks thrown in for good measure.

When horrific accidents happen to children it's OK to be shocked and upset. It's also OK to feel outraged at the senseless death of an innocent and endangered animal who did absolutely nothing wrong. But why do we always feel the need to look for blame? And why does that blame always seem to end up with the parents?

None of us keep our eyes on our children 24/7; it's just not possible, especially when you're supervising more than one. I admit that I've felt that gut dropping, spine tingling sense of fear when I glanced away from my son in a park once - just for a split second - then looked back to find he was out of sight. It happens. My mum works on the customer services desk of a large supermarket and says that you wouldn't believe the amount of children that turn up there having being separated from their parents. Nine times out of ten they'll be quickly reunited and nothing catastrophic will happen. Nobody bats an eyelid. But when something does go horribly wrong do we offer support and empathy to the unlucky ones? No, we hound them, abuse them online and tell them they're shit parents. As if they're not already thinking that themselves.

Parent blaming/shaming bothers me. It takes seconds to write something online that will dent a parents confidence forever. We all know it is the toughest job in the world so why do people seem to take such glee in telling others how bad they are at it? Almost reveling in the knowledge that nothing like this ever happened to THEIR children. Well done. You're a great parent. Let's hope it stays that way.

Eyewitnesses of the incident in Cincinnati say that it happened in the blink of an eye. This doesn't sound like a case of a mother being neglectful. It sounds like an unfortunate accident with tragic consequences. She already has to live with the sickening image of her child being dragged around like a rag doll by a gorilla, not to mention the guilt about what could have happened and what did happen. Does she need to deal with blame and abuse from millions of strangers too? It won't solve anything and it won't bring Harambe the gorilla back. Let's just hope lessons have been learnt so this never happens again.

When genuine accidents happen it's easy to ask why and how. But don't automatically point the finger of blame at the parents. They are responsible for their children, yes. But they aren't superheroes who are exempt from the dangerous unpredictability of the world. Support them. You never know when your split second error of judgement could lead to an accident too.

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