If a child falls and nobody’s offended by it, do you still blame the mother?

So, somewhere in a zoo recently, a kid accidentally fell into a gorilla cage. The gorilla was shot before he could kill or save the child, so the chance for the hero animal angle was lost… but caretakers’ understanding of the animal’s instincts proactively protected human life. Could he have been tranquilized? Maybe. Could this tragedy have been prevented? Maybe. Would it be better if the child had died at the hands of the gorilla? For media… Yes. It’s super-lucrative either way, for manufactured butthurt about the ‘poor animal’ and the ‘terrible mother’. I didn’t even research the occurrence, I just know where this is going from the 17,586 million links (approximately) that I’ve seen where some politically aggrieved grown-up or some self-righteous kid thinks they know what “negligent” parenting looks like, and they imagine that you can keep eyes on children 24/7.

The rampant assumption that this negligent mother was just sipping a martini at the bar down the block, letting her kid run wild in a crowd of strangers… It’s absurd. You don’t know. And you can’t know. And you’re pretty arrogant for assuming you know enough about the circumstances to have an opinion on her parenting, or presumed lack thereof.

She was probably desperately searching for that one errant child, calling his name as loud as she dared, peeking beneath resentful camera-phone wielders’ elbows, seeking her adventurous charge and trying not to interrupt their selfie-taking. Maybe he sneaked off to do something secret and daring while she watched the other kids in her charge. I bet none of you ever tried that in you childhood. But once again, you can’t know.

Who is really to blame in the situation? The observer. The person at the railing at the gorilla enclosure, standing next to this annoying, exploring, maybe trouble-making kid. The person busy getting out his phone to record this unsupervised minor and thinking, “Where is his mom? I should definitely record this, so I can get her in trouble.” The person who stood there and just let the kid fall into the enclosure because he’s “not their kid”.

This is an absolute disgrace. Why wasn’t, even if that mom was negligent, someone else watching out for the kid? Why wasn’t everyone else watching out for the kid? Why did the crowd let him fall, when the walkway was full of people watching the gorilla?! This is not the mom’s problem – she’s trying her best! This is not the zoo’s problem – they made a decision based on the facts available!  This is our society’s problem, and it stretches so far beyond this one event. It’s not about the kid. It was never really about the kid.

“Was that your kid? I’ve got them on video, falling 15 feet to a landing DHS won’t like. Let me just post this on the internet before I turn it over to the police.” Where were you, photographer? Raising children is supposed to be a community endeavor. It’s an obligatory part of being a member of the human race. I know you’d like to always blame the mom, but where was the guy next to that kid who thought, “Whoah, that kid shouldn’t dive in,” and put out his hand?

I stop kids from running in front of swings at the park, if I think they’ll be hurt. They might be mine, they might not.  And if they want to swing, I’ll give them a push, when it’s their turn. They don’t have to be my kids, they’re just kids. This is about being a decent human being. It’s about being safe, and being mindful, and being part of a community. Why has it become acceptable and even preferable to be a bystander while something terrible and preventable happens?

Because we’ve become a society of lazy spectators, waiting for the next reason to devalue human life. We’re more concerned about the gorilla than the kid. That is a despicable and completely unacceptable mindset, and if you are one of the people mourning the gorilla and blaming the child, or signing petitions to sue the mom, or looking for any reason to blame parents for not meeting your expectations, you should be ashamed of yourself.

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