Nah son, it couldn’t have happened to anybody. It’s not that I want to chide homegirl for having her kid dive into a gorilla enclosure, I’m just saying no. It could not happen to anybody, which is what people frequently say in defense of the mother. Of all the times I’ve been to the zoo, or just I don’t know, outside with two rambunctious toddlers, such a scenario has yet to take shape because either they know better, or I know better than to not be holding the fearless one’s (my daughter) hand when we walk past an open danger zone.

But anyway, that’s not really the point. I’m more interested in the accounts of zoologists and professionals who say that the only option was to shoot Harambe. Well… not really. That was the only option to ensure that the kid would survive.

But before we go all off the rails with “OMG Joseph is saying that we should let little kids who fall into gorilla enclosures be bludgeoned to death by giant primate fists,” I just want to say that this is more about principle. And resource. When I say that it might be worth the risk to attempt to subdue an animal without killing it, even if the kid may be injured or killed, it’s not because I think that all gorillas are more important than humans or anything like that. I mean, sure they are more important to the environment, there are way less of them, they have smaller carbon footprints, they’re generally nicer, some of them are cuter than most people, but that’s not the point.

I just think that we value individual human lives to such a ludicrously high extent that it creates long term problems for the collective bunch of other humans.

Remember that guy who got lost at sea a few years ago, on account of great human error? Well, the resources used to rescue homeboy from his own seafaring gallivanting were no small feat. Rescuing injured skiers, sailors or hikers in remote parts of the U.S. not only requires immense manpower, helicopters, boats, search parties and excavation equipment, but also time and money. Clearly there is a difference between someone minding their business who goes missing and someone choosing to take on a dangerous personal task, especially if they are unprepared. I only mention the cost of maintaining such a high importance on human life because this is also a country where we “can’t” fund 911 call centers, health care, public schools and a whole host of other civil necessities.

Even though it was a kid who fell in the cage with a gorilla, it was human error, several times over (caging dangerous animals, lack of security for said cages, whatever the hell the kid’s parent was too busy doing) that caused the incident. And so instead of using that lens, we just shoot the gorilla and defend the mom. No matter how the event would have played out, I just would have loved to see the conversation include the complexity of human blame for nearly every tragedy and what we might do about that.

Even though we seem to care so much about human life, we don’t give a shit about the quality of said life, which has always seemed inconsistent. This manifests in forcing women to have children under any circumstance, the individual responsibility act being invoked only when poor people collectively need something (food, housing, etc.) and my personal favorite–brutally forcing old people to stay alive. Sometimes I’m disgusted with myself in the amount of times I’ve contributed to keeping someone alive who clearly has no hope of happiness. Sometimes they literally beg for someone to just let them die. But no. We take them to dialysis three days a week, we break their fragile ribs every time their heart stops, we swap out their blood with epinephrine till we get something that resembles “life” by a biological definition that must clearly be re-defined. The cost associated with this, healthcare workers, families and just plain old fiscally is completely out of bounds.

But that isn’t going to change because there is no intersection between emotion and logic in this country. I think a republican once dubbed that crossing Death Panel lane.

Either way, every time we hyperbolize the value of a single human life, it reinforces the idea that we are all-important, perfect, immortal creatures that must answer to nothing, even our own mistakes.

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