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Stop the judgment – A different perspective on the death of Harambe the Gorilla

If you haven’t heard the news, A 17 year old western lowland gorilla – a critically endangered species – was shot and killed May 28, 2016 at the Cincinnati Zoo. Click here to read more if you haven’t hear about it here:
I am not a news girl, and rarely comment on topics that are in the media, HOWEVER, today, I am commenting. Not on the fact that the gorilla was killed. I don’t know all the circumstances and would not judge what the best response was, not knowing all of the details. It absolutely saddens my heart that this amazing animal has died, but I would not sit in judgement of if it was the “right” thing to do or not. I simply do not have enough information to make that call and would not begin to believe that I do.
YET, the conversation and anger that i saw just as i was reading the story on facebook, from i am sure well intentioned people, was what was shocking to me….
Not of the boy.. He is too young to know what consequences could be. Not of the gorilla, it was his home that was invaded and he was simply being in his own environment.
But, it was all of the blame of the zookeepers and the parents  – again without knowing the full details or exact situation. The media shares what it wants to share my friends. You never really “know” unless you see it with your own eyes. Accidents happen! Even with the best safety precautions in force.. and we can learn from them.
What I read, that caused me to write this, was all of the assumption and judgment about the parents. Now, first, please hear me… I am not defending anyone. I have no idea who the parents are, what they did or didn’t do, and how this situation came to be.

However, I am a parent. Not a perfect one though…

Twenty two years ago I was a parent of a 4 year old boy that was out of control child at times.
A child that i loved dearly and did everything i could to keep him safe.
A child that i found on top of the refrigerator at 18 months old because he wanted a cookie.
A child that was impossible to keep still.
A child that got into some dangerous situations because if his impulsiveness.
A child that would run off almost every time we went somewhere to the point that I had to harness him (which brought lots of judgment)
A child that at 4 years old was more willful and stronger than i was, and could break out of my grip when he truly wanted to.
A child that did not have any fear.
A child that didn’t know the consequences of his actions
A child that was like a Houdini.
I remember how hard it was to watch him every minute. I would go in the bathroom and he would escape. I remember how much I struggled to keep him in line and safe… I remember how much i judged every single situation as a failure and how much I needed compassion and love..
There are various levels of responsibility.. with the parents and the zoo… absolutely.  But to use profanity, say they/she should be hanged/murdered/tortured? Really?
So, when i hear everyone blaming… the parent(s), and again, I DO NOT know their story, but am offering a different perspective. It isn’t as easy as just saying.. those stupid parents. You don’t have to be a stupid parent to lose track of your child. Children come with their own mind and heart and soul… and journey. Parenting children is not easy. Period… and most of the time (yes, most of the time) parents are doing the best they can with what they have been taught. I know I did. Could i have done better…absolutely.. but I didn’t have the awareness or tools at the time. Isn’t that true of all of us in certain areas of life?
What if, this boy and this gorilla are bringing to light an important awareness for us all. The easy answer is to blame. Of course, but maybe we could go a little deeper. Look within a bit more instead of just projecting our anger, our frustrations onto others. Maybe we could find some compassion…
How many parents intentionally “lose” their kids and/or want to see them get injured? There may be some… but is that what this is really about? How many zookeepers want to shoot their beloved animals?
What I know for sure is that anger, projection, and frustration directed at the people involved won’t make anything better… because i believe, it isn’t about them.. they are simply shining a light on a greater issue. Our lack of love and compassion for others and for ourselves.
Love is the answer in my book.. always.. Love and compassion.
I think we all need a reminder. This is a tragedy, absolutely. My heart broke when i read what happened, and it broke into compassion..

  • for the other gorillas that  have lost one of their own
  • for the zookeepers that had to make an instant decision with ramifications that far outweigh society’s judgment
  • for the family of the boy and the experience they walked through witnessing what happened to their son and what they are likely walking through now facing so much judgment
  • for the boy and all he went through, emotionally and physically
  • for all of the witnesses and the experience of watching this tragedy unfold.

All tragedies, in our human experience and perspective are a way to our souls expansion… from a spiritual perspective.
Everything happens for a reason..and we don’t get to pick our everythings. As hard as that can be to trust, I truly believe that. A couple other things I know to be true, for me, even in my own time of sadness and tragedy:

  • Love is always the answer
  • Trust in the process of the Universe.
  • Everything is always happening for your highest and greatest good
  • There are No Mistakes
  • The physical body leaves at divine time… always! (even animals)
  • You can spend a lifetime to try to understand something that is not understandable from the human perspective. Trust the journey.. it is much less aggravating and detrimental to your mind, body and soul.
  • Be compassionate – You never know the journey walked by others.

I honor you and your perspective… Agree or disagree – Lets just be compassionate. All my love Sunny Dawn Johnston♥

PS: I am an animal lover, a vegetarian for that reason and I not a fan of zoo’s and keeping animals in captivity. However, the circumstances are as they are… and right now, there are zoo’s and millions of people go visit them.There are parents with children that get away sometimes. This is not about the zoo, the animals or even the parents.  To me, this is about a tragic situation that happened. It cannot be reversed or I am sure everyone would wish that. So, what can we learn? Expand into? How can we as a society grow? For me, it is to be the change I wish to see.. and I wish more compassion for all of involved.. So that is what I offer. – SDJ
Please help me spread a different perspective. Just hit the buttons below to share this on your social media pages and spread a compassionate perspective. I’d also love to hear your comments. Please share below – SDJ

55 thoughts on “Stop the judgment – A different perspective on the death of Harambe the Gorilla”

  1. Além do mais, estrutura física consome a mais assunto
    da alento na acusação da argúcia por causa disso negativa no entanto agradável acampar em relação a apetência
    a aferro no entanto extrapolar ampere tardiamente ou à chona.

  2. I’ve been surfing online more than 3 hours today, yet I never
    found any interesting article like yours. It is pretty worth enough for me.
    In my view, if all site owners and bloggers made good content as you did,
    the internet will be a lot more useful than ever before.

  3. I read that Jane Goodall had contacted the man at the zoo who knew the gorilla well, and stated that she felt the movement by the gorilla with its arm was to protect the child, and with her long history of studying gorillas she may have understood the behavior that was exhibited a little more than everyone else watching what was happening.

  4. I so appreciated this article, Sunny, especially since I am not proud to admit that I found myself going into judgment about the parents. This is such an excellent reminder to keep compassion foremost in our thoughts and know that we cannot possibly be aware of all the angles in a situation. But we can always have compassion, regardless. In fact, those of us who were judging can feel chastened by the fact that just today an article was published in the Washington Post about the parents of the boy who not only felt great sadness for the loss of Harambe, but also deep appreciation to the zoo for saving their child and for the expressions of support from others. Their integrity and kindness is evident in their refusal to accept donations, directing donors to sent their money to the Cincinnati Zoo in memory of Harambe. In regards to your experience with your own son, it gives all a great reminder about how difficult it can be to keep an especially active little one from getting away despite our best efforts (and when I was young, I used to think harnesses seemed cruel but as an adult I now understand it’s all about keeping a child safe and with children who are “runners,” such a measure is very necessary .) Just a gentle reminder (I can’t help it – I’m a journalism/English major!) on some needed edits in the article: upper-case “I” needed instead of lower-case in several instances, “zoos” doesn’t need an apostrophe and as you’ll see, a couple of other items in the first bulleted items list. Not trying to be picky but I don’t want anything to detract from your excellent message as you are asking this to be shared. I’m sure that you were feeling the urgency to get your thoughts down and editing was not top priority at the time (I’ve done it myself). Again, your article provided a much-needed, open-minded perspective, especially as tempers are running so high these days when it comes to issues in the news – there seems to be a real lack of civility and willingness to try to understand and see other viewpoints.

  5. Perfectly and loving said with great awareness of where we are and where we can be as a culture and society. Thank you animal friends for the opportunities you continue to provide for the opening of our hearts.

  6. Sunny, Thank you for being who you are (Real). You always have a way to bring everything back into perspective! Beautifuly said!

  7. So perfectly put. Thank you!!
    P.S. the description of your son brought smiles, Ok I laughed, every line described my now, 31 year old, son perfectly, except I found him on the refridgerator at 10 mo. before he could even walk. His nick name was Houdini for nothing could keep him in a car seat, let alone a grocery cart etc.

  8. Why not shoot tranquilizer to the gorilla, instead of killing him? They’ve done in the past with other animals. And where were the parents of this child? Sad story.

  9. Very well said, Sunny. We don’t know the details and it’s not for personal judgment. It’s an overall heartbreaking situation. Thank you for such great words and a different point of view.

  10. i know acidents happen the only thing that came to my mind was the parent looking at social media, thats all we humans do—sad – everyone is always looking at their cell phones, facebook etc. Im glad I grew up in the 60’s

  11. Kathy (above) nailed it. Accidents happen, and are just that: accidents. We are all expected. to be hyper-vigilant enough to prevent accidents from happening – which is impossible. Related to these incidents (accidents): the fact that wild & endangered animals have to find refuge & protection in zoos in the first place – because humans are hounding them into oblivion.
    Thank you for this perspective.

  12. Patty Baselice

    This was my sentiment from the beginning. No blame…no judgement. It was a horrible situation for ALL involved. Just tragic.

  13. I have never understood why when something tragic happens, we as a society always feel like the blame has to boil down to one person. And then say ugly mean and nasty things. Sometime it should be realized as just an unfortunate accident and as you have so very well said, compassion, love, and kindness expressed. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and helping us all see a better perspective of this situation. Prayers to all who have directly been affected by this tragic event.

    1. I had one of those too:) Got a lot of judgment for treating my son “like a dog”. But, i agree, it was great. he could get out though, pretty quickly too;)

  14. I agree…as a mother of a child who is autistic and also only three, he has gotten away from me even though I’ve done my very best to keep him safe. He’s thankfully never been hurt, but I would never judge another parent and wish them harm because their child was able to get into an enclosure that had not been infiltrated for what 36 years? If no other child had ever gotten in (and we all know at least some have tried) it’s just bad luck…I’m not defending them because I don’t know exactly what took place…but short of them putting the child in the enclosure themselves, they deserve a little more empathy and compassion. I don’t know what I would’ve done as a parent seeing my child drug around by a huge gorilla. I saw a video of the situation (a 2 minute one) and you can hear the mom say that she loves the kid and that it’s going to be ok…not a heartless monster who deserves to die by any means…I was saddened to see all the hate towards the parents. People are way too quick to judge others!!

  15. Thank you for posting this Sunny. We still don’t know the full story and even when we do it will be the “truth” the media would like us to have. It is easy to judge the parents, the zoo’s decision, etc. It is easy to second guess and say what should have been done after the fact. I am trusting all did the best based on their ability and understanding in the moment. Any time harm comes to an animal it gives a special tug on my heart. It is not about going to anger but about learning from the situation. Anger and judgement will not bring Harambe back. Awareness moving forward is what we can take. Love and light to all involved and touched by the situation.

  16. Sunny,
    Thank you for this. I appreciate your perspective and your words of wisdom! We are surrounded by so much hate these days, it is hard to not lash out. Thanks for the voice of reason.

  17. Thank you for helping open minds and shift out of judgement and into new perceptions. I feel many are so quick to judge based on their own experiences and opinions, yet very rarely pull back to see from a higher place. Not right or wrong but perhaps there is more space for compassion. Love is always the answer, even when it pushes our humanness.
    Thank you for sharing new lenses to see in a different way.

  18. Exactly what I was thinking when I heard what happened, Sunny. Thank you for bringing up the lessons that can be learned from this sad situation. I grew up in a small Midwestern town that had a wonderful park nearby our home, so we could walk to it, and there was a small zoo with exotic animals that included bears, which we could view from an area way up the hill, looking down into the very tall bear pen with an open top covered with fence. No one ever got down into it, but often we would see young boys trying. They had an educational program sponsored by the park which was a nice way for children to learn how to behave there. They also had a little farm area called Old Macdonald’s farm, where you could see animals that were usually at a real farm, like small goats, ducks, geese, and they even brought in small donkeys, too. The Human Society often took small puppies there where children could see them, and often times then they were adopted. Thanks for the compassionate reminders we are all part of this wonderful earth. May we learn from this episode and hopefully that child and his family, the zoo and the workers there, and everyone who has heard or witnessed this event, will do their best to not have it happen again. Thanks, Sunny.

  19. Loved this– although the topic is my least favorite (death of an animal) you helped open me up to having more compassion. Sending love to the family, spectators, and of course the animal kingdom ❤️

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