- - Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Satire overtakes reality, and sometimes does it with ease. Some people forget the species they belong to. When zookeepers in Cincinnati reluctantly shot a 425-pound gorilla to save a 4-year-old boy, some animal-rights nuts arose as one to denounce the zoo, and carried placards at a candlelight vigil asserting that “gorilla lives matter.”

Indeed gorilla lives do matter, which no one disputes. All lives matter. Animal-rights nuts matter. So do the lives of human children. The life of Harambe, a 17-year-old western lowlands gorilla, mattered most to the zookeepers in Cincinnati. They nevertheless decided that the great ape, behaving as great apes are commissioned by nature to behave, was an imminent threat to the child, and if one of them would die it would be Harambe, not the boy.

The Internet, as usual, became the sounding board of outrage. Within hours nearly 200,000 persons signed an online petition denouncing the boy’s mother, and demanded that Cincinnati police file criminal child-endangerment charges against her. The police wisely said they had no such plans for an investigation.

The boy slipped away from his mother, who was caring for three other children, including a babe in arms, during an afternoon at the zoo. He scurried past a wire and wood barrier, through a patch of shrubbery and brush, and dropped several feet into a small shallow moat. Harambe and two other gorillas took notice at once, but only Harambe went to the boy and held on to him for 10 minutes, standing over him in what looked like a protective stance.

Then, perhaps distracted by the cries of the crowd around the Gorilla World exhibit — one woman screamed at the boy “Mommy loves you” — Harambe grabbed the boy by the ankle and dragged him across the enclosure, repeatedly banging his tiny head on a concrete sidewalk. Zoo marksmen armed with rifles hurried to the scene, and quickly decided that a tranquilizer dart might have confused Harambe and its effects would take hold after the boy was dead or badly mangled. They killed him to save the child.

The offended and the outraged in America, circa the 21st century, let no tragedy go unexploited. Instead of sympathy for the boy and his mother, instead of gratitude that the child’s life was saved, the thousands of petitioners wanted to punish someone.

There were sane flashes in the outrage. Kevin Figueroa Torres, a former kindergarten teacher, set up a Facebook page to defend the mother. He said he had learned how slippery little boys can be. “They’re acting like kids don’t run off, like kids don’t do sneaky stuff like that.”

The boy’s parents had the right idea. “We are so thankful to the Lord that our child is safe. We extend our heartfelt thanks for the quick action by the Cincinnati Zoo staff. We know that it was a very difficult decision for them to make and they are grieving for the loss of their gorilla.” So are we all, along with cheering quick thinking and good marksmanship by the zookeepers.

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