Tragedy Plus Blame Equals Outrage
A few days ago, I saw a New York Times article’s headline that read “Who Is to Blame When a Child Wanders at the Zoo?” The piece was written in response to a recent tragedy that occurred at the Cincinnati Zoo. After a young boy entered an enclosure with Harambe, an endangered silverback gorilla, a zoo response team decided to shoot the ape to keep the boy safe.
The inevitable criticism began with the usual suspects. Some people proclaimed the toddler’s caretaker must have been negligent. Otherwise, how could the child have managed to get away and scuttle through bushes and past a barrier? So it was the parent’s fault. Or, others said, it was the zoo’s responsibility. They should have tried tranquilizing the animal instead of shooting it. Still others claimed zoos are inhumane and outdated to begin with. So it was the zoo’s fault.
As you might’ve guessed, it didn’t stop there. Accusations aimed at the parents became more severe. Change.org currently has thirty-seven Harambe-related petitions, some calling for the child’s parents to be held responsible for the gorilla’s death, others advocating their investigation by Child Protective Services. Also, as tension continued to mount, if people expressed any level of regret over the animal’s death online, reasonable or not, they were subject to being called out because their grief wasn’t directed elsewhere. For instance, where was the anger over all the people dying of starvation, or the victims of terrorist attacks?
An event like this can’t possibly just be a calamity where multiple events occurred, all of them regrettable, all ending in a situation where no good outcome was probable. Someone, as the New York Times headline implies, has to take the blame. In situations like these, claiming the moral high ground takes precedence over any kind of meaningful discussion. If there’s one thing we can be sure of when bad things happen, it’s that when we see blame, outrage can’t be far behind, and vice versa. They’re like hard-drinking, obnoxious fraternity brothers.
While writing this, I also learned that boxing legend Muhammad Ali died at the age of seventy-four. How long, I wonder, will it take before one person criticizes another for mourning Ali’s death, not mourning Ali’s death in the correct way, or failing to mourn another person’s death due to being occupied with mourning Ali’s passing? Ali was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam era, too. There has to be a ton of untapped righteous anger and blame-laying there.
Blame-layers like these are the same people who would stand outside a burning building and ignore the victims, all while screaming accusations about who started the fire. Better yet, these bundles of sweetness would complain about how no one has bothered to mention all the other houses that went up in flames last year. Or they’d go on about how the residents brought it upon themselves.
Here’s an idea. Someone needs to invent a reliable anger measuring instrument that can take all the guesswork out of which events cause more or less fury. Under this new plan, all expressions of grief or regret will proceed as usual. However, imbecilic inquiries about misplaced vexation will be dealt with accordingly:
“Where’s the outrage?” the first guy will ask.
“It’s here, here, and here,” the second guy will reply, referring to his handy Rage-o-Meter ™ bar graph.
“Oh, I didn’t notice that.”
“Now, as penance for asking such an idiotic question, for a hundred days, you must post as your Facebook status the following: ‘As an adult, I understand that human beings can feel concern, grief, and even anger about multiple things, even at the same time. It’s one of the things that separates us from ring-tailed lemurs.’”
“A hundred days? That seems harsh.”
“Well, maybe it’ll make you think twice next time before being a jerk.”
“Yeah, you keep on believing that.”
Okay, on second thought, maybe we should put that idea on hold for a while. It would never work. Too many of us thrive on anger, and we all know responsibility has to be assigned before a proper rage fest can commence.
Besides, only adults would benefit from an invention like a Rage-o-Meter ™, and we’re not adults. Not enough of us, anyway.