Gorillas and Refugees
by Sharon Tjaden-Glass
Now that social media has started to calm down on the great debate of whether a human being or a gorilla is more valuable and of whether your child entering a zoo enclosure means you’re a negligent parent, maybe we can step back and get some perspective on what we pay attention to on social media. All week long, social media users have been sharing post after post about the killing of Harambe at the Cincinnati Zoo.
It’s the mother’s fault. Get control of your child!
Or Did they really have to kill Harambe?
Or Leave the mother alone! You can’t always be in control of them!
Fine. Everyone feel better now?
While we’ve been distracted by the death of an endangered gorilla and our unspoken love of shaming other parents, 880 migrants died last week as they tried to cross the Mediterranean on smuggler’s ships.
2,500 people have died in this manner since the beginning of the year.
It doesn’t bother me that people feel the need to talk about the Harambe story.
I get it.
I think most Americans can more easily identify with this story, and thus feel like they have something to say about it. Most of us can imagine being the parent that takes our child to the zoo and then being forced to watch your child being handled by a 400-pound gorilla. Some of us can even find the compassion in our hearts to mourn the death of an endangered gorilla, who spent his life under the constant parading gaze of humans.
Our imaginations can take us this far.
But our imagination stumbles when it comes to the refugee crisis.
We probably don’t know any refugees. In fact, given how long the U.S. refugee settlement process takes, it will probably be years before we have any refugees living in our communities. In the meantime, this whole refugee crisis thing seems like some horrific story happening in some other world.
Quite simply, there’s no fertile soil in our hearts for these seeds of compassion to grow.
It’s hard to imagine being forced out of our homes because our city is now rubble.
It’s hard to imagine walking six hundred miles with our children.
It’s hard to imagine strapping life vests to our loved ones, telling them It’s going to be okay.
It’s hard to imagine sleeping in the hallway of a train, like this.
But that, my friends, is exactly what we need to do.
And direct our attention toward something more worthy of our energy and angst.
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I think it’s hard to wrap our minds around the magnitude of the Syrian refugee crisis, so it’s easier to spend time and energy on something like the gorilla. That doesn’t make it right.
Practicing compassion for the families who have to flee their homes—and actually doing something about it (e.g. donating much-needed funds to responsible aid organizations)—is something we must all do.
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Exactly. Thanks for reading!