Let's Stop Venting And Start Helping

Jun 5, 2016
Originally published on June 5, 2016 5:32 pm
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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Finally, today, a trip down memory lane. So there was the time I went to the allergy doctor for what I thought would be a quick visit to check on one baby who seemed to have a cold that wouldn't go away. They tried to draw blood for some tests. They couldn't find a vein. He screamed and cried for what seemed like an hour - what was probably just a few minutes. I scooped him up, both of us exhausted, to carry him home. And what happens? His twin sister dashes merrily off the elevator just as the doors are starting to close on the 12th floor of a building I was visiting for the first time in my life.

Thank you to the nice man who grabbed the hood of her little jacket, pulling her back on the elevator still giggling and held onto her until we got to the first floor. And you know what? I paid it forward, like the time my then babysitter Ang (ph) noticed a girl who was separated from her mom on a crowded evening at the D.C. zoo. We called her mom's cell phone over and over again because she couldn't seem to hear it over the noise.

We promised the little girl we would not leave her until her mother was found, and we did find her. And, no, we didn't call social services or the zoo police or scold her. We accepted her tearful thanks and tried not to cry ourselves as they wrapped their arms around each other and held on so tight.

Can I just tell you by now you know where I'm going with this - the terrible story from the Cincinnati Zoo last week where the boy fell into the gorilla enclosure, and zoo officials had to put down the beloved silverback Harambe. It's bad enough that a baby was hurt, his mother terrified, onlookers traumatized and a beautiful animal died. But now the world has to feast on the ugliness of the judgment.

There's an online petition to have the mother's home life investigated so that charges could be filed and she could be sued. The details of a less-than-perfect existence to some are now being chewed over. Here are a couple of thought experiments. What if this had been a dad watching several kids at the zoo? Would someone have said, poor dad, it was more than he could handle. Let's help him survive the trauma? Or would it still have been mom's fault for daring to let dad watch the kids long enough to, say, get her hair done or take a nap? What if it had been a blond boy or girl, someone who looks like, say, the offspring of Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen, like, for example, the little one who slipped under the White House fence last year. I don't remember anybody going wild with outrage about that.

And let's go all the way there. What if the baby had been the child of a same-sex couple? Heaven help us. Surely, some of this is the ugly spawn of the internet age, where the same people who used to lean against the wall at recess talking nonsense about other kids have grown up and bought computers to spew their venom anonymously online.

Some of this is surely the same kind of subconscious racism that allows too many people to think that black boys as young as 7 are somehow older and tougher and more threatening than they are. There's research about that. Some of it is just meanness. But this demands another thought experiment. Terrible things happen in the world, especially to its most vulnerable beings - the young, the old and to use a phrase we heard during our trip to Colorado last week, the winged, the finned and the four-legged. Why does speaking for them mean spewing hate and judgment against others? Couldn't that time be better spent throwing a lifeline, raising money for conservation, volunteering at the zoo or, say, grabbing a bolting toddler's jacket?

If so, let's stop venting and do that.

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MARTIN: For Sunday, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. And it grieves me to report this breaking news. We've just learned that NPR photographer David Gilkey and Afghan translator Zabihullah Tamanna were killed today on assignment in southern Afghanistan. They were traveling with an Afghan army unit when their vehicle came under fire.

David Gilkey is a long time and much loved member of the NPR family who captured the news in dangerous places. Our hearts go out to his family.

We'll be back next week. Until then, thank you for listening, and we hope you have a peaceful night. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.