Saturday, June 4, 2016

Zoo Boy Reaches Lifetime Achievement At 3 Years Old


Kids have legs. I've used that exact response hundreds of times to remind adults and bystanders when kids get separated. And, of course, it doesn't always diminish the concern of the erratic parent who has just lost her child. As a cop, I get it, but as a parent, do you?

Fortunately, there are not many celebrated child rescue incidents, so measuring any traumatic long-term effect is difficult. Do you recall the 1987 case of Baby Jessica trapped in the well in Midland, Texas? Like Jessica McClure, most kids happily go about their imperfect lives like we do- listless and struggling with broken homes, financial hardships, and all the attributes that make us, well, average.

Today, Ms. McClure still resides nearby and lives a very average life. Last heard, she has two children of her own and makes ends meet washing cars out of her driveway. But she had nearly a million dollars gifted to her after her incident. In terms of America's cult of celebrity, our curious Cincinnati boy has also probably peaked. The conjecture comes with the understanding that modern American culture loves to embrace viral underachievers. Although his future may be "crowd sourced" and handsomely compensated for some unknown reason, this story of the week is near complete. The final chapter will arrive once the most persuasive attorney convinces the family that they too are not at all to blame for their circumstance, and introduces a lawsuit against the city.

While the debate continues over who should accept blame for the death of Harambe the Gorilla, I'm concerned how the 3 year old boy gets manipulated. How he recovers from the trauma is not a my concern at all. In fact, I'm sure the kid enjoyed the experience despite shrieks from panicked witnesses who caused the catastrophe. To his credit, the kid is resilient. The tumble into that filthy moat would have startled most children, but he took it all in stride. Heck, even Harambe motioned to protect the child once onlookers exacerbated the situation. As an awkward adolescent, I think the 17 year old silverback was doing ok.

We all know that tragedy can, and often does, happen in the blink of an eye. But we, as a society, need to digest most threatening situations, look at them through a prism of reality, and not overreact to hype that exists in your mind alone. If Americans assessed risk accurately, they would know that the beloved family swimming pool is far more lethal to children than a stored firearm in the house. Don't condemn a parent for losing a child in a crowd. And as a parent, don't confuse the issue by thinking every time your precious child escapes your grasp that he was abducted by a stranger. Concern is reasonable when your child plays hide and seek among the clothes racks at the mall, but going into panic mode does nothing to reunite your crying child any faster- and for Christ's sake don't pitch an attitude toward anyone willing to help-professional or otherwise- just because they won't frantically sprint around with you from store to store.

Of course tragedies happen, but the fear of crime enormously outweighs the actuality of the situation. As a law enforcement professional I have dealt with hundreds of situations involving "lost" children. Of course, every parent calls 911 saying their child is feared abducted, but the reality is they were just separated. In all my hundreds of cases, every single child was reunited. Every one. Kids have legs.

We will never know, if handled differently, that the zoo outcome might have ended better, but if this boy's family has an ounce of personal integrity, they will continue taking the high road which they have so far chosen. But greed knows no boundaries in modern America.

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