One year ago, an unattended (yes, I said it) 3 year old boy fell into the enclosure of the Cincinnati Zoo’s gorilla exhibit, the home of local animal celebrity Harambe, a 17 year old western lowland gorilla.
What followed was an unfortunate and tragic but ultimately necessary action to end Harambe’s life. There were no other viable options that did not pose great risk to the child.
Following Harambe’s death a storm of memes and activism (both tasteful and disgusting) plagued computers and smart phones for the rest of the summer (I won’t even get into the “dicks out for Harambe” bullshit, because I am not a fucking 15 year old).
But a debate also started, one that led to a term I started using to identify a scary societal trend – one where someone’s child can cause any amount of damage and the parents will be excused because “kids just do that.” The term came to be known as “the entitled breeder” whose child is more important than anything, including anything important to you.
Imagine if that had been my response. Imagine if my senile grandmother caused property damage or death of a pet and I had some nonchalant, half-assed response to that what is my responsibility; the causing of harm or damage to your property. Imagine if my response was, “I am sooo sorry! I took my eyes off her for a second. I can’t tell you how sorry I am. She just got scared and that’s when she hit your dog with her cane … but senile old people just do that kind of stuff.”
I am going to take a wild guess that you would want compensation; you would be well within your rights to want charges filed against me for not being a responsible caretaker. So why is this so blasphemous when it comes to children?
I would never expect a child to be held accountable for a tragedy like this; I wish to state that right now.
Most in the science community say full abstract reasoning isn’t even possible much before the age of 14-15… so yeah parents, I get it!
But this standard of tolerance to the damage a child can create when not properly supervised is dangerous. Not just that, it puts the financial costs of the damage on the owner of said property (in this case, Harambe) while exonerating the faulty parent.
So I began using the term “entitled breeder” in debates on Harambe – this did not go well.
I was quickly flooded with sad stories of “muh kids,” it got redundant quickly.
I downshifted to the fact that childless men (like me) are paying to educate most of these kids.
I downshifted (or so I thought) and brought up that if they were forced to pay for my dad or my dogs that they would be pissed. I was convinced this would open their eyes and they would say “okay, you got me there” but again, I was wrong.
So, to the entitled breeder I say this: on behalf of child-free men and women across this country – stop making your responsibilities our responsibility! Put your kid on a leash (they literally make them). Rule your house with an iron fist and make sure they know it! And good Lord almighty, for fuck’s sake, if you got four kids and there is only one of you, don’t go the zoo that day. The rest of us would appreciate it.
* Bryce Jackson is a cook and writer from Chelsea, Vermont, who lives in Woodstock where he takes care of his two rescue dogs and his 71-year-old Vietnam veteran father.