By Greg Schwem
Tribune Content Agency
Several years ago, my wife faced the wrath of a woman incensed that her son had been excluded from an after nursery school playgroup my wife had organized.
The boy wasn't from our neighborhood; we'd never laid eyes on him or his mom prior to the start of the school year. Still, the mother felt snubbed and chose to state her displeasure through historical references.
"This is how Columbine got started," she told my wife, referring to the horrific mass shooting at a Colorado high school by two boys who were deemed outcasts by their peers and chose unspeakable carnage as a means of retaliation.
Was the mom seriously predicting her son might commit similar atrocities because he wasn't invited to a once-a-week playdate that, if I recall, usually involved Play-Doh, carrot sticks and a Disney DVD? That was our take. Thankfully, Mom's premonition was false; the family still lives in town and, as far as I can tell, the boy is progressing nicely. When we see his mother, my wife and I usually walk the other way lest she accuse us of escalating the Mideast crisis.
Fast-forward to the events of last month at the Cincinnati Zoo. By now everyone knows the story: Family visits zoo, boy wanders briefly away from mom, boy falls into gorilla habitat, rare gorilla named Harambe encounters boy, zoo officials forced to fatally shoot gorilla, mom's questionable parenting decisions blamed for causing the entire incident. "How many more endangered animals must die," the internet trolls roared, "before parents start watching their children? And just to show everyone how incensed we are, here's a Twitter hashtag: #JusticeforHarambe."
Shortly thereafter, I recounted, in a humorous but true column, an encounter I had at Starbucks with a small child who ordered a tough-to-pronounce, even tougher-to-produce beverage and then was encouraged by his mother to send it back because (HORRORS) it was the wrong size. The comments came fast and furious. Some criticized a small child's fondness for caffeine while others accused me of being an entitled child hater who should be banned from all Starbucks. And then there were those from readers still reeling from Harambe's demise:
"This is the mentality that just got a gorilla shot."
"Maybe the mom should meet a gorilla."
Wow, comparing a Starbucks order snafu with a gorilla's death? Seems like almost as big a stretch as equating a playdate with a school shooting. Now I'm starting to feel some sympathy for Gorilla Mom (I didn't earlier), as there appears to be a group of trolls hell bent on blaming her for ALL of society's current issues and ills. I can only imagine what's being written in the "comments" sections beneath today's most popular news stories. I can even envision the hashtags.
The death of Muhammad Ali: "Muhammad Ali was a great boxer. But he should have retired sooner. It's never a good idea to stick around past your time. Maybe if Gorilla Mom had left the zoo earlier, Harambe might still be alive." #HarambeIstheGreatest
Hillary Clinton's email scandal: "Hillary Clinton's careless use of a personal server probably jeopardized our nation's security. No excuse. Just as there is no excuse for failing to secure a child at a zoo. Hillary Clinton should state that in an email to Gorilla Mom. And she should do it on her home computer so all the world can see it." #HarambeForVP
Prince's opioid addiction: "Prescription drugs aren't the only way to deal with pain. Just like fatally shooting a beautiful jungle creature isn't the only way to deal with a child who fell into a zoo enclosure. Thanks, Gorilla Mom." #IWouldDie4Harambe
Donald Trump: "Mr. Trump is tough, territorial and unpredictable. In fact, he exhibits many of the same characteristics as a gorilla. Parents, don't let your kids play with either." #MakeGorillasGreatAgain
Taylor Swift and Calvin Harris' breakup: "What do you expect? These two hardly ever saw each other. You just can't place Calvin into Taylor's world and vice versa. Just like you can't introduce a child into a gorilla's world. The Cincinnati mom should have known that." #IKnewGorillaMomWasTrouble
Trolls, let's put the gorilla incident behind us. It was an isolated occurrence and not a sign of world upheaval. Take a deep breath, walk around the block and, if you pass a Starbucks, treat yourself to a tasty beverage.
Just keep your order brief. I might be in line behind you.
Greg Schwem is a corporate stand-up comedian and author of two books: "Text Me If You're Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad" and the recently released "The Road To Success Goes Through the Salad Bar: A Pile of BS From a Corporate Comedian," available at Amazon.com. Visit Greg on the Web at www.gregschwem.com.
This column was printed in the June 26, 2016 - July 9, 2016 edition.