Human Exceptionalism

Grief for Harmbe a Defense Mechanism

I was as taken aback as anyone at the over-the-top outpouring of grief and anger over the necessary killing of Harambe the gorilla. 

But, unlike some–animal rights nuts aside–I don’t think this episode means we care more about the killings of animals than we do of people. 

That’s the subject of a column I wrote for the Weekly Standard. Here’s how I conclude. From, “Pondering Harambe:”

For many of us, that sense of wonder about animals never leaves us, sparking anger and sadness when one is killed needlessly or wantonly.

This doesn’t mean that those who feel an animal’s death so deeply care less about humans who are killed. Or put another way, people don’t seem relatively indifferent to the fate of Christian martyrs and murdered Chicagoans because they care about the gorilla more.

Rather, it is a defense mechanism. (Abortion is another story.) If we really let ourselves grieve for all the horrible and unjust human deaths that take place in the world every day, we would never get out of bed.

Both our empathy over Harambe and our need to deflect the full grief we could feel over injustice to humans, are very much a part of why we are exceptional.


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