Associated Press – With online declarations such as “Harambe Lives!” the Ohio zoo gorilla shot and killed after a 3-year-old boy got into his enclosure has taken on life after death.
The late 17-year-old great ape has shown up in tongue-in-cheek petitions to rename the hometown Cincinnati Bengals, to add his face to Mount Rushmore or the Lincoln Memorial, and to put him on the dollar bill. He has grown the angel wings and halo of a deity in social media memorials.
He’s even been mock-nominated for president. …
“We are not amused by the memes, petitions and signs about Harambe,” Thane Maynard, Cincinnati Zoo director, said by email. “Our zoo family is still healing, and the constant mention of Harambe makes moving forward more difficult for us. We are honoring Harambe by redoubling our gorilla conservation efforts and encouraging others to join us .”
I want to break this to the Cincinnati Zoo as gently as I can. You guys might know zoology and gorilla conservation efforts, but you know as much about life in a social media age as you do about building 3-year-old-proof animal enclosures.
You can’t put the Harambe toothpaste back in the tube. In 2016, there is no stopping a current event/pop culture phenomenon until the Twitterverse is finished with it. When the death of a magnificent creature pulls at our heartstrings, creates debate about the worth of an ape life and divides America down species lines, you can no sooner tell us to stop creating memes and t-shirts or ask us not to rename our football teams than you could have told Harambe not to eat leaves or throw feces. It goes against our nature as creatures of the Internet.
If the Thane Maynards of the world want the Harambe videos and song parodies to stop, he’s going about it all wrong. Telling the Internet not to do something is just chumming the ocean. You’re merely inviting more attention and perpetuating the cycle.
Look, we all feel the loss. Harambe was a beautiful soul and his death is a tragedy. But in life, he was appreciated by no one outside the visitors to the Cincinnati Zoo gorilla habitat. In death, he’s a symbol. Of all that is good. Of the DNA we have in common with the great apes. Of our shared primate-ishness. He has been celebrated, honored and adored by the people who want him on Mt. Rushmore than he ever was picking fleas out of his fur to the amusement of tourists and Ohio school field trips. So relax, zookeepers. You mourn in your way, the rest of us will mourn in ours.