My state of Ohio has made the news this week when a man in Zanesville, who owned exotic animals (tiger, bears, monkeys, lions, et al) released them from their cages to roam freely before he committed suicide. Close to fifty animals were released. Most of them were shot and killed. The sheriff in Muskingum County has been criticized by animal rights groups for his decision to kill the animals instead of tranquilizing them. Apparently, persons from the Columbus Zoo were able to tranquilize six animals, but from what I have read, tranquilizing a free animal for the purpose of immobilizing it can be a difficult thing and presents its own kind of danger. Nationally known Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo, Jack Hanna, supported the sheriff's decision. He rightfully noted that killing these animals was indeed a great tragedy, but also stated that having tigers, in particular, wandering neighborhoods would have led to great carnage. Thus, he supported Sheriff Lutz' decision. Hanna also noted that he has received threatening phone calls from animal rights groups for his position. (Defending the rights of animals by threatening to take away the life of a human being... the irony of it all.)
This event in Zanesville is one more reminder to us that playing the position of armchair quarterback is real easy. One can sit there in her or his easy chair watching the news while pontificating on what should be done. Of course, the person pronouncing judgment doesn't have to live with the consequences of her or his decision, if the people on the front lines decide to take their advice. What a great job to have! Being an expert in all things without the responsibility that goes along with the decision made.
What happened in Zanesville was indeed tragic. Those animals would be alive today if their owner had not released them before he did himself in. Indeed, how is it that private citizens are permitted to own exotic animals in the first place? But Sheriff Lutz did not have the luxury of strategizing from the comfort of his living room. He was on the front line of a difficult situation in which his primary responsibility was to protect the public. Jack Hanna, who no doubt is quite distressed knowing that 40+ animals, part of God's creation, had to be put down, nevertheless understands that it had to be done. There are times in life when the best solution is still not a good solution. Armchair quarterbacks can often forget that sad reality.
It is so easy to play the part of the armchair quarterback sitting there on Sunday afternoon calling the coaches idiots and yelling at the players through the TV screen, instead of having to muster up the courage to do so face-to-face; and only exerting oneself long enough to get up from the armchair during a commercial to walk to the frig for another brewski (in the case of Methodists, a diet Coke).
It is so easy for the candidate for president to play the armchair quarterback and criticize the sitting president saying all the things he would do differently if he were in office, only to realize that once he is in that office, things are a little more complex.
It is so easy for parents to play the armchair quarterback and criticize the teachers instructing our children in how they should do their job, when we have never been in the classroom five days a week for nine months a year.
It is so easy for teachers to play the armchair quarterback and criticize the school administration for the difficult decisions they make, when they don't have to answer to the public and to local and state politicians.
It is so easy for CEOs to play the armchair quarterback and criticize laborers for their work and for their demands, when they do not have to worry about making ends meet to put food on the table for their children.
It is so easy for labor to play the armchair quarterback and criticize management and business owners, when they do not have to worry about all the things that are needed to keep a company competitive and productive and... in business.
It is easy to play the armchair quarterback... well... I could go on, but you get my point.
Am I suggesting we should never be critical of anyone or anything unless we are an "expert" and unless we actually have to take responsibility for our actions? Certainly not! Those in the know are not always right and just because we may not have training or responsibility in a particular area does not mean we have nothing to contribute. What I am suggesting, however, is that a little more humility and understanding are in order-- humility in knowing that no one knows everything, including the armchair quarterback, and understanding that those who are actually responsible in any situation, whether routine or difficult, know things about their context and the performance of their duties that we, the armchair quarterbacks, do not. And unlike the armchair quarterback, they will be held accountable.
Before I was a parent, I knew all the things I was going to do with and for my children-- things where I was certain other parents had failed. And then I became a parent; and I can tell you that if I were to write a book on parenting in 2011, it would not look anything like the book I would have written in 1987. It's funny how a little direct experience can put matters in a different light.
It is worth remembering that what one would do while in the lions' den can look quite different when one is the poor soul trapped with the lions as opposed to the person looking down on that individual from the safety provided by the fence.
It is so easy to be an armchair quarterback.
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