It’s always difficult to know how one should behave and respond after a tragedy on the scale of what happened in Aurora, Colorado. Sympathy for the victims and their families, absolutely. But that’s only part of it.
Television and social media, of course, has already turned to who should be blamed. And, as expected, fingers are being pointed anywhere but at the enigmatic but obviously-troubled young man who actually pulled and pulled and pulled the trigger. Are our movies too violent? Should we have stricter gun controls? Would this have happened if we didn’t allow costumes at midnight screenings? And overall: what is so broken about a society that would create such a monster?
The problem with all these questions is that they ignore the obvious: that a single mentally-unbalanced person took it upon themselves to kill 12 and injure 59 others…and that this is noteworthy because it does not happen all the time. If there were weekly – or even monthly – events of this nauseating level of senseless violence, then the hand-wringing and self-doubt might be necessary. But the simple fact is, as tragic and devastating as this shooting is, it is an incredibly isolated incident.
Think about your day. Think how many decisions you make before you even make it out the door. Should I even get out of bed? Would I get fired if I called in? Would I get in trouble for being late? What color tie should I wear? What color dress should I wear? Should I take the highway? Is it going to be too hot/too cold/rain/snow? What should I do after work? Should I see a movie? What movie? Should I get popcorn? What size? On and on and on, decisions piling upon decisions until finally you’re at home and in bed, asleep.
Now think about the day this man had. He got up, looked in the mirror, and asked himself questions like this: Should I booby-trap my apartment with explosives? How many? Where should the wires go? How much ammunition should I take? How much gear should I wear? Is the bullet proof vest necessary? Can I get away without using the tear gas? How many guns should I have on me? Should I really go through with this? Should I really go through with this?
Most of us…probably 99.9% of us…would never even reach Question #1 on that list. And if we did, the answer would have been “No,” followed by a serious examination of our sanity. But this guy blew through every single checkpoint and said to himself in the end: “Yes, this is the most rational course of action.” Which is to say that while you decided to wear a tie and go to work, he decided to gun down innocents in a crowded theater…and nothing in his thinking process stopped him.
That’s where all the society-questioning breaks down. All of us are exposed to violence in the media and films and games. Some of us more than others. A good many of us have access to firearms. And I’m sure all of us have reached a point in our lives where things look bleak or we’re furious beyond reason. And the vast, overwhelming, nearly-unanimous majority of us would never even consider being the architect of the kind of bloodbath in Aurora, let alone actually follow through with it.
This is not to say that our society doesn’t have problems. I certainly can’t understand why 100 people can get shot/sliced/exploded in a movie, but a single sex scene will yield more protests than the rest of it. I certainly don’t understand why guns are so easily obtained and people fight so hard to keep them that way. But events like these aren’t really the time to examine them. They sit so far outside the norm that any action conceived to “improve” ourselves as a result of them will likely be as warped and extreme as the event itself.
So instead of laying blame, pointing fingers, questioning our collective psyche, or hiding in our bunkers, let us simply mourn the dead, comfort the living, and find the strength to move forward. Because as dark as it seems right now – and will likely seem again – the dawn will always, always come.