I write in response to a recent, local tragedy.
I woke this morning feeling refreshed and blissfully unaware of current events. (Ignorance is bliss, but only to the ignorant.) I walked the dog, I fed the bunny, I put the kettle on, I went about the little routines that make up my morning. The heat was beating down already when I walked Romeo, making the air thick and filling as pea soup. I kissed my sister goodbye as she left after a wonderful visit, to head back east. And then a text from our concerned brother changed the day's mood. Shootings? Aurora? I hadn't finished my first cup of coffee yet and felt a bit like Arthur Dent trying to put meaning to the word "yellow".
I've spent nearly all day reading and watching various reactions to last night's Aurora, Colorado shootings. Oh, what a world/culture this is we live in. Everyone wants reasons and answers, and the simpler the better, it seems. But are the right questions being asked? Are the answers really simple? There are those that are condemning all of humanity as evil and in the process dismissing its virtues, and other types distastefully using the opportunity to get on their political soapbox. Some want revenge and are already calling for Holmes' execution. Some have decided to boycott everything Batman and forever forego midnight movie openings and Aurora, Colorado. But while it might be comforting to some, none of this thinking is constructive, all of it is selfish, and some of it irrational. Why do human people have such an insatiable desire to lay the blame? Lay the blame at someone else's door like an unwanted baby and then forget that such unpleasant things take place in our world. A cultural amnesia permeates our thinking. We know this is not the first time such a thing has occurred and it won't be the last. Placing blame makes people feel vindicated, but what else does it really accomplish? And as much as those of us who weren't directly involved might like to think this is someone else's problem, it's OURS. It belongs to all of us. That could have been any of us or anyone we love, in any city, in any theater or other establishment, that a disturbed individual with access to weapons decided to walk in an emergency exit and play villain for his own reasons. James Holmes fired those weapons, he is responsible for the deaths and injuries to the victims. But what lead up to the tragedy? Who takes responsibility for that? Why, in an intelligent individual, did the potential to do so much good, turn to evil? I was amazed at how many comments I read today that wanted to place the blame at the theater itself for its lack of guards and security clearance. I guess for some, the answer to this problem of violence is to live in fear and suspect everyone: guilty until proven innocent by being body scanned. I was especially sad to read that there were movie goers who didn't immediately realize what was going on; they were there to be entertained and thought the man toting guns was part of the show. The truth is, James Holmes is as much a product of our society as any of us. (So were Timothy McVeigh, Eric Harris, and Dylan Klebold.) What made him that way and why? I don't believe the answers are simple, but I do believe they're important and I don't believe they lie in killing him. Shouldn't we try and find some common denominators between Holmes and other individuals who have performed such evil acts so that we can work to prevent such things?
I'm going to repeat something my friend Jhenn said. "Remember to be nice to everyone, even the "weird" ones. You don't know what people are dealing with, and a kind word or smile can mean the world." How true. Don't despair--for every senseless act of violence, there are acts of kindness and compassion. That's really the only way to fight back at this kind of evil. Kill it with kindness.
UPDATE: Holmes Charged