I happened to glance at my twitter feed while I was lying in bed at 2 this morning. A friend, @sportsologist, had just retweeted a breaking news story about a shooting in Aurora, CO at a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises. Struck by both horror at the situation and a bizarre feeling of ‘it could have been me’ (I almost got tickets for the midnight show here), I stayed online watching the tragic news unfold and held my breath as the counts of dead and injured kept rising. The tragedy is fresh- who knows what the next few days will hold for the victims and their families- and the majority of responses seem to be horrified and sympathetic. Of course, there are the usual trolls, acting even more the asshole in light of what happened. But what struck me and compelled me to write this post was that yes, some people questioning (rightfully so) why and how could someone ever commit such heinous acts. And as predictable as the trolls, people are rushing to blame this situation on gun control laws, lack of concealed carry laws, too much gun control, you name it.
But what people are glossing over-though I’m sure it’ll be visited soon- is the motivation behind the attack. What is it that drives a person not just to the edge, but irreparably over the edge? What is it that we as a society are doing that allows this kind of hatred to breed, or this kind of mental illness to go unchecked and untreated? What does it say about our society that things get so bad that a person snaps and lashes out at anonymous, innocent people, and instead of asking what precipitated the events and what we can do to prevent anything from happening, we start bickering about gun control? We give this guy airtime and make him an anti-celebrity of sorts when really, we should focus on the situations and circumstances that allowed things to get this bad. He doesnt deserve the attention- but the causes and motivations behind attack are far more worth discussing. No one lives in a bubble. Did the people he was around just not care enough to reach out? Did his coworkers not notice or care about a potentially huge change in attitude? Was he being bullied, and if so, why was that allowed to happen? Was he seeing a psychologist or did our stigmas against mental illness hold him back from seeking the professional help he needed?
These are the kinds of questions we should be asking ourselves in times like this. How did we, as individuals and as a society, play a roll in allowing a person’s downward spiral and eventual psychotic break? To me, it’s not about gun laws- most people with that kind of desperation will find a way to get a weapon, legally or otherwise. A concealed carry law is great in theory but until full gun training is mandated, we’d probably be in more danger of shooting ourselves than a criminal. To me, it’s about looking -really looking, not scapegoating the problem on pop music or the like- at our culture and finding ways we can change so that people aren’t pushed over the edge by bullies, or avoid mental health treatment because they don’t want to be labeled as crazy (or can’t afford treatment). Looking at how people are influenced by the hate and vitriol that we hear in politics that I swear is leeching into people the way poison leeches into groundwater, and what we should do it change it. Like poison, the violent rhetoric and hate-filled, bigoted calls to action come slow and steady, but are ultimately deadly all the same.
I’m sickened and terrified by what happened, and if I could just fix everything for the people of Aurora, I would. But I also feel that enough is enough. We need to wake up and change the climate in our society before the next Columbine or Aurora killer slips through the cracks and goes undetected until far too late.
It’s 430 and I doubt there’s much coherence in this post, but my hope is that this post may start a productive dialogue, and someday make changes that could save lives and improve our society for the better…