On Aurora: We Comfort Ourselves With Pretense
There will come a time when the twisted perpetrator, James Holmes, will be portrayed as a tormented youth or an evil villain or, eventually, certainly, ironically, as the centerpiece of a movie about his life and his heinous act. There is your ugly media-consumer truth: The sick son of a bitch who on July 20, 2012 opened fire before a midnight premiere of "The Dark Knight Rises" is destined to morph from an armed-and-armored shadow in the seats of that theater to the subject of a film himself.
We will eventually calm ourselves enough to study this murderous manman, in part because of our train-wreck curiosity and in part to learn how to avoid the spawning of a similar action.
Of course, in our histories and in our hearts, we know that there is no "curbing'' of this sort of shock; hell, on Friday, about a half-a-day after Aurora should've reminded to love and care for and embrace those close to us, more idiots in our very own community left more babies locked in more cars in 100-degree temperatures.
They come in unyielding ways, these incidents, and they come daily. They can be accidents or they can be what devilish motivation drove James … which was what? Attention in front of what is now a world-wide audience? Some sort of "important statement'' from a lunatic?
Should purchasing firearms be made more difficult? Or would the determined evil-doers get around tighter restrictions? While we're thinking rationally and efforting to make sure gun owners are trained and responsible, Holmes' demented mind is 10 steps ahead of us, booby-trapping his apartment so he can murder law-enforcement officials long after he's incarcerated.
Ten steps ahead of us. More guns … fewer guns … easier access so we can defend ourselves … less access so only the nuts have guns … coming to the frightening realization that for all the tough talk, my rational utilization of a handgun is unlikely to defeat James Holmes' kamikaze willingness to set off bombs?
Install metal detectors at theaters. Does that really keep Holmes from shooting somebody? Hire more security for federal buildings. Does that really keep Timothy McVeigh from finding a way?
Construct taller fences. Does that really protect our skyscrapers from terrorists?
We watch the TV news and we see the gruesome sights and we hear the familiar "serious'' music and we know that while we will rally together and pull together and embrace one another, our embrace isn't protection. Not really. Because somewhere, a baby still gets locked in a car. Somewhere, an adult in authority is still permitted to abuse a teenager. Somewhere, the heir to James Holmes' "throne'' is watching the same TV news we are …
But he's seeing it as an opportunity.
This isn't just the fault of violent TV and movies, though. Nor is it necessarily the fault of bad parenting, loose morals, angry video games, liberal thinking, conservative thinking or too-loose gun laws. Yes, maybe somebody should've seen this coming; James Holmes didn't just turn into James Holmes in a Thursday night flash, did he? Did his parents not understand his illness? ("You have the right person,'' Holmes mother said when the media contacted her in search of finding the right James Holmes ... so yes, his parents did know. Chilling.) Did the guy on the other side of the keyboard who sold him explosives not understand his goals?
I've got a friend with a safe full of guns who is prepared to "blow the friggin' head off'' of an intruder. Me? If I harbored that sort of concern about my safety in my home, I'd probably construct a house made of iron and cinder blocks. Or move to one of the many countries on this planet where people seem to be less intent on blowing each other's friggin' heads off.
But my friend isn't wrong, and neither am I. We will stay on our ends of this controversial seesaw. We will debate as political parties attempt to milk Aurora for their benefit. We will watch as the NRA and its foes do the same. We will pretend there is a "right'' side and we will even pretend there is a solution.
But when we do so, we will be ignoring the story of Jessica Ghawi, an aspiring journalist from Texas who was moving up into the world of professional hockey. It was just about a month ago, in fact, when Jessica was in Toronto at the Eaton Centre Mall. She'd been sitting in the food court in a seat that, three minutes later, was the base of a gunman who opened fire and massacred mall patrons.
Of the experience, Jessica wrote, "I was shown how fragile life was. I saw the terror on bystanders' faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was reminded that we don't know when or where our time on Earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath."
What did we learn from the shootings in Toronto? Not enough. Jessica Ghawi, who barely escaped death in that incident, happened to be in Aurora for the "Dark Knight'' midnight showing on July 19.
Jessica survived Toronto. She is among the dead in Aurora.
We warn, we debate, we embrace. Nothing really protects us except for a social contract that is easily broken by the dangerously antisocial.