Saturday, July 21, 2012

On the Colorado Theatre Shootings

Friday, July 20th, 2012, was the day that changed the movie going experience forever. Just after midnight, in Aurora, Colorado, at the premiere of Batman: The Dark Knight Rises, James Holmes opened fire in a crowded theater killing at least 12 people and wounding many others.  Such sorrows, poured out in the shape of a gunman's bullets, now ricochet around in the hollowed lives of the victims and their families, in a resounding knell of why.

Why? Why do people do such things? Why Columbine? Why 9/11? Why do such things keep happening?

Why? The question is sometimes aimed less at understanding the event and more at reassuring ourselves. It offers the comfort of a prayer in the simplicity of a chant. It sutures a wound with its needle and thread. While it asks heaven for an answer, it opens hell with its question. It is the name that sorrows come by.

Ultimately, a million answers will be poured into the breach, and the flood of questions will be halted. Until next time. There's always a next time. But why?

 "Why" is the question that always follows such a tragedy. But the answers can often be worse than the tragedy that provoked the question in the first place. And everyone has answers. Indeed, the miracle of such horrors is how quickly they capitalize on sorrows to offer solutions. From the priest to the politician, to the meat cutter and the cab driver, everyone rushes to fill the square hole of that question with the round peg of their answer.

Glenn Beck, for example, opined after the Earthquake in Japan that "God was sending us a message." Beck never explained what the message was exactly, or how he knew it was a "message" at all, let alone how he knew it came from God. But no matter.  For Beck, it was clear that God was punishing Japan, it's just not clear for what. Maybe  Japan was like Jesus, a purely innocent sacrificial lamb offered up for the rest of us. Or maybe God was punishing them for watching Glen Beck (which would make more sense). Either way, Beck's comments are quite possibly the most asinine words ever to be uttered in the English language.

From the left, the answer will be to "remove all guns everywhere!" while from the right, the answer will be to "arm everyone everywhere!" For some it is proof the world has lost its way, and that we need God, prayer, and the ten commandments back in our schools. Others will blame the NRA, and decry this is the result of the ease with which people can buy guns in Colorado. Some will blame video games, violence in movies and on TV, atheism, commercialism, and practically everything else. An almost infinite number of reasons will be given to justify every and any political action desired.  Any political action desired will ultimately be designed to benefit the designers more than those it is allegedly designed to benefit. Such is the agriculture of politics that the tears of tragedy are channeled to irrigate and harvest political agendas.

But the question will remain, and it tolls for us. Why?

In 1966, Charles Whitman climbed to the top of a tower at the University of Texas and shot 48 people, and then himself. An autopsy later performed on Whitman revealed a tumor growing on on his amygdala, which is a part of the brain that plays a role in the display and modulation of aggression. Could Holmes be suffering from such a tumor? Such an answer is hardly comforting, and fails to fill our emotional need for revenge. After all, justice demands an eye for an eye, not an eye for a reason.

But maybe the real answer to the question of "why" is simple. In fact, maybe it's too simple. And because it is so simple, it will eventually be lost. Indeed, for many it's too simple to ever be found, because it is too simple to be satisfying. The pebble of its reason can never fill the ocean of its wonder.  Such answers are lost in the maelstrom of why and woe that follows such a tragedy. Yet that answer, like the conclusion of a poem by Edgar Allen Poe, may simply be James Holmes,  and nothing more.

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