By now, most of you will have heard about the tragic shooting in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater during the midnight premier of the latest Batman movie.
The details are still sketchy, but the alleged gunman is James Holmes, a former PhD student at the University of Colorado medical center, where he was working on a degree in neuroscience studies, before he withdrew from his studies. Twelve (the number may rise) died in the rampage and more than 50 others have been taken to the hospital. More disturbing details are emerging, including that his apartment’s been booby-trapped, causing police to evacuate the area and some reports have Holmes’ mother quoted as saying, “you’ve got the right person.”
Lighting up the comment threads are folks arguing about “what if.” “What if there were folks who were armed in the theater that could shoot back.” Though this hypothetical scenario would probably end in more bloodshed, it’s a very popular one. Others “what if” that if the U.S. had stricter gun laws, Holmes might not have been able to commit these atrocities – of course, gun laws only restrict those who follow them – the strictest forms of gun control would not have prevented Holmes from carrying out his mission.
Some are trying to blame the entertainment industry. In the latest installment of the Batman series, there’s a terrorist who’s blowing up buildings and bridges – you can see them in the trailer. People have tried that before – Marilyn Manson has been blamed for the Columbine massacre and MTV’s Beevis and Butthead has been blamed for a string of violence among young children. Pop culture will always be the easy scapegoat – whenever our society looks at a complicated or messy subject, we tend to go for the facile, easy answers – and it’s understandable: in a world of chaos like Aurora, Colorado at midnight, we seek order to maintain some semblance of control. So, we rush out and push to ban certain records, or video games or films, in hopes that our society will somehow become more holistic as a result. This blame game isn’t just one played by the right: bloggers and posters from the left (of which I’m a part) are looking to gun lobbyists and the National Rifle Association, hoping that hanging a political agenda (of which I support 100%) on a tragedy may result in less gun violence.
And obviously it doesn’t work.
So what does work? Well, I think we’re still working on that. We don’t know how to prevent massacres like this one from happening. We don’t invest in mental health in our country (in fact, all forms of healthcare in this country are highly inequitable), so it’s very difficult to understand why people do things like this. Holmes’ mother’s reaction shows that maybe this behavior wasn’t a complete shock (most when confronted with news like this would probably say, “no, not my son…”) Hopefully more details will emerge as to why his mother reacted the way she did.
But, in the end, to the friends and family of the victims, none of this will matter, because they lost a loved one. To them all this blather (including mine) is purely academic and useless. It won’t ease their pain. Holmes put an incredible burden on their collective shoulders when he embarked on his evil mission. The most we can do whenever tragedies like this occur is to take stock and see how we can attempt to avoid them in the future.