I wish I could express how deeply my heart aches for the victims and the families of those connected with the Aurora shooting. I express my deepest condolences for any and all people adversely impacted, devastated, and traumatized by this tragedy.
I want to say enough has been said about the need to preserve the second amendment. I want to say enough has been said about the need for gun control. To say that would seem like shouting into a hurricane, as these violent tragedies seem to reiterate throughout American history like a skip on an old vinyl album, with the assault from a single assailant forming the deep grooved scratch in the track of our society.
All I can think to do is stand on the micro-thin line that forms the DMZ between the two camps and try to hear both conversations at once, attempting to discern the truth inside the din. You see, it’s easy to hop over to the end of the fulcrum where the shouts match our own values, hoping to add enough weight to the board to send our opponents airborne. It’s easy to click the Like and Share buttons on a Facebook post comprised of a pithy statement imposed on a emotion tugging image which really serves only to draw subjectives of like polarity.
So I dare to stand in that neutral zone, thin as the Higgs boson particle and nearly as elusive, yet seemingly vast, cold, and isolating as the Arctic tundra. Such a tragedy is by its own nature polarizing in our efforts to find a solution, each borne of bared teeth and pointed fingers. As I stand on the centerline at the risk of being deemed a coward, I have only one person to point to, the only one left to ask: “What are you going to do to fix it?”
This is where my cowardice and my courage shake hands across the line. I will have the courage to ask myself what am I going to do to make the change. To answer that I have to ask myself the toughest questions, the ones I really don’t want to answer, lest having to look my cowardice directly in the face. The first question is, what am I doing to contribute to this social pathology?
As I wrote this I tried to follow that thread to the aspects of my own lifestyle that can take roll call in the composite of the twisted psyche of these assailants. Feelings of fear and alienation against those who might want what I have, the blurred line between violence in entertainment vs. reality, the demand for high-powered weaponry required to secure our global interests that afford us the comforts of not having to walk to our jobs and of having all our neat new gadgets wrapped in plastic.
We so often see these perpetrators of tragedy as some malady, some oddity that operates outside the norm of our culture. Yet they are the byproducts of our society. They are part of how we must define our society. If we make a list of what makes up Western culture, they are right there with microwaves, tee-ball, and garage sales. They are us. They do not appear out of thin air. They grow in soil enriched and fertilized by our social mores.
Try as we might, we want so badly to separate these societal monsters from ourselves that we will make such statements as “well I would never commit such an atrocity”. Yet we excuse such seemingly innocuous actions like saying “I could have killed him for doing that” or gasping through mouths full of popcorn as the big screen entertains us with explosions and machine gun fire and crimson colored corn syrup.
“Oh, but that’s different,” we say, but what if we are creating these patchwork golems of mayhem from the demons of our self-loathing psyches of detachment and justifying the materials by saying it’s all make-believe? These shooters are condemned for carrying out the same acts that we sanction when they are for entertainment purposes only?
Is it courageous to stand with an issue against a camp with an army at our backs? Or is it more courageous to drop our sabre, strip ourselves naked and examine what actions we are taking and choices we are making that are fanning the flames of senseless violence? If we can’t find any perhaps we don’t have the courage to see where we as individuals are complicit. It’s the courageous that quietly work on changing themselves while those that lack courage insist that others do so.