Aurora: Is This the Price That We Must Pay?


It is now day five of the national, Colorado and personal tragedy to which we—all of us, we pundits the least of them—are responding to the horror that occurred at a movie theatre at a screening of the new Batman movie in Aurora, Colo.

On Friday, in the a.m. minutes of midnight, a lone gunman, armored to the max in protective gear, and armed with two glocks, a shotgun and an assault rifle, commenced on a shooting rampage which ended up with 12 persons dead and 58 wounded.

Because we live in a time when communication is instant, terrifically mobile, digitalized, able to leap from cellphone to iPad to cellphone to computer by tweet and text, we became enveloped a little faster on our screens, large, flat or telephone sized. The tragedy this way becomes more fluid, the static impenetrable, the desire to guess, gauge our feelings, voice our opinions, our anger growing, until it is stifled by the over all sadness.

But here were are, thinking of past events, watching what’s going on now. This, like Columbine and Virginia Tech, before it, is a different event, in magnitude, in speed of information travel, in reaction, in just about anything you can think of.

This was an event that occurred in the middle of a national election campaign and several things happened because of that. Both campaigns immediately curtailed the airing of political commercials, most of which these days are attack ads from both the Romney and Obama campaigns but only in Colorado. The ads played endlessly in the rest of the country, interrupting and trailing the tragedy like a surreal pack of feral and viral dogs. Even the reaction to the tragedy statements by Romney and Obama seemed appropriately solemn and similar.

The fact that the president came to Aurora to comfort the victims on Sunday was not nearly as important as the fact that Brian Williams was there on Friday, along with all the other anchors, reporters, experts and intoners. The experts—shrinks, psychologists, criminologists, profilers—were on hand, trotting briskly out of some generic office to offer their opinions about the suspect, and clarifying nothing much.

The appearance of James Holmes in court on Monday—bewildered, sleepy, apparently, disengaged, likely—did not help matters, and whatever details emerged about his life and childhood in the end matter very little. He is who he is, and he is not the two kids at Columbine, the shooter at Virginia Tech or the officer at Fort Hood.

Warner Brothers, which produced the Batman series and the midnight showings, offered to participate in a fund for victims. Midnight screenings are a lucrative, and deliberate experience created as a kind of communal event in which audience goers get to be first to see and interact, with people dressing up in costumes waiting in hours in line.

Here’s a thought for Warner Brothers: why don’t you give ALL of the midnight screening receipts (reported to be more than $30 million) as a show of empathy, and sympathy for the victims. It would be a smart and right thing to do.

Here’s another suggestion. Can we see a few politicians (including President Obama and Mr. Romney) stand up even if their knees are shaking and take on the National Rifle Association and propose a ban on automatic firearms and better screenings for gun purchases? The NRA is not some universal rod and gun club, it’s a very, powerful lobbying group and it’s about money, not Second Amendment rights.

And speaking of that, all you principled folks who see a conspiracy to take away your hunting rifle, your home and person protection glock or your anti-tank weapon, and who think that the occasional crazy event with multiple victims is the price we pay for liberty, here’s a suggestion.

Go to Aurora, visit the friends, loved ones, relative, father, mother, wife, children of one of the victims, and you make that argument in person. Look them in the face. You tell them that the death of that little girl, or the death of the person they love, or the memories that will never leave them is the price we pay for liberty. You might want to bring a gun. Things could get dicey. ?


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