What happened in Aurora, CO is yesterday’s news, eclipsed by the latest media firestorm. That is an unfortunate consequence of our fast paced, super-technologically-connected modern life.
This facet of modern life tends to leave me in the dust, for I am not one to blog quickly about something. I do converse in the moment on an individual level, but try to avoid saying something large scale until things have died down a bit and until I’ve had time to sort through things.
So, for what it’s worth, here are some reflections on the shooting that happened in Aurora, CO, during the opening night of The Dark Knight Rises:
First, any response or reaction must start from copious prayer, compassion, and empathy for the victims. Even saying this runs the risk of cheapening it, because I do not know any of the victims personally nor will I be able to travel to Aurora to put boots on this compassion. I am but a distant observer, and I therefore realize a lot of this will sound hollow, so I reflect with a good amount of hesitation. But that makes the beginning point above no less true and necessary to acknowledge.
Second, I’m sure what the victims don’t need is a philosophical treatise on the problem of evil or anything like that. They simply need a silent shoulder to grieve on. I’m not going to offer an intellectual answer anyway. Nevertheless, people in wider society are discussing this event, and folks have questions and thoughts, so a certain amount of reflection is appropriate.
Third, reflecting on the lives of those affected rocks my soul. Each one of these victims had lives, loves, goals, ambitions, and desires. Reading of their lives and seeing their pictures brought to my attention their simple humanity. Heavy stuff. Thankfully, this event is not the end for those that lost their lives, though the victims left behind will carry this grief for a long, long time.
Fourth, there are a lot of words being used to describe the event, some of which are more accurate than others. Some, for instance, are calling it “senseless.” Why call it “senseless” as if it, well, somehow doesn’t make sense? This was, no doubt, surprising to the victims, for we all tend to assume that the next moment will be like the previous one. Were I to lose a loved one that I assumed would still be there in the morning, I’d feel surprised because I wouldn’t expect it. Afterall, when my daughter goes to sleep at night, I don’t worry at night that someone’s going to snatch her. I just assume she’ll be there when I wake up. Anything out of the ordinary would be an existential shock. But apart from the existential shock of the victims, it makes perfect sense to me. Far from this evil being something the Bible can’t make sense of, the Bible predicts it! Ever since the garden, humans have been deeply fallen. Cain slew Abel, and it was downhill from there. We humans have the divine spark still visible in us and therefore are capable of great things, but since we have chosen to go our own way and set up camp under our own terms, we are also deeply flawed and capable of deep and tragic evil. It’s only “senseless” if we are basically good and our natural inclinations align with True North. Sadly, they do not.
Plus, it’s not like our modern age is a grand utopia of love and good tidings. We haven’t “evolved” much, and to paraphrase C.S Lewis, education has simply made for a more clever devil. Witness the many mass shootings in the last 20 years or so. We’ve castrated and bid the geldings be fruitful. We raise men without chests and are shocked when they act sans virtue. I realize there’s the possibility that Holmes is genuinely mentally ill (or demon possessed!), but that does little to nothing to blunt this observation. This would have been surprising in another age (an age that would have its own shortcomings, sure), but after so many events of a similar nature, it’s no longer surprising now, at least to me.
Tragic? Yes. Wicked? Yes. Horrible? Yes. Incredibly, gut wrenchingly sad? Yes. That much is true. Senseless? Not really.
Fifth, this tragedy shows that our world is a little too like Gotham, yes? Moral decadence, corruption, and injustice reigns, yet there is always a glimmer of hope. There is still good in Gotham, and that’s why Batman sticks around to fight the good fight, rather than torching the whole place. Yes, after watching our response to the shooting, the parallel is not lost on me.
Sixth, speaking of that “glimmer,” some who were present at the shooting are reporting that their boyfriends gave their lives to protect their girlfriends. Here is one example, Julia Vojtsek, recounting the actions of her boyfriend, John Larimer: “John immediately and instinctively covered me and brought me to the ground in order to protect me from any danger,” Vojtsek wrote in a statement. “Moments later, John knowingly shielded me from a spray of gunshots. It was then I believe John was hit with a bullet that would have very possibly struck me. I feel very strongly that I was saved by John and his ultimate kindness.”
It is sometimes difficult to verify stories like this. Whenever intense media attention surrounds chaotic events like this, certain things can get exaggerated, some forgotten in the moment, some details changed, etc, by no fault of anyone. Just happens. Nature of the beast. We saw this pan out in the Columbine shootings: some reports turned out to be a little inaccurate, so I confess a certain sense of caution here. Nevertheless for now I’ll give the benefit of the doubt. These reports speak very deeply to me as a man. That instinct in men to shield and protect is not totally dead. When the chips are down, we men are to protect, yes even sometimes at the cost of our lives, and we know it. That is deep in our dna. Would Julia have been killed had John not protected her? We will never know, but it is possible. These four men deserve recognition, for they saved the women in their lives. Their deaths leave their loved ones in the wake of incredible grief, but I think it’s also appropriate, as these women are doing, to recognize their sacrifice as sacrifice, not stupidity.
This is not to deny that women also seek to protect, especially children. I simply seek to applaud the men here, in this situation, who in a moment of crisis instinctively used their strength to protect women.
Seventh and last, some are asking, understandably, “where was God?” Seems to come up whenever a grand evil like this happens. Answer: closer than you think.