Obvious things first: my prayers tonight are for everyone in that theater, that community, and all connected circles shaken by the emotional shockwave from this tragedy. This much I know and can do, if nothing else remotely useful.
Our family stayed in Aurora three nights last week, arriving on July 8th and leaving on the 11th. From our hermetically cultivated hotel zone near the airport, it seemed harmless at the time.
I can’t say we’ve never considered seeing a movie while out of town. If our employers’ vacation calendars had worked out differently, if our excitement for The Dark Knight Rises had matched our giddy anticipation for The Avengers, if I were amenable to one midnight screening as an exception, and if we’d been eager for another anecdote to add to our vacation saga…
Or if James Middle-Name-Surprisingly-Not-Publicized Holmes had decided against a comic book theme for his master plan and had rescheduled for an earlier date in another crowded but more pedestrian location — say, the 16th Street Mall on July 10th…
Or if another equally lost soul in some other town had carried out the same plan at some other showing…
And so on. There but for the grace of God, and all that. When we determine in hindsight that our odds of sudden death, for one indefinite time span, had improved without our knowledge or permission from trillion-to-one to several-billion-to-one, there’s a pointless split-second frisson of fearful relief that obscures all statistics and gives me pause to think, “That could’ve been me!”
For the fourteen [EDIT: now twelve? The count changed overnight] who passed away at that fateful midnight showing, the dozens more wounded, and the even more countless traumatized…it was them. Against all odds, at the whim of an apparently unchecked mental case who’s unfathomably distant from God’s grace himself right now, who, when surprisingly captured alive (how rare is that in these cases?), allegedly called himself “the Joker”. Under the circumstances I’m reminded less of the Bat-villain and more of Private Joker from Full Metal Jacket.
All his random targets wanted was a night’s entertainment, nothing more than the simple pleasure of the cinema, one of an infinite number of simple pleasures now denied them evermore. At least the brutal murderer of Thomas and Martha Wayne allowed them to finish their movie before committing his monstrous act.
Those in the immediate area are in a position to help, to intervene, to be there for the victims. Those of us further away can only react. We pace back and forth awaiting the opportunities to bless them from afar (monetary donations? song tributes? kind words? DKR multiple screenings in their honor?) and meanwhile do what we can with what’s at our disposal. Meanwhile, we’re haunted by the same college ID photo of the worst person named Holmes ever, his now-ironic smile plastered on millions of sites far and wide as the new poster child for the Face of Evil. Personally, I’d much rather be treated to a mugshot with him frowning, scuffed-up, and repentant. I can dream.
Whether we mean well or seek cheap laughs, reacting is all we can do with those moments when we’re not simply praying (a better use of time, all told). The Onion has predictably turned meta about the situation (better them than me), but what other options for action are available to the common man? After all, if a million monkeys at a million typewriters can recreate Shakespeare according to bad homilies, perhaps a million rubberneckers with a million pet theories can bang out The Aurora Massacre: the Definitive Narrative and Final Commission Report with the same finesse and relevance as A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Simians.
Ads for The Dark Knight Rises have been pulled from various media. Some consider them unnecessary reminders. The film is certainly not starved for publicity. Christopher Nolan has released a dignified statement of well-spoken volume.
Photoshop tributes are already worming their way through Facebook, as are several commemorative pages — some in honor of the deceased, some alarmingly in honor of the assailant, surely a new folk hero to the spiritual descendants of Beavis and Butt-Head. Several Colorado residents also named James Holmes have had to post disclaimers for the benefit of prurient looky-loos poking around the wrong profiles.
Discussion on the Facebook page of the Indianapolis Star turned quickly away from courteous regrets to loud questions about just why the heck parents were bringing babies and children to a midnight showing. Somehow this now matters. Something has to, after all. Perhaps shaming the parents in hindsight will result in justice.
All over Creation, self-styled pundits are already fishing for root causes, insisting on using every tool at their disposal — no matter how primitive, dulled, or unsuited for the job — to plumb the depths of What Just Happened, catch what they think is The Reason Why, and ultimately present to us What It All Means on a platter with garnish. Most of them will be wrong and their dishes will taste bitter.
Even outside TV and news sites, debates naturally abound as to which evil medium can be blamed. Who do we need to persecute to ensure this kind of tragedy never happens again until the next time it happens again? Movies, because of their immediate proximity to this flagrant lapse in sanity? Video games, because First-Person Shooters make it easier than ever for deranged young men to stockpile a real-life arsenal unsupervised and unsuspected? Comics, because they’re a smaller field that for decades has been much, much easier for poorly informed journalists to beat up? Music, because of artistic expressions of unhappiness and F-words?
Of course it can’t possibly be a combination of factors, poor parenting, or isolated incidents of unhinged minds latching onto the things lying around them for inspiration, patterning, and designing for death. No, every horrible thing has only one cause (and you can’t just say “Satan” because, y’know, that would open the wrong door), and we must hunt that one cause down, sue it to pieces, and legislate it into so much pabulum. If an artform gives a killer all these ideas, then clearly the solution is to render the entire artform as bland and stupid as possible. That way, no one will ever get ideas, never again. It’s the only way to be sure.
So much of the babble and din is and will be about the mitigating factors, the blame, the why of it all. At this point, do we need to know why? Can we even truly know why in any earthly sense? Why do we need to know why? If we can make sense of it, if we can somehow explain it, will it hurt less? If the parents of the casualties can be convinced to think, “Oh, okay, now I get it!” would the funeral arrangements become any more festive or colorful?
Right now I’m not in a position to need to know why. I sincerely don’t think it will help, and I’m not interested in hearing other people filibuster about gun control, or video game control, or video game gun control. I do know from my insignificant perspective that, Lord willing, I’m still seeing the movie Sunday afternoon. If I stay home and wait for the Blu-ray release, Buck Private Joker wins.
Until then, and for some time afterward, my prayers will continue for the lives lost and for those they left behind. I pray especially for those in a position to step up and offer aid, comfort, healing, and whatever else is needed by those who sorely need it most in this trying time.
Lord, may they rise.