20 July 2012


What is there to say?

That these events are common, now as spring floods. Insightful, eloquent things have been said before, many times. An avalanche of idiocies will be certain to follow, true to form. Few capture the awful fascination, or how grief moves those who did not know the victims.

Or how you live with a weird anxiety during the suspense of wondering if someone you knew might have been there. Through Facebook and Twitter, we find that a friend of a friend from high school was shot. Two degrees of separation from the blood and smoke filled room.

It sounds like rank superstition, but there was something evil in the air, some black smudge that bleared the hot night. No one slept well. Restless, without knowing why, we tossed and turned. Those who lived closer heard sirens as the ambulance sped the wounded to outlying hospitals with more space. The cineplex -- an ugly made up word for an ugly, made up place -- is in a modest area. You can rent a single bedroom apartment for around $500, and most of the places around there are rentals. Hooligans, as an Asian acquaintance put it, hooligans like to loiter on the parking lots.

Some offer statistics showing that killings like these are unusual, and your chances are good for avoiding some man who is heavily armed and sick with his own heavy blood and ready to shed the blood of just about anyone.

You have to wonder, too, about the film. Conservatives won't wonder, liberals will silence their misgivings about filmed violence to talk about gun control. They're both right in a way.

The last Batman film played a guy getting killed with a pencil through his eye for laughs, and offered up for our thrills one explicitly S&M inspired scene after another, dealing bondage out like playing cards. Then I felt, more than thought, that it was the most depraved movie I'd ever seen. I hate making this argument, and I am vehemently against censorship, and I've read the stats that don't show much of a link between fictional violence and the impulse to be violent. But the breathtakingly casual way that violence is manipulated for sensation and for profit is vile.  It is dishonest and morally bankrupt for a creator to disown all responsibility for a work that presents killing as entertainment, to pretend that it's just good fun. It's when violence has no weight, no heft, no human price attached to it, that is disgusting.

But even if we could wave a magic, sanitizing wand and dial the portrayal of violence back to the 1930s level and ensure that for each act of violence the audience would experience emotional pain or dread, it wouldn't work. It wouldn't stop Dylan or James from making that final leap.

And, as a gun owner, I'm vehemently for gun rights. But should stacks of semi-automatic weapons be legal to own, really? Should driving a car be more regulated than owning a pistol that can pump 15 rounds out in less than a minute?

But even if we had sane gun laws, which will not happen any time soon, that would not stop atrocities like the one last night. The suspect bought his guns legally. A determined person can buy guns illegally. At most, you could guess that there would be fewer wounded or dead. But reform's not going to happen.

The victims, as they usually are, are innocent. Or, at least, innocent of any injury to the shooter. An Aurora teenager doesn't have much to do with PhD programs in neurology, or existential failure or, perhaps, the snapping of a neuron gone wrong.

Instead of chatter, even expressions of grief, I'd like to offer a keening moan in a corner for their deaths and their pain.

 Or silence.

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