In our next podcast (coming out tomorrow), we bring in friend of the show Kevin Gibson to talk about the latest Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises.” We never really talked about bringing up the shootings in Colorado because, frankly, we’re not really equipped to do the heavy lifting that that topic really demands in our little made up radio show. The gear change would be jarring, to say the least (much like the old joke “so, other than that, what did you think of the play, Mrs. Lincoln?”)
The more I thought about it, though, the more that I realized that it was our people hurt in this … what do you call this, anyway? Tragedy? That seems more like a natural disaster? Massacre? That seems to give the gunman too much credit. Senseless act of brutality? I dunno. We all know what I’m talking about, here. These were our people – the geeks, the fans, the ones who catch what we’re pitching. Two of the four of us on this episode were at our respective midnight showings that night. There but for an accident of geography go us. So, I really felt that we should mark the occasion in some way, and, to me, this seemed the best way.
A couple of things before I start. The following is the opinion of me, and me alone. Dave. The ol’ Conduit. The other guys at the Tower have nothing to do with this post, especially if it pisses off some people. Just my opinion. If you have a differing opinion, please feel free to post it in the comments, or anywhere else on the Web. That’s what it’s for. The only thing I ask, though, is that we shed more light than heat. The world, and our society, needs more light and less heat.
Second, I refuse to use the name of the shooter. It’s not that its a “he who must not be named” Voldemort situation, because we need to examine what happened and see if we can make something good out of this situation. No, it’s simply that if it was his goal to get his name known, I won’t help with that. He will be referred to as “The Murderer,” plain and simple.
So, who do we blame? That seems to be the nut of the situation. There’s a fair amount of blame to go around, but in large part, I believe it won’t land on some of the guilty parties.
First, of course, is The Murderer. There’s no getting around that. At first, I was happy that they caught him alive, but it’s a double-edged sword. Colorado has the death penalty, and if there was ever someone deserving of it, it’s The Murderer. No one made him do what he did. It’s obvious that it was premeditated. He boobie trapped his apartment to inflict maximum damage on police — or any neighbor who might have opened his door — after setting his stereo to go off loudly at the time he would be busy with other things). He had an arsenal in his car, including riot gear to protect himself. This was a well thought-out crime, which he either wanted to be caught for, or planned to blend in with the SWAT teams that showed up for possibly more mayhem (they were tipped off, I’ve heard, because he had the wrong type of gas mask on — the police truly did a great job, catching that detail in a chaotic situation).
So, was he mentally ill? One would presume so, given the brutality of the situation. The vast, vast majority don’t have it in them to cause that kind of suffering. We want to put a label on someone like this, to separate them from us (and those we personally know). We want to say “because of X, this is what happened. X will never happen to me or any one that I know.” And, statistically, that’s correct. Most of us will never know a murderer (funny, thought, that it occurs to me I have personally known two people in jail for murder – not friends, but schoolmates from different times), and the vast majority cannot fathom committing murder ourselves.
We’ve tended to downplay an obvious answer, though. A subset of people in our society are just jerks, and a section of that subset are evil.
I don’t know if you believe in the Higher Power or a Prince of Evil or something else in your philosophy. Personally, I believe in evil. Just as there is good, there is bad. The opposite of a Saint isn’t a sinner; it’s an evil-doer. We’ve all been jerks at one time or another. We’re human, and that’s part of it. For the most part, though, we choose to be good. We want to listen to the better angels of our nature, even if we have to strain to hear them at times.
We live in a society, however, that wants to make excuses for uncivilized behavior. The bully that terrorizes those he goes to school with is “just asking for help, but doesn’t know how to.” Your co-worker doesn’t want to hurt your feelings, but “Hey, I’m just honest. Deal with it.”
Some people are jerks. Then, you get people like The Murderer. What he did was evil, pure and simple. I don’t care that he failed out of graduate school. That happens to many people. We all have setbacks. We all get disappointed. Healthy people deal with it. Unhealthy people may get mired in it. Evil people act out.
What’s the point? What’s to be done? Maybe nothing. I don’t know what to do with evil. It’s been around as long as human sentience has; I don’t have the answer. Maybe the best thing to do, though, is to recognize it; recognize that it exists, and therefore we can defend against it a little better. If you don’t believe in a thing, you can’t deal with it effectively.
I don’t like to throw the word “stupid” around. It’s dismissive and unkind. It’s demeaning and doesn’t usually help a situation. That being said, there’s a stupidity growing in our society that, I like to believe, wasn’t there earlier. Simply put, it’s getting to be okay, and even celebrated in certain circles, to be stupid. No, that’s not quite right. It’s getting okay to be stupid and to be satisfied with that. One look at politics today, and it’s clear that it’s the case. It’s harder to elevate yourself and those around you. It’s much easier to be satisfied with what you know, even if it’s not a lot. Ignorance is no sin. We’re all ignorant about a great many things – the appendectomy is a simple surgery, but you wouldn’t want me doing it for you. When you’re responsible for a thing, however, it’s not okay to be content with your ignorance (the surgeon really needs to know how to take that appendix out). When someone like Rep. Mel Watt of North Carolina admits “I’m not a nerd” when on a committee that is, basically, deciding the future of the Internet in this country (saying it in a manner that suggests that he’s okay with not knowing how the Internet works, and, worst, has no interest in learning), THAT’S NOT OKAY.
Which brings us to guns.
I’m not particularly a liberal. I don’t mind private citizens having guns. I don’t have one myself, but I’ve thought about it. Handguns, shotguns, hunting rifles, and the like are part of the national fabric, and I accept that. The gun makes it possible for the 90-pound woman to potentially protect herself against the 250-pound thug. I get that. If someone breaks into the house in the middle of the night, the idea of a gun in the nightstand is probably a comforting one. I don’t want to debate that particular issue.
What we should be debating on is assault/military weaponry. The Second Amendment, in it’s most commonly understood interpretation, guarantees citizens a right to arm themselves. Context, however, is important. When the Constitution was written, the state-of-the-art weapon, both for armies and for civilians, was the musket. Someone really proficient in it’s use could get off, perhaps, three shots a minute, and those were generally pretty inaccurate shots. The gun The Murder used, the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, was capable of, according to it’s owners manual, 12-15 rounds a minute (but probably closer to 30 rounds/minute). Also, the standard clip used in that firearm holds 30 rounds, but The Murderer had a extended 100-round magazine (which, actually, might have saved some lives – the weapon jammed because the extended magazine was a third-party add-on, which, apparently, have a tendency to jam).
It should be noted that some think that if there had been more weapons in the hands of the audience, not as many lives would have been lost. I’m thinking that being caught in a crossfire isn’t a great place to be, either, and you have to really put yourself into the situation those people found themselves in. It’s a darkened room with a bright light behind The Murderer, who’s thrown gas grenades into the audience. He’s shooting, people are screaming, not aware, really, of what’s actually going on. The Murderer, by the way, has body armor, so a glancing shot isn’t going to do it. There are military soldiers who wouldn’t be able to navigate that situation, much less civilians. The true heroes where those who shielded people with their own bodies, or helped others while it was still going on. Those people didn’t have time to think; they acted on instinct, putting the needs of others ahead of their own, even to the point of sacrificing themselves so others could live. I don’t know of a better definition of the word “hero” than that.
Why does a civilian need an assault rifle?
Protection? Taking into account modern construction practices, bullets have a tendency to go through drywall without slowing down very much. Someone defending their home could have a better chance of killing their own family, or the neighbors, than taking out the intruder, depending on the layout of their home or neighborhood.
Because it’s fun to shoot? I’m sure it is. I’d love to shoot a mini gun or a howitzer, but the neighbors would probably complain. Or die.
Again, the founding fathers had no idea that something like an AR-15 would be around (or that the Constitution would be around 200+ years after the fact, probably). Would they have thought that the idea of every citizen having access to that kind of firepower, which could kill everyone in front of them, would be a good idea?
Justice Antonin Scalia, on Fox News Sunday recently, expressed the idea that ANY weapon that can be hand-held (apparently the word “bear” is important) might be protected under the Second Amendment, including “hand-held rocket launchers that can bring down airplanes.” That’s not a right-wingnut wackjob. That’s not the head of the NRA (or whichever group protects the rights of Stinger Missile bearers). That a freakin’ Justice of the United States Supreme Court. So, I suppose, I can get a flamethrower if I’m of a mind. What about suicide vests? Technically, they’re not “hand-held,” but they can be borne, I suppose.
So, What’s the answer, smart guy?
I dunno. I’ve gone about 1,900 words here, and haven’t even gotten to money in politics, the abdication of proper journalism, girls who think The Murderer is cute. Honestly, I’m amazed I’ve gotten this far without just getting tired and going into the basement to play videogames (which, by the way, I’m sure will be linked to the shooting in some way, shape or form, because that’s something that can be controlled, unlike evil).
I guess the thing that makes me saddest (or maddest, depending on the day) is that common sense can get shouted down by whoever has the most money, the biggest loud speaker or the largest conflict of interest, to the point that it’s no longer common sense; to the point that people start to believe the dumbest things because someone they perceive to be in power told them to believe that. It’s easier to go along with the group. It’s easier to be told what to think, instead of weighing the ideas of both sides of an argument and coming to your own thought-out conclusion. Listen to the news, and especially 24-hour cable news (I’m trying really hard not to point out Fox by name, but it’s really hard not to). Ask yourself if the story your watching is trying to inform you, or trying to make you afraid of something, or angry about something. There’s nothing wrong with editorials; this whole post is an editorial. There’s something wrong with presenting information with the idea of steering the listener one way or the other, and not being upfront about it.
But, if as a people we’re willing to go along with it, are those who deliver “information” wrong to do it? If we’re buying (and eager for more), are they wrong to sell?
There’s going to be a tipping point, and I think it’s coming sooner than later, where we, as a people and society, will either pull back from this dangerous way of thinking, and start to examine what we’re being fed, or we’ll just make up our minds to strap in, hold on, shut up and enjoy the ride to its inevitable conclusion. And that conclusion isn’t necessarily the end of America or something as drastic as a apocalyptic “Mad Max/1984” wasteland; it’ll just be America being average. And, when you consider the courage, power, treasure and ideas that this outcome will squander, it’s a type of evil. A sad, wasteful type of evil.