Aurora.

Fair warning: as you can probably tell from the title, this isn’t going to be as funny a post as I’d usually go for. We live in a world where serious shit happens and I can’t get by with just talking about books and movies and my stupid feelings about them all the time. Just so you know.

We all heard about the shooting in Aurora, Colorado this past week. It’s hideous. I don’t want to talk about it because it makes me feel sick. But I think I should talk about it precisely because it makes me feel sick.

Here’s the thing: Batman is a big deal. The newest of the Nolan movies is a huge deal. But only because it’s American media hype. This gun-toting bullshit has nothing to do with Batman. And I won’t give wackadoo shooter guy the satisfaction of discussing his connection with an iconic superhero. I just won’t. Fans are fans, whatever they’re fans of, and really all that means is groups of innocent people in one place at one time. Happens every day.

As a side note, the other thing I’m not going to discuss is my view on gun laws, so if you leave something in the comments and it doesn’t make it through please don’t be offended. This is hardly the time or the place for politics. Feel free to send me an email and I’ll get back to you, but I don’t want to talk about it here.

But I do want to talk about crazy.

I’m a child of the Columbine generation. In April of 1999 I was a junior in high school. It’s really strange to talk about this in such a timeline kind of way, but those couple of years between the school shootings of the late 1990’s and the complete global madness of 9/11 were, frankly, a tremendously fucked up period of history to have to live through. It was fear before there was fear on such a blown-out scale. And it was limited to a very specific group. High school kids went to school every day terrified while everyone else got to walk around mostly unaffected (at least that was how it seemed to me and all my friends and classmates). Before we all talked about “terrorism” like it was a normal state of being. Before that word lost its meaning. Like the plan was to grow a whole group of adults who were already afraid for their lives. That’s a bit of a conspiracy theory thing to say. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t work, right?

Unless you were in that situation, though, you don’t really know what that was like, spending every single day petrified that someone would freak out in a classroom and blow you up. Or worse. Out of nowhere. Someone you’d known your whole life, someone you’d never expect. Which was especially scary for me because I’m from a small country town where coming to school straight from going hunting at sunrise wasn’t uncommon. Until Columbine, it was totally legal to come to school with a gun in your car if you had a hunting license. I’m sure it’s still like that in a lot of remote places. I don’t have a fundamental problem with guns. They’re a useful tool in the hands of people who know what they’re doing. But there’s a time and a place. And I was taught the hard way (although, admittedly, not the hardest way) that school is not the place. Sorry, I don’t mean to go on and on about a completely unrelated tragedy.

So now I’m having horrible flashbacks. Perhaps because those two words “Colorado” and “shooting” are in the same sentence again. A conditioned response, maybe, I don’t know. But that’s out of my control.

What pisses me off is that this crazy jackass dragged everyone else in that theater into his delusion. I understand crazy. Believe me, I’ve been at the bottom of several different crazy barrels, other peoples’ and my own. I get it. Reality sways, occasionally. I understand fully how people can…what? Get lost, maybe. Or forget. I’m not saying I sympathize, just for the record. I understand that some folks need serious help to keep their shit together, but that impulse to hurt people is totally beyond me. It just doesn’t seem fair when people pull others down with them when they’re drowning like that.

But it doesn’t surprise me that Americans tend to go on shooting rampages, honestly. Think about the way that we’re desensitized in our culture. We’ve accepted violence. We see death all the time and it seems painless. We shoot people in video games and they just disappear. Tv shows are full of rape and murder and death and home invasions and people beating the shit out of each other – all of which is way more graphic than the news. But censors are more concerned with seeing a nipple onscreen than someone’s guts all spilled out. And I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t mind a bit of blood and guts and gore in my movies/games/books/tv/etc. But I have the mental acuity (now, at 30, probably not so much during my more formative years) to deal with it as a fiction, as a tool to move the story forward. It probably helps that my mother is a trauma nurse (full disclosure: a badass trauma nurse) and brought home real-world horror stories all the time. You get used to it. But that’s just it: we shouldn’t get used to it. Unless you’re a cop or a fireman or a nurse or a doctor or a coroner or whatever, there’s no reason to be so cut off from how horrible these things are. Isn’t it a fucked up symptom of our media-fed culture that we can rationalize actual violence as just something that happens to someone else somewhere else, as long as we see it on a screen? The media treats war like infotainment and death like statistics. They’ve got no problem showing us starving babies in another country and then immediately following those horrendous images with a multi-million-dollar commercial for some overpriced restaurant whose food could probably kill us all. We shouldn’t be so ok with that juxtaposition, that hypocrisy.

I guess my point here, if I really have one besides just using this as a ranty outlet, is that we shouldn’t give this guy in Colorado a spot in our minds, in our history, in our hearts. Let’s remember the victims, the injured and the dead, the people who were just trying to have a night out like we all need occasionally because our lives are shit because we live in America and consuming something makes us feel happy for a minute. They were just people. It was just a movie. And they died. It’s tragic. It’s tremendously sad. The ripples that go out into the world from that event are incalculable.

But we can’t let fear take over. Take just a second, just one, and maybe think about those things that you do in your everyday little life that you don’t ever fathom could ever, ever hurt you. You go to the bank. You get a cup of coffee. You go to the grocery store. You go to the movies. At any given moment any of us could get shot or blown up or whatever. We’re vulnerable all the time to someone else’s crazy. And that’s not our fault. And that’s not society’s fault. And that’s not even necessarily a crazy guy’s fault. Shit, I could get eaten by a bear walking through my backyard, you know? Sad, ridiculous, fucked up things happen all the time. Don’t let those things that might maybe someday happen and that can’t possibly be predicted make you cower. Don’t let the possible make you hide away from the definite. Because trite as it may sound, life is fucking short. Do what you love. Live to the fullest. Tell the people you love that you love them. Smile. Laugh. Spread joy and love and light. Be good to each other. That’s all we can do. To do any less than that is a waste of time, a wasted opportunity, something lost forever that we can’t get back and might regret. And what a shame it is to regret, my friends. What a complete shame. Don’t let the bad guys win.