Aurora

I don't know how to explain people who inflict tragedy onto complete strangers. I don't understand their motives. I don't understand their reasoning. I don't understand the process by which they conclude that their actions will provide satisfaction to their disappointments, whether they be a lifetime's litany of failure, or more spontaneous, sudden downturns.

For most of my life I've avoided that question by proclaiming that I don't want to know. What do I care about someone who's made a decision to hurt as many people as he possibly can? Why do I care about knowing what in the world was running through Timothy McVeigh's head? Or Osama Bin Laden's? Or Jared Loughner's, Maurice Clemmons', or Seung-Hui Cho's? Or Hitler's? Or Pol Pot's?

Or Ian Stawicki's?

Or James Holmes'?

All I know is it keeps happening. We try -- well, the noblest of us keep trying -- and in the end, it doesn't matter. In the end we keep living and existing on this planet due to some randomness and chance, the nature of which prevents us from being allowed to understand anything. It makes no sense. We can only make sense of what we perceive, which is only accurate part of the time. Then we have to depend upon what we believe.

Fine. Here's what I believe:

1. Parents, do not give up on your children. When you have to tell police, who've told you that your son has been arrested for a mass murder, "You've got the right person," at some point in that child's development, you gave the fuck up. I know being a parent is hard. But when you saw the signs, did you try to get help? Does it matter to 14 dead people's families that the Aurora cops know they did their jobs? I trust your empathetic and sympathetic response to the Aurora victims -- you're not bad people -- but the fact that you saw this coming, and were cognizant enough to let the police know, "Yeah, we saw this coming..." Could you explain what happened? Why you didn't step in sooner?

You grieve for Aurora, and I trust your grief. But you know why this happened. You have a story to tell. You can prevent this from happening again. Please, let family privacy go on this one, and let us know the story.

Look, I fear that I'm being a little unfair to the family of James Holmes -- perhaps they believed that their child was out of their control, out of their hands. And I know they feel the pain of the victims their son harmed. But I found myself asking the same question I asked after Ian Stawicki committed the Cafe Racer murders a few weeks ago in Seattle, and his family said they could see it coming: Why couldn't you stop it? Or at least try?

I saw Stawicki's father on TV after the Cafe Racer incident. He was beyond grief. I felt terrible for him. He didn't know what to make of it. He was sorrowful, he was confused, he didn't know what he could have done. He was a loving guy, and I could see in his tears that he realized love didn't work.

That is a scary thing to realize -- that love sometimes does not work. Well. The bottom's fallen out of everything then, hasn't it?

I guess we have to aim higher. I guess. But the Holmes' family statement -- "You got the right person" -- disturbed me. It was a reinforcement of the fatalism I often feel about our lives. Families are giving up on their weakest members, succumbing to helplessness, accepting fatalism, abandoning their hopes for their sons and daughters, casting their fates to the wind. How do we stop that? How do we find and treat our most beloved at their moment of turning toward the darkness?

I have three kids. They are all still innocent. Someday they won't be, and I won't have control over their lives. Right now I have some input. I'll try to help them with as much as I can, but if for some reason I can't help with everything, tell me where I can go to get them the help they need. How do I love my kids? How do I convince them to keep going forward, that their youthful ideas can be eternally inspiring? How do I give them faith in themselves? Even if it means I have to get out of their way, I'll do it.

How do I prevent them from methodically inflicting death upon innocent people? Can you help me out with that one?

2. I'm not a big advocate for gun control. Personally speaking, if you're a responsible person who chooses to own a handgun for your own protection, or if you own a hunting rifle or two, I don't care. I actually do believe that people kill people. In the Aurora case, I believe that a completely deluded, sick person killed people, and deliberately devised a very articulate plan to do so. In a way there's no defense against that.

But for fuck's sake, the absolute adoration, devotion and flat-out idolatry this nation has for its guns is fucking sickening. A gun is a fucking tool. At best it's a last resort for your own self-preservation. It is not a replacement for human relationships. I'm sick of people loving their guns. It makes as much sense as people loving their Phillips-head screwdrivers, or their lawn mowers. Actually, it makes a little less sense, because I used my screwdriver on my daughter's bicycle yesterday, to great success.

The worship, the devotion, the dysfunctional emotional displacement that people have towards their guns is just fucking ridiculous. It leads to a devotion to all weaponry, beyond that which we have use for. There's a huge fucking difference between a person who fires off a few rounds at a shooting range and a person who sees the need to purchase an assault rifle. But our nation's absolute, stubborn, sexually arousing defense of the Second Amendment has corrupted our nobler instincts.

You do not need an AK-47 to protect yourself. If you purchase an AK-47 (or a knockoff) you are paranoid about a dystopia that will not happen unless you plan to bring it about yourself. Or you're planning to assault a bunch of innocent people for no other reason than your own fucking shortcomings.

You're right: Even if you flat-out adore you gun -- even if you fellate the goddamn thing -- that love is not responsible for the actions of a madman. But Holmes' vision of himself, his vengeance, and what he's decided will be his lasting impression upon this world, depended upon his obtaining a shitload of hardcore, military-grade assault weapons. They were an integral part of his romantic, deluded scheme. He couldn't have done it without them. And he lived in a culture where such eros is, if not encouraged, then understood and tacitly allowed, because for some people it makes so much sense.

To me, it makes none. Love your friends. Love your family, unless they screwed you up. Then get help. Love your life. Love your art, your relationships, your nature, your interaction with the world.

But for fuck's sake, what good is loving any inanimate object? Where's the culture or value in loving steel and gunpowder? Because I guarantee you, they do not love you back. If they get the chance under the direction of a madman, they'll kill you too.

3. I don't know what to say to the victims, or their families. I know that they now have a sudden, unforeseen need for strength and resolve they didn't think they'd need on Thursday morning. I think about victims every day. It's maddening that these events have no answers except for our own speculations, which are useless to both the victims and the understanding of the culprits.

I want to think we can help the victims' families, but they'll help themselves. They'll grieve. They'll remember. And eventually they'll settle upon memories of the joy their beloved departed gave them while they were here; they'll appreciate the gifts they got. But then they'll realize the gifts that the rest of the world is missing out on. I don't know where the cycle ends. There are a lot of stronger people in Colorado tonight who will settle that emotional cruelty within themselves, as they respect and honor who they've lost.

But as a nation -- an embattled, frustrated, saddened, angered nation -- we are way off. Off in our priorities. Off in our self-awareness. Off in basic, common-sense definitions of community. For Christ's sake, the Bible talks about this shit, and nobody's listening.

I don't know what to do. The ugly feeling that's settling within me now is that nobody will ever know what to do -- and if they have the chance to learn, they won't care.
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