Sharing Dreams In The Dark: Aurora Colorado Shooting Response

I started off today thinking I would sit down to work on various writing projects. I had a blog post planned about organizing one’s thoughts and some flash fiction to post. Those might go up later. Instead, I want to discuss something that happened early this morning that the world woke up hearing about. While lots of folks were snug in their beds, fans across the country were going out to midnight showings of The Dark Knight Rises. In Colorado, some of those fans aren’t going home again.

It’s no surprise to me that the event caught such media-wide attention. A massacre at a blockbuster film premiere will catch the world’s attention. What amazed me instead was the responses people have had. Overwhelmingly, I have seen an outpouring of thoughts and prayers for those injured and deceased, as well as to the families of those affected by the events in Aurora, Colorado. But there have also been the negative responses. Here are some of my favorites:

“Well, if we had more gun control in this country…”
“Well if we had less gun control in this country…”
“Well it’s the fault of (insert political/religious fall-guy here).”

But here was the one that got me the most. And you’ll forgive me if I paraphrase.

“Well, why should I care about something that happened across the country? Bad things happen here all the time! You don’t see me sitting around getting all musty-eyed about bad things here, I’d be depressed all the time! Don’t forget, people get shot in (insert local community) and you don’t see people getting so upset when that happens! This is just because it’s a big media event that people care.”

No. And no. And no.

This isn’t about it being big media. Or local crime. This isn’t about modern cynicism or jaded attempts to distance one’s self from tragedy. This is about one thing only: the following sentence, which has followed me all day.

Last night, people walked into a movie theater to watch Batman save Gotham from evil and died in the darkness there.

It’s no secret today that this whole tragedy has caught me in a way I didn’t expect. Perhaps it’s because, growing up, theaters were a place to get away for a little while from the things that were bothering me. Perhaps its because, while those people were across the country dying in a theater, I was on my way home from my own midnight showing where I was lucky enough not to be menaced by a madman with a gun and where instead I had a lovely evening with my friends. Perhaps its because the idea that someone would go into a Batman movie with a gun feels oddly more horrifying and violating to me. But this entire event has me shaken and the answer of ‘why should I care, it’s not in my hometown’ has me worse than boggled. It has me horrified.

I’m a media girl, there’s no question about that. I believe in the power of cinema and the written word and the visual arts to bring light to places that are dark, to spin ideas into words that can spark understanding in the mind and hope in the heart. Special and dear to my heart are comic books and their heroes, a pantheon of characters that stand almost inviolate in their presentation of higher ideals and ethical idealism. There are few constants in this world as universal as the Big S on Superman’s chest and the fact that as long as there’s a Gotham being written in comics, there’s a masked man named Batman out to protect it’s people. Comics spawn larger than life guardians that, sadly, this world could use in the everyday. Yet generations have grown up inspired by their stories to try and be better, do better, in the image of their fictional heroes. Up on the silver screen, their stories have reached wider audiences than ever before with their messages of justice, equality and integrity.

And some madman with a gun violated that last night when he walked into that theater.

Maybe I’m an idealist. Maybe I put too much stock in comic book heroes and the impact they have on people. But I am not afraid to admit that I was one of those kids growing up with my head in a comic book. I went to see Superman in theaters and marveled at the idea that in these stories, people stood for truth and justice in a big way. I know that I read comic books and dreamed bigger because of the stories presented there. And in my mind, I keep thinking about a kid who might have gone last night to a theater to share in that idealism and who might not be returning home. There is a violation in the destruction of that illusion in the darkness, that safe social construct shared in a theater by those who come to enjoy the dreams on screen.

And it makes me sad and furious.

I have no problem feeling for people who are a thousand miles away who died for no reason last night. In my own city or across the world, they are gone and they were out doing something that celebrates our ability to dream in big pictures and big ways.

My wishes for a full recovery for those wounded and my thoughts to those whose lives were lost. I’m sorry someone couldn’t find it in themselves to share the dream.

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