Trying to wrap my mind around the Aurora Shootings

Warning: Longish post and unique political viewpoint about to be shared.

Another week; another mass killing. Twelve killed, fifty-eight wounded in Aurora, Colorado. It’s getting to be a regular feature of the mass media’s daily presentation of what they think we need to know as informed citizens. Change the number of casualties, the location, the date, and the perpetrator and it almost gets to be a fill-in-the-blank exercise for the media. They’ve got their standard reporting procedures: whisk a reporter out to the scene for a live report; interview the local police; then as the victims names become known, get the personal interviews with survivors; relatives of the dead and wounded, maybe one or two wounded victims from their hospital beds; calls for gun control; politicians showing up at the scene for ingenuous photo ops; then endless analysis of “WHY?”

Maybe that’s the reason we as a society find these stories so riveting—because we all wonder WHY the tragedy happened. My short answer is: I don’t know. No one really knows. Maybe it’s because out of 7+billion unique individuals in this world, some of us are just plain defective. One or more wires got crossed in our brains either while we were gestating or sometime during our lives. As a result, those few individuals think, act, behave, reason, justify, and rationalize their behavior just a little differently than everyone else in the world—except for the handful of others who are similarly deranged.

Why does someone who appears normal on the surface decide one day he’s going to go down to the local cinema and kill as many people as he can, as fast as he can, then turn himself into the police and appear to show no remorse? Why do people commit suicide? Why do others decide to carefully select individuals (usually women) whom they feel deserve to die a violent and premature death, and then kill them one by one, methodically, according to some predetermined method, location, scenario, whatever you want to call it? Why did a few whack-job political leaders decide their world would be better off without one /race/ethnicity/religious group/political party and systematically set out to kill thousands, if not millions, of those people in the name of all they believed in? Why, why, why? We can’t find these people in advance and prevent them from killing. We can’t prevent them from obtaining weapons. We can’t stop random violence. Why do we try so hard?

Some try to stop random violence because they believe morality can be legislated. Some try because they believe stupidity can be outlawed. Some try because they believe foolishness can be prohibited. Some try because they believe sanity can be mandated. Unfortunately, all humans are not completely rational or sane. All of us have done stupid things once in a while. Most survive. It’s illustrates the random nature of life. Why does one person survive a head-on car collision and the person next to her dies? Why does society waste so much time fighting battles that are impossible to win? The root cause of all those losing fights seems to me to be trying to prevent all deaths. Society wants no one to die from disease, accidents, violence, natural disasters, or stupid, foolish behavior. Why, why, why? Maybe preventing all deaths is not as noble a cause as it seems to be. Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same act repeatedly and expecting different results. Maybe society is insane. Maybe enriching our lives while we live is the more noble cause than fighting a losing battle against death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 69,000 people die in the US each day—mostly from disease and accidents. In 2008, 16,799 people were victims of homicide. That’s about 47 per day out of those 69,000 per day. Yet we as a society only “notice” the mass homicides. Why the uproar over only those? Isn’t one death the same as another? Someone dies, family and friends experience a loss, most grieve over that loss. Why are those 68,953 deaths that occurred on the same day as 47 homicides less important; less newsworthy?

One fellow human being’s suffering diminishes each of us because we are reminded in some small way that life is not permanent on Earth, and with death comes personal sorrow and pain, maybe chaos and catastrophe. How can I justify feeling outrage, anger, shock, pain, sorrow for those 47 each day, or those 12 in Aurora, or those 13 at Columbine, or the Virginia Tech or University of Texas mass killings, or the 78 or so killed in Norway last year, or the 3000+ killed in the 9/11 tragedy; but not feel an equal amount of those emotions for all the others who died without all the publicity?

Perhaps because if we directly grieved over every single death each day, we’d never do anything but grieve. So we wait for the few “big ones” every year and vent our grief on those particular days. Maybe all we should do is act like the surviving wildebeests, or antelope, or zebras, or herring, or bison, or sheep, or any other large group of congregating animals that routinely sees one of their own sacrificed to predators as the price paid for most of the group being allowed to survive and produce a next generation: Be glad that it wasn’t us, feel remorse, grief, sadness for those who were “sacrificed”, and go about our lives.

What do you think?

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