A young man walks into a movie theater with guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition. He blasts the place and unloads on the people in it. Most of us watch from afar. We call it horrifying. We call it senseless.
It is an awful tragedy. Many are left in shock. Many people want answers. Many people want scapegoats.
Some condemn the gun industry. Blaming the killing spree on the ease of acquiring firearms…the seemingly otherwise useless, semi-automatic firearms. Others point towards violence in movies. No doubt, with the Joker reference coming from the accused’s mouth, this will be a talk show conversation for some time. I’m sure once the police get through searching his apartment, we will also be able to point to violence in music and violence in video games…the blame falling on creators of filth. ‘I bet he’s on anti-depressants’ my wife says. Setting herself up for the future I-told-you-so. And maybe he was. I’m sure if he ate Cheerios, someone would make the link that the Columbine shooters liked Cheerios as well. And maybe there is something there.
There are a lot of things to blame this on. Maybe some with a bit of merit. But is there a chance for any real change with respect to any of those things? Or even if there was change, do you think it would help? You think next summer, only G rated movies will be playing in theaters? Do you even think that would have any effect on curtailing violence in this world? You think that another label on a video game is going to help? You think if gun sales are stopped, this kid wouldn’t figure out that he could make a bomb from items found in his local grocery store?
You want the reason? You want to know why? You want to find the blame?
There are successful people in this world and there are failures. There are people with a lot of money and there are people with no money. There are cool kids in school and kids that aren’t considered cool. There are people, good people, who are wronged and are left with nothing to show for it. They are left on the bottom of this world. Under the foot of someone with more. With a lot more. And there are immoral people, who do the wronging, that sit on top of the world, enjoying the finest things it has to offer.
Those differences create emotions.
Disappointment. Bitterness. Jealousy. Anger. That self-loathing that follows failure, which some people just can’t escape. There are piles of additional horrible feelings that people encounter every day. And the spiral down towards the bottom is dizzying, making the reading of a moral compass nearly impossible.
And sadly, there is this general lack of compassion towards people feeling such emotions. It’s not that we knowingly kick people when they are down. It’s just that we all have our own lives to deal with. We don’t consider them.
I find it interesting how we dehumanize ‘terrorists’, as mindless murderers who want nothing other than anarchy and death and chaos. The label ‘terrorist’ in and of itself is indicative of how we don’t understand their plight. Terrorists don’t think of themselves as terrorists. They call themselves freedom fighters. Think about how different those two labels are. Whether we agree with them or nor, whether true or not, these people feel like they were wronged in this world. And they are angry. They are fighting a war of revenge. While we consider them senseless.
The same way that when we see this happen in Colorado, we think it’s senseless. But what we consider senseless, makes perfect sense to the person doing it. This kid, apparently planned this for months. Take away the atrocity for a second, if you can. Think about how much pain someone must be in to do something like this. Think of how wronged this kid must have felt. How unfortunate. How destitute. How hopeless.
This is not to excuse this act in any way…obviously. I don’t need to elaborate on how inexcusable this was.
But I do believe that we can learn a lesson here. And the lesson is NOT that we are missing a warning message before every movie, saying that you shouldn’t copy violent acts. That isn’t going to do anything.
The lesson is that people are in pain in this world. And you don’t have to react to their response to that pain, which oftentimes appears in some form of anger and bitterness and resentment, with your own anger and bitterness and resentment. You can be bigger than that. You can be bigger than them. You have the ability to add to the positivity in this world. You don’t need to pile-on with more negativity. The more you see someone act out as a response to their pain, the nicer you should be. Be nicer than they are mean. Be more understanding. More compassionate. Understand the pain people are in. Understand that you are in that same pain sometimes. How do you want to be treated when you are feeling your worst?
Offer them kindness in return. Offer them your heart. Offer them your soul. Let them feel the warmth of all that is good in this world. Embody that warmth.
That warmth can ease someone’s pain.
I don’t think I personally know anyone from that town. I definitely didn’t know the accused shooter. I could have been significantly nicer to everyone I encountered over the last year, and I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have made a difference. But maybe, just maybe, I can make a difference to someone that I do touch. Maybe, some potential future tragedy can be avoided. Not by laws, not by stickers, not by public service announcements, but by love, and caring, and compassion.
Maybe it’s naïve. Maybe it’s too idealistic. That’s OK. Nothing I do right now is going to undo what happened. So, I am going to respond to this tragedy by trying to be a better person. By trying to be a better influence. If nothing else, this will benefit the world. A world that I believe could use an injection of positivity right now.
I probably don’t need to say it, but the people affected by the tragedy in Aurora, both the fallen and the not, are in my prayers.