I wish I could say that I was surprised when my sister told me this morning that a crazed gunman had opened fire into a crowd of theater-goers in Colorado. I still wasn’t surprised when she told me he was a PhD student, and less impressed when I heard he imagined himself the real life Joker and not only dressed the part, but booby-trapped his apartment as a challenge to local police.
My lifetime has been marked by some of the most heinous killings this country has seen, not because of how many people were killed but by how callous and senseless the killings were. Each time the murder is apprehended, Columbine, Oklahoma City, Virginia Tech, Trayvon, Darius, and now Colorado we are faced with an intelligent and highly out of touch character who is an excellent example of society’s creation and how little human life means to the average citizen.
I’m not about to blame gangster rap culture, or satanic cults, loud aggressive rock music, or violent video games. While those things do affect people, there are children all over this country exposed to all these things and have yet to kill someone. The real issue is that most of us just aren’t real to one another anymore. That’s how you get death threats to someone you don’t know based on their sexuality, that’s how you bully a child to suicide over the internet because you are bored, that’s how you turned reality into a video game version of your favorite Batman movie. This emphasis on the greatness of our individual struggle is eroding our sense of a collective humanity, at the base of which should be the sanctity of human life.
When I get angry at someone and want to lash out, I think of how I might hurt their feelings, how my words might affect them, whether this interaction will be that interaction that changes the way they relate to women, minorities, immigrants; I consider all of that, but people like me are the minority.
We are building a callous society that is in constant contempt of anyone who is not them, like them, or doesn’t agree with them and there is no speech, no social structure or system in place to counter it. As a result men like Holmes, Zimmerman, and Spooner kill people and we take a moment to be surprised and continue doing what we were doing before. Something has to give.
We need to realize that these are creatures of the society we live in and are actively creating and if we want this to stop we have to be more active in a real way. I am as guilty as others for espousing activist rhetoric without any activism, but its time to step away from the computer, from the forum, from the blog and do the little things than can swing the pendulum the other direction. At some point we have to turn theory into practice. How much longer do we want to wait?