The Movie Massacre
© 2012, Vicki Hinze
I wrote this on the morning of the massacre. Like everyone else, I was emotional, so I withheld releasing it until now. It was, I thought, prudent to wait for facts. Prudent to give time for the truth to surface. Prudent to not rush to judgment but to give events time to sort out and emotional reactions to them time to settle.
When something happens like the Movie Massacre, we all are impacted. Some are in shock, some grieving, some stunned and overwhelmed with a need to pull loved ones close, some angry at someone fame-seeking being willing to destroy so many others lives.
The closer one is personally involved, the more severe the impact. Loved ones died. Families were changed forever, devastated and broken. Lives were taken, and for those left behind, altered forever. The pain and grief and mourning are unrelenting, and the one question that penetrates the inevitable shock is why? Why, why, why?
The hardest part to accept is that there is no why. We seek to understand and yet we do not. It is normal and natural then to seek the peace that passes understanding. That comes in spite of not understanding. The peace we find in that which is bigger than us who does understand.
It goes without saying that our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the families. We say and mean it. But that barely scratches the surface of the maelstrom of feelings that such a senseless tragedy conjures in us all. We offer to do anything we can to give those directly involved what they need. And we do it knowing that no matter what we give or do, the one thing that will mend their battered hearts is the return of their loved ones, the return of that which they personally lost that has forever altered them and their lives, and that we can not provide.
We mourn and grieve with them, for them, and the maelstrom ripples outward. We mourn and grieve for ourselves, and for our loved ones. We mourn and grieve that our innocent children are exposed to and touched by this type of thing when everything in us desires to shield and protect them from all harm. We mourn and grieve that this type of thing happens in our town, our city, our nation, our world. We mourn and grieve.
Some of us see this event and get stuck in the event itself. Reliving it over and over. When and where we were when we heard news of it the first time. What we felt and thought and our emotional reaction. Some are so focused on the horror of the incident that they can’t move or think beyond that initial moment to anything that came after it. Some will never recall the time or events immediately following that fateful moment.
We all process shock differently and react to crises differently. We naturally try to figure out why it happened—and doing what we can toward that end is important. It helps us to avoid similar future crises.
Yesterday, I heard every conceivable emotional reaction. Stunned, outraged, terrified, sad, and angry. I also heard attempts to politicize and advocate for personal preferences that could be co-opted to further agendas. These attempts were deliberate and lacked a level of compassion and respect that was unacceptable. The season was for mourning and grieving, not for pursuing agendas of any kind, and that some would pursue speaks to a collective confusion in decorum and personal behavior that should concern us all.
Those more distant from the event will process and adjust more quickly than those directly involved. The distant will see and suffer with the victims and all those who loved them, but they’ll also see the others. Those who were different kinds of victims and what happened with them next. I’m referring to those who escaped death and severe injury in the incident itself.
Those secondary victims, if you will, suffered the event and all that comes with it, but discovered how they would react in this type of emergency situation. They discovered whether they were all about saving themselves, or saving others and themselves. They looked into the face of their darkest nights and saw reflected their deepest selves, their own character.
Story upon story is coming out about people escaping from the theater who put others’ safety before their own. Who delayed their own escape to help others who needed it, who paused or stayed to comfort strangers, to shield others younger and weaker or beloved with their own bodies. Some were quite young and yet when a higher calling presented itself, they answered in ways that can only be respected and admired. In ways the untested can only hope that they would react. As the day wore on yesterday, more stories emerged of those who met the hero within and those who shunned that hero and were feeling the weight of doing so.
In the days and months ahead, no doubt there will be much self-reflection on these discoveries, and I pray that these people will be gentle with themselves and take what they learned and apply it for their greater good, whatever they innately know it to be. That, by grace, is the path to that peace that passes understanding.
For those more distant, this event makes you want to hold your loved ones extra close, to shield and protect them. Yet you can’t live in a world of fear and become paralyzed by it.
I thought about this a lot yesterday and learned a lesson from my daughter. Earlier this summer my eldest angel was out in the boat and saw a shark. On subsequent outings, she no longer wanted to swim in the water. My daughter told her that we couldn’t live our lives afraid. The child now swims and enjoys the water while keeping watch for what’s around her. Yesterday afternoon, this same daughter took my angels to a movie.
Fear confronted is fear diminished.
That is the lesson. And it harkened me back emotionally to the attacks on 9/11. Fear is normal and, if managed, healthy. But if you let it run unchecked, it will paralyze you and rob you of life.
Fear itself isn’t evil or good. Like many things, it is both. It can harm or protect, and which it does depends on the person.
The stories about the man who inflicted this tragedy—I refuse to speak his name since I am convinced fame is what he sought—are swirling. Bits and pieces of his life are known and this morning, I heard there’s an insanity defense coming.
It’s early yet, but I have to say that doesn’t work for me. While perpetrating a tragedy of this nature and considering yourself a character in a fictional film is insane, it doesn’t mean you’re truly insane. It does mean that when you couple trashed out nonsense you put into your mind with drugs, you get out what you’ve put in. Lesson: guard your mind.
Extreme lengths were gone to by this individual to protect himself—all the tactical protective gear: he didn’t want to die. He wanted to survive this while he felt perfectly fine killing many, many others. That took preparation and planning. It took clear thought. It took time–months. He didn’t snap. He planned and prepared. That’s not insane, it’s evil.
Call it what it is. Evil.
He was methodical in purchasing weapons at different stores in different areas. That took time. Not a snap judgment. He decided what to do, created a plan for doing it, went to each different area to each different store and did it. He acquired all his weapons and ammo and tactical gear and all the essentials needed to do what he did in trip-wiring his apartment with unknown “liquids” which leave authorities with no choice but to deem them chemical. No simple snap judgment, this. No, for the complex and sophisticated treatment, intense detail and management of the processes were required. Insane? On a level, yes. But legally? When taking on the personae of the joker? Doubtful. Actually, it strikes me more like an excuse to behave badly.
I don’t know why this happened. I don’t know what made this joker want fame so much that he was willing to destroy and devastate others to get it. I do note that he went to great lengths to make sure that he survived it so he could hear all about the fame he’d generated. And what comes to mind is that his actions were cowardly, cruel and malicious. To his victims, to his family, to himself. To everyone impacted by his actions. His lack of respect for all those others is evident, and when more details emerge, we’ll no doubt learn of all the seemingly little events that led up to this big event.
One so self-absorbed and disrespectful just doesn’t wake up one day and decide to cause calamity. Most often, they’ve caused minor incidents over and over and over. (Heads up lesson, parents. That’s a big clue for you to handle the little things so they don’t become big things.)
He had family—wasn’t facing the world standing alone. He was an honor student and had college—something many would love to have but lack the opportunity. He withdrew from med school and enrolled in a Ph.D. program—again, an opportunities many would love to have but just don’t. And he chooses to stoke up on Vicodin and make his joker fantasy into a self-indulgent reality, protecting himself and becoming others’ nightmares?
What will come of him legally, I have no clue. But I wouldn’t be quick to say the man snapped his crackers or went off his rocker. Initial evidence doesn’t support it and it’s an insult to those poor souls who really do snap and crack. What is supported is that he sought fame and found it at the expense of others. As for the rest, we’ll see.
So we wait, and yet the wisdom gleaned from the incident doesn’t have to wait. We can begin gathering it from the moment of the event.
If we let only evil into our lives, then that’s what we’ll get out of our lives. We must guard our minds as much as our bodies. Fill ourselves–body, mind and spirit–with good things, respectful things, things that inspire the least and worst inside us to rise higher and embrace the best inside us.
Share that best in us with our children and nurture it. If we plant good seeds, we harvest good crops.
Lastly, be gentle with yourself and others now. Let your compassion rise and be your personal filter. Looking at someone from the outside doesn’t tell you where that person is inside. And today, many are fragile. Handle with care.