The dark night rises

by Lorin Michel Sunday, July 22, 2012 11:33 PM

The news for the past two days has been filled with Aurora, Colorado and rightly so. Each time I wake up to news like this blaring across my computer screen – BREAKING NEWS – my heart breaks anew. It happened many years ago when Challenger exploded upon ascent – Roger, go at throttle up – though we weren’t working on computers then. Someone came into my office in Phoenix and said the space shuttle had just blown up. I don’t know that any of us knew the shuttle was even scheduled to launch that day. We had become complacent about space travel. That was a man-made tragedy but not a planned one. It somehow makes it easier to bear. And harder.

We see devastation around the world and here within our own shores. Hurricanes, earthquakes, wild fires, tsunamis. These events take lives, too, sometimes hundreds of thousands of lives, but not on purpose, with the possible exception of fires caused by arson. We are capable of such greatness, and yet…

When news broke of the shooting at Columbine – via radio and television – we were numbed. It was 1999 and we could watch it on both the TV and the Internet. Twelve students and one teacher were murdered by two high school boys that day.

September 11, 2001 was a glorious day across the country until mad men hijacked airplanes and killed more than 3000 people. I’ll never forget watching those events unfold – Here’s what we know – and feeling the terror. It was both individual and national.

Thirty-two people were killed and 17 more were wounded in 2007 at Virginia Tech. Thirteen were killed and 29 were wounded on a beautiful fall day in 2009 at Fort Hood, the country’s most populated military base. We watched it all on the Internet, as Breaking News gave way to more Breaking News.

On a Saturday morning in January 2011, a town hall-type event was being held in a Safeway parking lot in Tucson, Arizona when a man opened fire, wounding 19 people including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Six died. We got a text message from Bobbi that morning – There’s been a shooting in Tucson – and we immediately reached for the remote. There was our beloved Tucson, under the national glare because of an impossible event. We called Justin, who was there at the time, knowing he was nowhere near but because we had to make sure. We woke him up.

We were horrified, afraid, and yet felt as if we were somehow becoming immune to it all, a fact reinforced in July of last year when 77 people were killed in Norway, 69 at a summer camp for teens. We wanted to shout, to scream – WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? – but of course we didn’t. We held it in and whispered those same words, because no one hears; nothing changes.

In 2012, a football coach at one of the most prolific colleges in the country was found guilty of systematically raping children, convicted on 45 of 48 charges. And on Friday morning, all of the news sites, NBCNews.com, CNN.com, WashingtonPost, NYTimes, and others were bursting with the blood-red banner, again. Breaking News. 12 dead, dozens wounded in shooting at midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. Breaking News. Broken lives.

I wonder. How do some of us become weapons of mass destruction? I wonder if people who are capable of such disregard for their fellow human beings know this from an early age, or if something in them suddenly snaps and they become monsters. There’s every indication of both. I wonder what makes a person become that way, what is inside them that makes it ok to kill people in a school, on a base, at work, at camp or in a darkened movie theatre at midnight while a fictional battle between the hero and villain rages on screen. 

This is the kind of breaking news that breaks my heart, breaks all of our hearts. Or at least most of our hearts. Those who don’t find this story tragic, well, those are people I don’t want to know. People who I would worry – and do – greatly about.

I may be naïve but I don’t believe we are born to kill one another and yet it’s surprising how many do just that. Last year in this country alone, 31,593 people died from gun violence; more than 12,000 of them were murdered. These statistics according to the Brady Center. James Brady was shot in the head in 1981 when he was press secretary for then president Ronald Reagan. He and his wife have been fierce advocates for gun control ever since.

Is there any good that can come of this? I wonder about that, too. Perhaps, someday.

And on that morning, when from the dark night rises beautiful sunshine, we will welcome a new day. A day to celebrate, a day to embrace each other, a day to welcome one another with open arms and hearts. A day when there is no Breaking News of tragedy, but rather only stories of happiness and joy. Stories of living it out loud.

Comments (7) -

7/23/2012 1:12:45 PM #

Stories of living it out loud must unfortunately accompany stories of killing it out loud. That is what occurs when reflecting on the tragedies you mention. Notice how they all occur in public? Notice the calculation of it? Notice how in order to celebrate we need to possess and cultivate “open arms and hearts”? To that I’d like to add that an open mind is necessary as well. However, human history has shown how tenuous and difficult achieving an open mind can be. The human brain is the most complex living organ known and is capable of the entire spectrum of human acts. When we ask why these “mad men” are capable of killing it out loud, the answer must inevitably be, “Because they can under the right set of complex conditions, usually long historically and culturally in the making.” Another answer, much simpler, might also be, “Because they are mentally ill.” Like any part of the body, brains can get sick.

Some people become “mad” through and because of willing religious delusion. The men who flew planes into the WTC absolutley did it, and worse justified their acts, because of their religious faith, shouting repeatedly, “God is Great!” moments before impact. The material promise of martydom and 72 vigins in paradise plainly reveals the manmade quality of it all. (It’s interesting to note that these madmen conveniently seem to forget that with 72 virgins come 72 mothers-in-law. So much for having any free alone-time with your concubine, fellas…)

Those who know me might now bristle, as they often have, with my seemingly incessant tendency to connect deluded religious faith thinking with killing it out loud. I think one of the reasons for this, despite my unrelenting and rightful stridency, is that it is quite difficult for many to see the underlying connections and conditions between the deluded religious faith-based thinking human beings are overwhelmingly capable of and the horrific behavior that often ensues as a result. Perhaps our Aurora coward is just mentally ill. Then again, let’s wait to see if anything sinisterly religious has been operating in his life. A neuroscience doctoral candidate drop-out? Go figure…

The “prayer vigil” in Colorado, while genuinely well meant to comfort the community, disturbed me in some ways. I heard a pastor marvel at how six members of his congregation who were in the movie theater last Friday morning survived the massacre. He talked of how “the grace of God” spared so-and-so in that theater of horror. And as I listened to this idea, I could only wonder what it may have been like to be the father of one of the victims to hear this. Was there a father asking himself, “So, what are you saying, pastor? God’s grace saved those people’s lives but not my daughter’s? My daughter didn’t receive or deserve the same grace? My daughter was just SIX-FREAKIN’-YEARS-OLD!”

The dark night really lowers.

In many cases while investigating those who “kill it out loud”, we discover their susceptibilty or gullibility toward delusional thinking. We say to ourselves, “Ah! That must be it! He’s clearly out of his mind.” Or money? Never mind that, he’s off to the land of “Not guilty by reason of insanity”. He’s insane? Yet I can watch and listen to on TV hundreds of human beings gather and talk to their made-up creator and refer the whole entire matter up and away from themselves. It comforts them apparently. Maybe it comforted the shooter to tell the police he was “The Joker”? Some joke.

Well, none of it comforts me. It scares and worries me, too, Lorin. It shows me, YET AGAIN, how completely fragile and powerful the human mind can be. Anyone, including me, is capable of losing all or partial sense of reality. There is no innoculation to being capable of “killing it out loud” just as there is no innoculation to living it out loud. Some things are simply just unforgivable. I can “move forward” a lot more easily by not forgiving those who kill it out loud. Recover? Yes, but over a long period of time.

Maybe. Hopefully. My heart goes out to the victims, their family, friends and communities. But my compassion and concern dearly comes from me alone and that will have to do, as I’m not about to invoke anything unrealistic from above; that, for me at least, would be entirely insulting to a six year old girl.

Fred United States

7/23/2012 8:05:22 PM #

Interesting to me, Lorin, tonight now and possibly rather telling, to notice how little (no other yet) commentary, thus far today, has happened on this particularly wonderful blog of yours! Yet, II do know the feeling of non-reactionary silence now, personally.

Still, I'll keep "listening" and "reading" here anyway, quietly, as though I do when listening to my short-wave radio in bed every night, along with listening to many other things.

Desert Solitaire in Aurora, Colorado, too.


Fred United States

7/23/2012 10:42:21 PM #

Fred,

Your thoughts are so interesting. Profound, insightful, scary in their accuracy. Like you, I am not big on ascribing religious meaning to good or to bad. I've long wondered about the people who have children in the hospital. One dies while the other is saved. The parents of the saved often say, understandably, that god answered their prayers. I'm always left wondering why god was so selective. Surely the other parents prayed just as hard.

It's all inconceivable to me. Incomprehensible. And sad. But then again, I'm not religious so it is always hard for me to see things from that viewpoint, try as I might, and I admit, I often don't try because it serves me little. It serves me not at all.

The victims of this particular horror ranged in age from 6 to 51. While the six year old was undoubtedly there simply to sleep through a movie she was too young to see, the others were there for that proud American tradition of going to the movies. Now even that innocence has been encroached. Will anyone ever go to the movies again without wondering about that door just off to the right of the movie screen, the one under the exit sign? Does anyone ever board an airplane without... wondering?

It boggles the mind. It stills the heart.

I'm so blessed to have wonderful people in my life; wonderful readers and commenters on this blog. I thank you for your comments. Know that I read and appreciate every one.

Be well, my desert solitaire friend.

Lorin United States

7/24/2012 1:33:44 AM #

Well now, the solitary desert solitaire is not so alone in your kind reply here, and I sincerely thank you.

I detect now, more than ever now, you and your husband are dog lovers.
I do have my bear. And I do bless, [b]"Dog bless"[/b] those poor human victims in Colorado.



Fred United States

7/24/2012 1:52:39 AM #

And my comments here weren't censored (removed) by you, Lorin, on your blog here! YAY!!!

The Constitition's First Amendment of "Freedom of Speech", without censorship on FB, still exists somewhere, folks. I rest at ease now, somewhat.....

Fred United States

7/25/2012 1:17:54 PM #

Just now read your blog post Lorin. I actually waited to read it, I knew it would be especially profound and wanted to turn to it when I wasn't rushed. You captured some of my thoughts exactly. I mean, who can really understand an act like this? Probably not even the shooter.
I read Fred's comment too, and I share his bewilderment at turning to an omnipotent Being for a very earth bound explanation of events like this. I guess I tune out when people invoke God to address various disasters. By the "grace of God" some were spared, but if there is a God with that power why save some and not others? Why let it happen at all? When people hit those unanswerable questions and there is a chink in that explanation, the usual fall back position is: "there is a bigger plan we don't know about... God's will." You know... "mysterious ways", well emulating a Batman cartoon character and killing a theater full of people is mysterious all right. So people twist themselves inside out searching on how to make sense of the senseless, and some look to a Higher Power for a reason.
I don't agree with that line of thinking, but I also feel that any kind of comfort available to the families of the victims is welcome, let them take their little bits of peace where they can find it.

Diane Doyle United States

7/25/2012 11:35:53 PM #

Diane,

I completely agree with you. As I said, I'm not at all religious and don't look to make god responsible for good or bad. But like you, if the families of the victims can find some solace in their god, then who are we to say otherwise? It is their choice. I only wish that some of those in the religious community would be as charitable to the choices that people like us make.

Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I so appreciate it.

Lorin

Lorin United States

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