I was in college learning how to be a high school English teacher when the tragic shootings occurred at Colombine High School. Suddenly, the world I would be teaching in changed. My students would never know a world without planned lock-down drills. And so many years have passed that my students now see these drills as tedious, pointless, believing that these drills have nothing to do with them and that they are not meant to save their lives in case of a similar event. My students also know nothing about those shootings. When I mention them in class now I get blank stares. These teenagers were toddlers when it happened. In a couple years, my students will not have even been alive when it happened. The names Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold mean nothing to them. But their actions are back in the news as the news pundits are now mistakingly making connections between two tragedies that just happened to take place in two different Denver suburbs twenty minutes away from each other.
In 1999 the music and video game industry came under heavy fire (no pun intended) over the increasingly common glorification of violence in the entertainment industry. There were calls for censorship, more warning labels, and parent groups had "proof" of the serious harm that could come from overexposure to violent media. Discussion increased concerning the desensitization towards violence of America's youth. And let's be honest, kids today can handle a lot more violence on TV, in movies, and in their video games than their parents and grandparents could. They see a lot more and they see it from an earlier age. But I have to challenge the idea that "these kids today" are not sensitive to REAL violence. The very same former students of mine who were most likely lining up long before midnight to see The Dark Knight Rises squirmed, looked away, sometimes cried, and were frequently angered when we did our unit on the Holocaust and genocide following our study of Elie Wiesel's Night. Real violence shocks them. Real violence angers them. They know the difference between fiction and reality. To be honest, I have enjoyed the Batman reboot, not just for the stunning visual and special effects, but for the stellar acting and superb storytelling. And those who have watched the movies and gotten past the big explosions know that Christopher Nolan has dug deep into the human psyche and soul. Heath Ledger's award winning performance as the Joker brilliantly looked into the nature of evil in a sinful world. The first two films have not only entertained, but have forced me to think, something that I find necessary for a film to be considered good. And just like 13 years ago, the media almost immediately went to discussion of the violence in the film, asking if the gunman was possibly acting out a scene from the beginning of the movie.
Blame was also placed on the gun lobby. People asked how two Colorado teenagers were able to get their hands on the arsenal used on their victims. Easterners lacking in knowledge of Western culture had much to say about the need for stricter gun control, but those of us who know better were not surprised by how easily Harris and Klebold got guns. Growing up my family lived in Wyoming for five years. This was after spending eight years in Detroit, living between 7 and 8 Mile, a city where violence is an unfortunate fact of life. When I was in high school it was not uncommon for many of my Wyoming classmates to skip school during hunting season, several of them hunting with their own guns, and many going hunting without "adult" supervision. Once again we have a Colorado shooting and it did not take long for the media to start discussing gun control. I don't pretend to have answers to gun control. There are weapons that no one should have access to, but I don't feel the need to tell people that they cannot have guns in their homes for either protection or hunting, I just don't want them in my house. But people will use this to show, once again, the evils of gun ownership.
The events early this morning in Aurora, Colorado were and are tragic. My heart and prayers go out to those still in the hospitals and those family members and friends mourning the deaths of loved ones. I myself cannot imagine the hurt and anger that I would feel if my son or daughter or sister-in-law (who lives near there) or one of my many Denver area friends had been at that midnight showing. But let's stop the blame game right here and now. It is not the fault of movies, music, or the gun lobby. This was a lone, deranged individual. The news media will continue to do what they are good at. They will bring in psychologists, psychiatrists, eye witnesses, members of the police force, and analyze this event until everyone has a full understanding of what exactly happened and what caused this man to do what he did. But let's leave the victims and witnesses alone. Let's allow these young people, who will NEVER be able to get this experience out of their heads to get the necessary counseling from parents, pastors, and counselors. Let's learn from this event as we always should. But please, let's get out of the blame game. The only people it benefits are the talking heads of both the liberal AND the conservative media.