As early reports come in from Aurora, Colorado – and let’s remember early reports often turn out to be less than accurate once the cloud of confusion clears* – I’m experiencing the same feelings of dread and helplessness many in Chicago have over the past few months.
I got up for a run this morning and checked Twitter. A number of people dead in Colorado, tens of people wounded. All due to a gunman who shot them during a midnight movie screening for no discernible reason.
“I’m going to go back to bed,” I thought.
The news of random violence due to guns has been almost overpowering this summer, at least in Chicago. Now here was one more example of mass murder and, with it, the compulsion to hide. As with the “point-em-out-knock-em-out killing of Delfino Mora earlier this week, there seemed no way to stay safe.
Then I thought of all the people who can’t hide from violence. The people for whom violence is not just something they see on the news and not just a sudden, inexplicable event out of nowhere but a daily occurrence brought on by poverty, miseducation, lack of mental and physical health systems…so many symptoms.
And then I felt guilty for feeling the least bit put-upon by any of this. I’m lucky enough to live a life without those daily symptoms; the illness of violence doesn’t pervade my immediate world. Do I feel its indirect effects? Everyone in Chicago does. Or should. The biggest lie we tell ourselves is violence in “those neighborhoods” can’t reach us. Of course, that’s what allows it to spread.
So, knowing this, I’m back to wondering what I can do beyond reading and trying to understand it all. The most important thing seems to be to face it. To avoid the easy outrage and look beyond the first reports, the knee-jerk explanations that often turn political.
If nothing else, it seems the least I can do.
* The book Columbine by Dave Cullen is a great examination of how our efforts to make sense of senseless violence in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy often lead us to make snap judgments. (About “goth kids” or a “Trenchcoat Mafia” in this case. And keep in mind this was years before social media lent more speed to early reports.)