I remember the morning of the Columbine shootings–can you ever really forget… Running down to get my morning paper at the curb, reading the story in horror as I walked back up the drive, blinking back tears as I walked back in the house, not wanting my children to see, taking them to school and walking them in, gripping their hands a little too tightly, other parents walking in with us, doing the same thing. And now, another young man, a boy really, white (the sex and race of the most empowered in our country), in another Denver suburb, another senseless shooting spree. But in a way, in an awful way, it does make sense…
In the coming days, as we learn more about the young man who went on a killing spree in a Colorado theater, a lot of questions will be asked about what caused his actions. But is it really so hard to understand?
Our children now grow up in a world where it is impossible to turn on the television at any minute of the day and not find a show about people solving their problems by killing each other. They grow up in a world where the military is given free rein to roam our school lunchrooms extolling the virtues of the armed forces. They are told that we must defend ourselves against ‘the enemy’. They grow up in a world where guns are a god given right but enough food, housing, jobs and healthcare can prove hard to come by.
This young man had no trouble amassing a veritable arsenal,
Holmes was apprehended within minutes of the 12:39 a.m. shooting at his car behind the theater, where police found him in full riot gear and carrying three weapons, including a AR-15 assault rifle, which can hold upwards of 100 rounds, a Remington 12 gauge shot gun, and a .40 Glock handgun. A fourth handgun was found in the vehicle. Agents from the federal bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms are tracing the weapons.
But he had a right to bear arms…and politicians on both sides of the aisle could not even wait 24 hours to proclaim that this would not precipitate a change in our gun laws.
If this had happened in Pakistan or Indonesia or in Afghanistan or Iraq, we would call it terrorism and send in drones and troops and respond in vengeance without a thought of how that perpetuates the cycle. We don’t even blink when even our own citizens become collateral damage in these attacks.
But when an American kid, a boy, a white boy, goes on a shooting spree in the suburbs, we recoil from calling it out for what it is (although I’ve no doubt our narrative about this would be quite different if it was an Hispanic or Black man). What after all would that say about us and our way of life? And suffice to say, retaliating by bombing a suburb would not play well in Peoria.
In this, we are expected to be sedated by such reassurances, to ignore the ever-growing list of such “lone wolves,”and to reject a much wider definition of terrorism, no matter how much the reality of shooting after shooting after shooting screams at us to accept it.
But with bodies strewn across an Aurora movie theater and a nation clearly terrorized, we must ask: what is terrorism, if it is not a man in a riot mask and bullet-proof vest, armed with tear gas canisters and weapons, meticulously executing a military-style assault on a crowded movie theater?
Indeed, but fighting this very real terrorism requires us to look deep inside and re-examine the truth of the reality we’ve created. And that I fear we cannot do.