I have been thinking about mass murder in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater on July 20th, and our (society’s) reactions to it.
I know it bothered my husband and me – it ate at me much of the day. It bothered our (adult) children, too. Our oldest son lives a time zone away, and because of a very busy schedule, didn’t hear about it until evening. But he called to talk about it when he heard. It bothered him quite a bit – more than he expected.
I was thinking about why we were bothered by it, and I think it disturbs us on many levels.
The first is obvious – we feel horror that lives were wantonly taken, and sadness for those who lost loved ones or were injured.
And then there is the nagging feeling at the bottom of it all. The “why?” feeling, and the feeling of fear we get when things are not in our control. We always want to know why something – especially something terrible – happens. What happens to cause someone to do something so heinous? We think that if we can figure out why, maybe we can keep something like this from happening again.
But often the reasons that someone resorts to mass murder are incomprehensible for the rest of us. Did something that any other person may have shrugged off, set them off? Or have they lost all empathy and compassion for others? Whatever the reason is, it is something that most of us will never, ever understand.
So we sit here, viewing the results with horror, never knowing why it all happened – and feel completely helpless to prevent it from happening again. And that, I think, is the part that will continue to bother us, long after the media coverage is over: The helplessness to understand why, and thus to prevent, the horror from happening again.