By Kathi Bliss
For the past several days, I have been periodically (every hour or so) reading the website for the Aurora, Colo., Sentinel newspaper. Like much of the rest of the country – I suspect – I have an almost obsessive fascination with what is being called the “Batman Massacre.”
As a journalist, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude that I don’t have to cover anything like that. I honestly don’t know how the men and women at the Sentinel are doing it; I’m pretty sure that if push came right down to shove…I couldn’t do what they’re doing.
Still, I’m reading just about everything about Aurora, about James Holmes, and about the shootings that I can lay my fingers or my eyes on. I’ve come across some interesting information, but I haven’t found anything yet that makes any of all of it make sense.
I expected, when I woke up to the breaking news on Friday morning, that it would only be a matter of moments before debate sparked about gun control, about violence in movies… even about politics. That happened, of course, just as I expected it would.
What I didn’t expect – at least what I didn’t expect to happen as quickly as it did – were the lawsuits. By noon on Tuesday, at least one survivor had already filed suit against the theater where the massacre occurred, against the production company that made the film, and against any and all doctors that Holmes might be seeing for whatever treasure-trove of insanity he suffers.
What I didn’t notice in that lawsuit, however, were any fingers pointed at Holmes himself. And honestly… he is the Alpha and the Omega of where responsibility for this tragedy should lie.
I ran across an article on GlobalGrind.com, written a man named Anthony Armao, who summed it up pretty succinctly. Armao wrote, “We mustn’t live in fear and let those like James Holmes dictate what our world should look like. If the jury of peers is found to hold Warner Bros. to blame, James Holmes wins. And we shouldn’t want to live in a world where he wins.”
Armao is absolutely right. When we force responsibility for James Holmes’s actions upon anyone else, we allow him to deny responsibility for his own actions. If he’s able to escape even a moment of culpability for what he’s done… he wins.
It’s good to talk about what happened, and what might have gone wrong; it’s right to think about what could have been done differently, or how someone should have seen this coming. But the simple truth is just this: at the end of the day, no one could have possibly seen this coming. Because at the end of the day, who can possibly predict insanity at this depth and breadth? Who can possibly know what really goes on in the mind of another human being?
I can’t pretend to know the sheer mass of suffering the survivors of this massacre are going through. I don’t really want to, and I pray that I’ll never be in a position where I have to understand it.
For that reason and that reason alone, I hope that the studio and the theater settle with the people that sue. I imagine, just out of guilt and sympathy, they will. But I wonder what message it sends if they do.
By settling a lawsuit like this, is the studio saying, “We should make movies that are less violent?” Is the theater saying, “We should have known that a lunatic was going to buy a ticket, let himself out the back door and come back in with guns blazing?”
Are we prepared to let anyone say, “James Holmes isn’t the only one responsible for this. We’re responsible, too?”
Millions of people have seen the Batman trilogy. Thousands have gone in and out the door of the Century 16. And only one picked up smoke bombs, a suit of body armor and a cache of weapons and started firing.
Only one. That one person is the only guy who can honestly be held responsible for what happened.
The guns didn’t pull their own triggers. The movie didn’t make him do it. The theater didn’t help him plan it. And every second we spend discussing reasons why someone else shares responsibility, it is one more second that James Holmes doesn’t have to be held accountable.
Is that the world we live in? Is that the world we want to live in? Do we really want to have and be the sort of society which is willing to cut mass murders a break, even for a moment, while we’re busy trying to justify their actions by blaming someone else?
(Cover photo courtesy of USMagazine.com)