Responding to Tragedy

21 Jul

For most of us, our illusions of safe havens were rocked somewhat today. For others, their world was shattered at one senseless act of violence. I’m not the only one who will comment on the tragedy that occurred at the movie theatre in Aurora, CO yesterday. In fact, I won’t even be one of the ones most people will read. But sometimes things affect me to a point where I have to write about them. Today, this heartbreak, is one of those things.

Please understand that there’s a reason I’m writing about how we can respond and not too much on the shooting itself. For one, the news is doing a good job of covering the shooting, as much as anyone can. I can’t tell you anything new. I’m not a trained psychiatrist to offer theories on why. I’m not there either. I’ve been through my own share of tragedies in life, though thankfully nothing like this. But I’ve learned that it’s not the same from a distance. The thing is, I think there are things we all need to remember in times like this, ways to respond and ways not to respond. Ways to help and what words or actions can only hurt. Compassion is a concept worth aspiring to for a reason.

So here are some things I would suggest keeping in mind when you consider commenting on this recent shooting or any other tragedy:

Vocalize that your thoughts and prayers are with families and then actually do it. Think about them. Pray for them. 

 Don’t start throwing out random blame. The person to blame for the shooting in Aurora is THE SHOOTER. Period. Batman did not cause this man’s problems. (Also, to those who would say ‘well he called himself The Joker and had orange hair…The Joker has green hair. Don’t make connections where they don’t exist). Christopher Nolan’s take on Batman did not cause this shooting. You want to discuss violence in movies and its affect on society? Fine. Discuss that. Don’t tweet out that violent movies cause violent behavior. That is a cheap, bullshit, cop out argument.

Don’t suggest that you would have stopped the gunman if you’d been there or that if someone in the theater was armed, things would have been different. This particular shooter was not only wearing a gas mask and a bulletproof vest, he had released tear gas grenades into a dark movie theater. He fired during a moment of gunfire onscreen, adding to the distraction. Additionally, this was again a dark movie theater, now full of panicking people. No non-trained officer or military personnel would have been able to react fast enough or accurately enough to take him down. And I am willing to bet that if you talked to those people who are trained to handle high pressure situations, they would tell you that in a situation like this, the reaction time would be delayed. This isn’t soldiers going into a war zone or police officers coming in to a standoff. This is people relaxed and enjoying a movie, only to be thrown into a nightmare. NO ONE is going to jump out of their seat, whip out a concealed hand gun and take out the shooter in a matter of seconds. I cannot reiterate this enough. This happened at a movie. Reactions won’t be LIKE a movie.

Furthermore, by acting as if you would be a hero as opposed to the victims is one of the most senseless comments you can make. Do you really think that the people in that theater aren’t replaying those moments over and over again in their mind, wondering if they could have done something differently and stopped him? I assure you they are. We all replay these things in our heads. To imply that you could have been better or different is insulting. It’s cruel. It’s factually inaccurate. Keep your mouth shut.

Don’t build an agenda platform using the dead as a foundation. Harsh? Absolutely. There are by all means discussions that will be brought to the forefront as a result of this tragedy. The fact that every weapon used by the shooter was obtained legally is something worth talking about. But there are right and wrong ways to talk about such things. Using email, mail, phone calls, petitions and grassroots campaigns to encourage politicians to open up dialogue about gun laws is always the best way to go about arguing for any policy change. This is true whether you are one who feels a need to get rid of guns, regulate them, or allow more freedom. And we could argue for years (as has been argued for years) over whether the problem is the guns, the people who buy them, the people who sell them or something else altogether. But to use the deaths of innocent victims as a jump start to your campaign is sick.

Remember that Colorado is more than the victims of a senseless shooting. Do you know how long the people of this particular area have fought to be known as more than Columbine? These are the sort of tragedies that should be remembered. I’m not in any way advocating that it be swept under the rug or ignored or anything else. But Aurora, Colorado is a place. It is not a single shooter or a single violent act. It is a place where people live and laugh and play and cry and work and die. Remembering it for only one thing does a disservice to the town and to the victims. So feel free to refer to the shooting IN Aurora. Just try not to call it the Aurora shooting. 

HELP. You can do more than just think about or pray for victims of a tragedy. Donating blood is a great way to start. Regardless of the tragedy, hospitals will end up going through quite a bit of blood. If you live locally, go immediately and donate blood. And if you live somewhere else, stop by your local blood bank anyway. I guarantee there’s a need.

Donate financially as well. In the case of the theater shooting, medical costs will be high. Families will also have income struggles and need support. The Huffington Post has organized a specific fundraiser on Crowdrise which you can donate to . You can also donate to the Red Cross to help in times of disaster and tragedy. At this point, the local Denver chapter of the Red Cross is very much in need of aid to help not only shooting victims, but also victims of the recent wildfires.

In the end, one of the best things you can do is to stop and think before acting/speaking. Ask if what you are about to say will help the situation. If not, take the time to consider what will. 

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Posted by on July 21, 2012 in Uncategorized


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