I grew up in the heyday of comic books. I read them faithfully. I even ordered some cool stuff from the ads! I learned which editions would be valuable “someday”, and collected and traded them with friends. Like fine works of art, I could readily identify the handiwork of Marv Wolfman and Stan Lee, and even tried my hand at copying their style.
But more importantly, I learned about “truth, justice, and the American way” from the likes of Superman and Captain America. Superman, of course, came from a distant planet, which accounted for his super powers; but he used those powers for good to protect weaker human beings from those who would do them harm. Captain America, on the other hand, gained his super powers from a military experiment to create a super soldier. His red, white, and blue costume and his pro-America story helped the war effort during WWII.
Then there is Batman. Wealthy industrialist Bruce Wayne prowled the rooftops of Gotham City at night as the “caped crusader”, using his technologically-advanced gadgets to prevent what happened to him as a child from happening to others. [For those unfamiliar with the Dark Knight story line, his parents were gunned down in front of him by a would-be robber when he was a child.]
For a time, superheroes went out of fashion. Perhaps it was because of the campy television renderings of “Batman”, “Wonder Woman”, and “Captain America”. As the price of comic books began to rise (and I stopped buying them!), I also noticed that the superheroes were developing character flaws, and arch villains began exploiting their weaknesses.
Our heroes were no longer super – an ideal greater than ourselves – and we lost faith in them.
But in recent years, there has been a resurgence in superhero movies, and audiences have flooded back to the theaters to see Superman, Iron Man, Spiderman, Captain America and Batman once again save the day.
Is that an indication that we are once again looking for some super-powered hero to fly in and save us?
Which brings us to last Thursday night. “The Dark Night Rises”, the third in a series of blockbuster Batman movies, promised to be the movie of the summer. It opened at 12:01 a.m. Friday morning to packed theaters.
As movie fanatics are want to do, many dressed in costume as they waited in line to be the first to see the show.
So many at the screening in Aurora, Colorado, were not surprised when, just a short time into the movie, a man dressed in black appeared at the front of the auditorium. He reportedly released gas canisters, which filled the theater with smoke. Then he began shooting into the crowd until his rifle jammed. He was apprehended behind the theater without a struggle and now sits in solitary confinement awaiting a trial.
Waking up Friday morning, I found the newscasts filled with talking heads trying to explain what had happened in the wee hours of that morning. Believing that “first” is more important than accurate, newscasters filled the airwaves with speculation:
“Sixteen were killed, as many as 60 wounded.”
“Twelve were killed, as many as 50 wounded.”
“Several people in the auditorium next door were also injured by bullets that passed through the wall.”
“One person was injured in the theater next door.”
“The shooter may be [name], a member of the Colorado Tea Party.”
“The shooter was not that person mentioned earlier, who just happened to have the same name.”
I am thankful the shooter was not named “Captain Dave”!
Politicians and preachers immediately jumped on the tragedy to promote their causes. This happened as “God’s punishment on the Liberals…” or “God’s punishment on the Democrats”… or “God’s punishment on the gays”. One preacher was quick to point out that of those killed in the theater that morning, only those who knew Jesus as their Lord and Savior went to heaven.
And yes, Westboro Baptist Church has already announced that they will have their hate-filled protesters and signs outside the funerals of the victims.
Lord, forgive us!
Many blame the National Rifle Association for their powerful lobbying against gun control, and immediately called upon the President and his Republican opponent to speak out for more gun control laws.
Both were sympathetic to the victims, but neither of them committed to tightening the laws. This is an election year, after all.
One congressman pondered aloud why no one else in the theater was carrying a gun. Had they been, he insists, they could have stopped the shooter before so many were killed.
Or, Mr. Congressman, it’s totally possible that more people would have been killed as the smoke in the room would have made it hard to identify who was shooting and which person shooting was really the bad guy!
Several thoughts come to mind as a result of all this.
First, I wish the newscasters would stick to reporting facts. Folks, if you don’t know something for sure, don’t broadcast it until you do!
Second, all you people who want to immediately jump in and explain it all to us need to shut up, slow down, and think first. Take a day or two to really think about it.
On this, let me note, Jon Stewart (of “the Daily Show”) and I disagree. He believes “the heat of the moment” is the “perfect time” to begin the discussion about gun control. But I think too many stupid things get said “in the heat of the moment”.
Third, stop throwing God’s name into everything bad that happens! No one ever gives God credit when something good happens - like, say, the sun rises again - but when something bad happens, it’s always God’s fault. WTF!
I do not – and will not – believe that God sends floods and hurricanes and deranged killers to punish us, despite what Pat Robertson says.
And it’s the very epitome of ignorance to always point toward the people or groups we don’t like as the cause of God’s wrath. In this case, as far as we know, the shooter left no manifesto blaming either God or the Democrats or even his mother for not breast-feeding him until he was five.
The reason for this tragedy might simply be that he was bat-shit crazy and just wanted to kill people! Hopefully a trial will bring that to light.
Fourth, let’s tone down the angry rhetoric and remember who we are. One of my FBFs angrily posted that it is “a waste of tax-payer dollars” to house the shooter in prison – solitary confinement at that – while he awaits a trial. Another FBF of my FBF suggested we just put him into the general prison population “and let nature take its course.” Friends, just because he acted like a monster doesn’t mean we have to. One of the foundations of American society is the right to a trial. And until then, as much as we might hate it, this man is “innocent until proven guilty”.
I’m sure you would want the same consideration if you were in prison.
Finally, with regard to gun control, perhaps I am getting senile in my old age, but I don’t see a need for more gun control laws. The second amendment in the Bill of Rights (see the U.S. Constitution) says Americans have the right to bear arms.
“A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”
Granted, when that was written in the late 1700s, I doubt James Madison foresaw such a tragedy as happened in Colorado last week. The second amendment was added to the Constitution to prevent a standing army from taking over our beloved Democracy. In theory, an armed populace would rise up to protect those freedoms we hold dear.
I am a pacifist at heart. The only weapons I own are a broadsword (which I am pretty sure would shatter if I ever tried to use it), a hunting knife (in a box somewhere in the garage), and an assortment of dull pocket knives. I have no interest in owning a firearm, and don’t see why anyone today really needs an AK-47. Those are called “assault rifles” for a reason.
But the U.S. Constitution gives us that right, and in today’s political climate, I am not at all interested in re-writing the Constitution!
“So what’s the answer, Captain Dave? How can we stop tragedies like this in the future?”
Frankly, I don’t have the answer.
I’m sorry if you have read all this way expecting me to solve all our nation’s problems in one simple(minded) blog.
I would invoke Jesus here – you know, the Prince of Peace – but today in America that only incites more anger and hatred, so just forget I mentioned that.
I don’t want more restrictive laws. I resent the fact that I have to walk through a metal detector to renew my license, and be x-rayed before I can get on an airplane. When I walk through the mall, my every move is being watched by security cameras. And now movie theaters have to hire armed guards so I can enjoy watching all the fictional violence I want without getting caught in the real stuff.
But that is how far this once proud and honorable American society has fallen. As a society, we have traded the concepts of “truth, justice, and the American way” for self-interest. We have turned inward. We no longer think about what’s best for our country, our state, or our community.
“I’ve got mine!” (See previous post.)
“The American Way” is now “Each man for himself!” We have lost respect for our leaders. We have lost respect for our Constitution. We have lost respect for the value of human life.
What we need today is… Wait!...
Superman! Where are you?!?