By now you surely know that the largest mass shooting in US history happened last night, in a sold out midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. Aside from the horror of 12 dead and almost 60 wounded, the media and the internet are already screaming with a zillion variations of “Why, why, why?”
And yes, people will come up with many reasons. I’ve already heard a few: “He was inspired by the Joker, so the Dark Knight movies caused this because they’re so violent.” “The world is too crowded and rude and people don’t care about each other, so people will shoot you over a movie or a cup of coffee.” “He was a mentally unstable loner who was allowed to get weapons because of the NRA lobby.” “This is God’s way of punishing America for its tolerance of sex/gays/Muslims/saying Happy Holidays/[fill in the blank].”
No reason anyone can give will make any sense, not even the reasons the killer himself might give – because there is no way to make sense of why one man loads up guns and bombs and starts killing people; while a thousand others have seen the same movies, suffer the same mental illness, and were exposed to the same stresses, yet they continue peacefully about their harmless, ordinary lives. No movies or videogames or comics or whatever this guy watched or read is to blame for the murder of 12 innocent people and the terrorizing of hundreds more.
There is one thing I do know. This atrocity is not a reason to skip seeing The Dark Knight Rises, or to stay away from the movie theaters this weekend.
It is a reason to go.
Because he doesn’t want us to.
Whatever other twisted reasons lurk in his crazyman brain, I feel absolutely certain that he chose this movie, this midnight showing, this opening weekend, because he knew he would get lots more media attention at a blockbuster premiere, so that he could frighten a lot more people.
He wants us to be too scared to go to the movies. He wants us to give up on a movie that many of us have waited years to see. He wants us to stay home cowering in front of our TVs and computers, because he made the world too scary for ordinary little people like us to go out and have some fun.
I refuse to be that scared. I refuse to let the bad guy win this one.
People like him are the precise reason we need stories about Batman, the Avengers, and all the other superheroes – to remind us that courage is real, and maybe even to give us a little bit of our own for when we need it.
And surely there were heroes in that theater last night, not just a villain. There were people who pushed others safely to the floor, or who overcame their own panic to help others get out, or who stayed amid the bullets to try to help the wounded and the dying. And as always, there were the heroes in the police and fire departments, who respond to disaster every day, whose job it is to run toward the sound of gunfire and explosions and screams, when the rest of us run away.
For all of those heroes; for the hundreds of people who poured their labor into making a movie they hoped would just entertain us; and especially for the memory of those who had everything taken from them in blood – I give notice to the man who shed that blood, because he doesn’t want me to say this:
I am going to see The Dark Knight Rises tomorrow. Maybe you’ll come, too, and we’ll help an imaginary hero overcome a very real evil.