I have seen The Dark Knight Rises. You have, possibly, read my review. But I must tell you I omitted one important detail in that article: the underlying apprehension I felt watching the film at an Etobicoke movie theatre. It was a feeling no amount of villainy, special effects, or action could garner. It was a compulsive fear of a gunman entering the theatre and firing into the audience, which is what happened just after midnight last friday at Century 16 cinemas in Aurora, Colorado.
I am sure you heard about it on TV or in the papers: at least 12 dead, 59 injured. It is a sickening and terrifying tragedy. One of the most horrifying elements about it is that the perpetrator had no motivation. A 24 year-old man, James Holmes, thought it would be quite something to shoot at a crowd of helpless moviegoers, all excited to see this much-anticipated summer blockbuster. I won’t go on any more about him, lest I spoil the font on my laptop.
But it is the randomness of this attack that provokes (my) fear. If it could happen at a movie theatre, why not at a playground? Why not a sport’s game? Why not at your favourite restaurant? This is no gang-related shooting, like what happened at Toronto’s Eaton Centre back in June. This is a full-fledged attack, possibly inspired by the villain’s reign of terror in The Dark Knight itself.
But let’s not go there. I will not rationalize these killings, like madness is a jigsaw puzzle. Evil is not driven by the motives we see in Marvel comic books, but it tends to exist for its own pleasure. Think of Columbine, a high school thrusted into chaos during the conviviality of lunch hour. That left 12 students dead, plus one teacher. It occurred only a few miles from Aurora in Littleton. What these two tragedies have in common are: 1) it was completely random, everyone was a target and 2) it stripped away the inherent safety we expect in public institutions.
I think the connection stops there. I read the papers this morning, assimilating more background information surrounding the case on one hand, but on the other discovered journalists trying to make sense of this insanity. One article in the Globe and Mail ruminated on the idea that Colorado is a breeding zone for extremist behaviour: “It’s home to both the universally mocking, vulgarity seeking cartoon comedy South Park and NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defence Command (whose hyper-vigilant, fear-the-worst motto is “Deter, Detect, Defend)”.
This is too much of a calculation. Sure, the author backs up his arguments but this is such an overwrought knee-jerk reaction that you cringe reading this. Is there logic in Oslo, the capital city of one of the world’s safest countries (Norway), experiencing a one-man terrorist attack in two separate locations in one day? It’s like saying New York’s high infrastructure made it likely for 9/11…meanwhile Omagh, a tiny town in Northern Ireland, endured a bomb attack three years earlier, killing 29 people and wounding hundreds. So let’s leave the logistics.
Tragedies like the one in Aurora are unpredictable. These things, rare that they are, can happen. It’s a matter of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Some people worry that these calamities are eventually forgotten. Well, time may pass but we certainly have not dismissed Columbine or Virginia Tech. 9/11 is an indelible wound. It’s that fear of thinking anyone is expendable, which unsettles me. How can I assume that won’t ever happen to me, when someone in that theatre may have thought the same?
Serendipity becomes a fallacy. Good turns to the shadows. Knowing that the life you wanted to live can be shut off in the blink of an eye starts to resonate. I am reminded of Macbeth’s line on life as a “brief candle”. I think of 24 year-old Jessica Ghawi, an aspiring journalist who found herself barely escaping the Eaton Centre shooting only to perish in the Aurora one. Where is the logic in that, I ask you? Can we calculate that, or is twisted fate beyond the realm of statistics?
If I have discomforted you with this article, I apologize. I don’t meant to fan the flames of fear, although it is completely normal if you feel that way about this event. My own mortality (especially of those in that theatre) was put in perspective this weekend, and I can never look at movie theatres as a harmless source for joy and entertainment again. From here, I hope time will not erase but rather heal the sorrow and trepidation of us and, most especially, the family and friends of the victims.
At the same time, we should not let monsters like Holmes provoke panic. Decide for yourself if you will see The Dark Knight Rises this weekend, or at all. You know yourself more than I know you. From the past, I have learned that sometimes it is best to accept your fear and let it run its course through you, in lieu of fighting against its currents. You live and learn, with a keen emphasis on live.