We Would Rather Know Why Than Grieve For Aurora

Image via Facebook/MarkRantal

I debated whether to blog about the shooting in Aurora, Colorado. I often feel like we philosophize too quickly on tragedy. We search for meaning in madness and miss our opportunity to grieve.

We like answers and we like blame.

On Friday, I proclaimed feeling more terrorized by this than I had by Al-Qaeda in the last decade (post 9/11 of course). I felt terror in the unknown and unforeseeable-ness of the massacre in Aurora. I wanted to put it in a box full of quips and answers and blame as I spent much of my late teenager and early 20s trying to understand myself while blaming others for all my feelings and reactions. I am most comfortable knowing why.

With blame I don’t have to feel sad. I don’t cry or worry as much because there is a reason for the insanity. I can fix the problem and be better and safer or at least, I can point my finger at the real sicko in the room.

The problems in Aurora are somewhere between numerous and nonexistent. I’ve read articles blaming Hollywood, violent movie, guns — both the lack of regulations and the lack of a gun-toting savior, our mental health system, our troubled youth, social media, our normalization of gun violence, parents who brough young children to the movie première, midnight openings, and a few mentions of the actual the perpetrator although this is not often in the byline unless it is accompanied by WHY.

We want to know: Why did James Eagan Holmes want to hurt people?  Why at the Batman movie?  Why did one victim avoid being shot in Toronto only to die in Aurora a month later? Why did some people get out? Who shoots a 6-year-old? A 51-year-old? A random stranger? Is he evil? Sick? Angry?

But what we are truly asking is: Did we, as a society, produce him, or did we merely fail to keep him in check?

Even with my degrees and ideologies and perchance for over-thinking, I don’t have answers. Maybe I have finally gotten more comfortable with not understanding why people do what they do. My drive for knowing has done more damage to my relationships than merely accepting that I have no idea what will happen next with some people. With most people.

Do I believe we can stop theses massacres? No. Does that terrify me? Yes.

At a certain time, not today, I think we can discuss lessening the damage a person can inflict on others by having certain guns inaccessible to the general public, and by our mental health system moving beyond stigmas and on to treatments that don’t give people the choice of crazy feelings or no feelings with terrible side effects. I know that public attention is fickle, but we need a few more moments of grieving the victims without wondering why.

“Why” will break a heart a hundred times over. Why does not mend the families or even the nation. The answers given today are band-aids that fall off after a few dips in reality.

Because there isn’t a good answer. There are changes that will probably help, but no one has a baby and thinks “He’s going to grow up to be a wonderful terrorist or serial killer.”  I imagine even terrorist want better for their children than to be blown up by a bomb strapped to a chest. But there I go, philosophizing when really I need to stop and say a prayer for the families and friends of the victims in Aurora and a scared nation.

A moment of silence for the following:

Jessica Ghawi, 24

Veronica Moser, 6

Matt McQuinn, 27

Alex Sullivan, 27

Micayla Medek, 23

John Larimer, 27

Jesse Childress, 29

Gordon W. Cowden, 51

Jonathan T. Blunk, 26

Rebecca Ann Wingo, 32

Alexander C. Teves, 24

Alexander J. Boik, 18

And the other people in the theater, wounded and witnessed.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

15 thoughts to “We Would Rather Know Why Than Grieve For Aurora”

  1. I’d add thoughts for the shooter’s family too. They will have to live with being his family and the stigma the rest of their lives.

  2. This is excellent, Alex. I haven’t yet found the words to compose my own post about Aurora (though not for a lack of trying). But when I finally do, I will keep this piece in the back of my mind. Because I wholeheartedly agree with all of it.

  3. My son was at a midnight showing; thankfully, not at that theater. Scared us to death though, when you realize how something like this can instantly become a reality for your own family.

  4. I don’t know what the answer is, and maybe it is not for us to ever know. I quit a long time ago trying to make sense of the crazy things that happen in this world. I can’t rationalize what is irrational behavior on ones part. All I can do is pray for the families that lost loved ones, the people that were wounded and witnessed, and the family of the shooter.

  5. I keep looking at him, the graduate student picture and then the red hair picture, and I keep wondering if he’s sick. I keep trying to give him that option because I work with inmates. We know now, he’s only had one issue with the law, he’s the right age and race and gender for paranoid schizophrenia to appear (18-25, white, male) and until a week ago no one knew who he was. I hope he is sick, and not just evil, because I can process and forgive sickness easier. I don’t know what to do with evil. I work with men who commit horrible crimes, and in 7 1/2 years I can still only name two or three who I believed to be truly evil. I just hope that’s not the case.

    1. I always love getting your perspective here. I feel like for all I’ve seen in my life, there are very few people who are truly evil as well. I did hear he told the police he was “the joker” but I’m not sure if that’s been confirmed.

      1. I also have a hard time seeing someone as ‘evil’. Whenever presented with a suspect of horrible crime such as this, I invariably see someone who is sick. Even someone who is cold, calculating, and calm (in other words, they appear in control, with it, and just plain uncaring of others) can still have a personality disorder.

        I don’t know that its necessarily bad for us to question why. I don’t like ‘assigning blame’ (it doesn’t really tell us why), but trying to understand (in the quest to never find ourselves or someone we love in a similar situation) why and prevent it is, perhaps, part of human nature. every time I see it in action, I think ‘assimilation and accommodation’.

  6. As well you, normally I’d be all on this like Donkey Kong. But I’m on a streak and haven’t posted anything political since 14 July. I fully agree with your wanted to grieve this horrible event. As horrific as the shooting was, I’m equally horrified by the “If it Bleeds, it Leads” hysteria currently gripping the media. Absolutely no class at all.

  7. Yes, thank you. I’ve been writing about this for 3 days and it hurts so much to see all the speculation (esp when they speak so hurtfully about people with mental illness). There’s not an answer. Not yet, maybe not ever. Hard to accept, but the reality nevertheless.

    Powerlessness sucks. Right now, we grieve.

  8. True. The first impulse is preservation – figuring out the why can give us that false safety. If we know why, we can keep it from happening again.
    The mourning is uncomfortable and honest… and a little bit accepting. We don’t want to accept the tragedy and the loss.
    *moment of silence*

  9. Every time something like this happens my mind flashes that “crazy killer” to a small boy or baby being loved on by his family.

    And then my heart cries and I have to go away from the news because it triggers such awful anxieties in my mind.

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