The events of this past Friday morning at the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado are nothing short of tragic in every sense of the word. Tragic for the unwitting victims who were brutally cut down in a place in which safety should never be a concern; tragic for the survivors who now will live the rest of their lives wondering why they were spared and others had to suffer; and tragedy for the loved ones of the assailant, forever stigmatized as the kin of a monster. How ironic and yet appropriate that the film is called “The Dark Knight Rises,” for I fear that everyone involved will perceive this devastating event as the darkest of nights.
As I listened along with the rest of the country to the reports surrounding the incident, a few things struck me as heartbreaking. First was the fact that young children were some of the victims. In raising my own two young girls, I have tried to insulate them from violence, hatred, and the horror that sometimes comes from the acts of men. Yet these children were not only exposed to it, they were witnesses to a person at his very worst. Aside from that, however, was the fact that amongst the children were a four month old and a six year old—I’m not one to tell anybody how to raise their children, but in my mind, a midnight showing of a movie is no place for a six year old, let alone a 4 month old.
The second item that struck me as heartbreaking was the fact that the killer clearly was disturbed and that could possibly have been a cry for help or was a response to the previous cries for help that went unheeded. The fact that someone would take to this kind of violence shows a level of anger that really should not go without help.
The third thing that struck me as heartbreaking was that the killer’s mother had claimed that he had dropped out of medical school and had lost touch with his family. What happens to a person that he feels that he cannot find safety and comfort in his family and that he feels the need to disassociate himself from it?
I recently participated in a leadership seminar and in conjunction with the seminar a personality assessment was undertaken. After the assessment was completed, I received the results and was astounded by not only the traits that reflected my personality. Amongst them was the belief that all problems can be resolved by simply talking them out.
My professional life is oftentimes fraught with stories of families which had been damaged to such a large extent that repair is impossible. Frequently I wonder whether these challenging family dynamics could have been avoided had there been better communication within the family. I thought the same after I experienced the emotional wave created by the Aurora massacre.
I guess it is just my personality-type, but I wonder how many tragedies could have been avoided had there been better communication and family-strength. Clearly there was something wrong in this family that led not only to the massacre but also to the feeling that the killer could not find safety with his family. They lost touch and something had to have happened to sever that relationship. Maybe I am being simplistic, but in this respect I hope that I am not. I would prefer to believe that when someone needs help and can’t handle matters on their own, the comfort and security of their family will be a jumping off point for recovery. I sense that I need to seize this belief because without it, the world will be a breeding ground for unstable and dangerous people who are incapable of receiving help.
I am doing my best, even at my daughter’s young age, to foster a comfortable and safe place for my girls to feel comfortable discussing anything that bothers them. I want them to know that of all people in this world, their mother and I will be the least judgmental and most supportive, just like my parents were and continue to be with me. Because without that safety net of family, the world can be a big scary place, one in which you can feel awfully alone. Alone people can also be desperate people. And desperate people can be unpredictable and frequently violent. I would like to think that had the murderer in Colorado felt comfortable talking to his parents about his concerns, why he dropped out of medical school, and why he felt that he had no other options, that this tragedy could have been avoided.
I will admit it, sometimes I can be so naïve. But one can always hope…