PITNB’s NEW popCULTURE CLUB: theoretically putting the “culture” back in “pop culture,” one post at a time…
This past weekend we all pointed fingers in one direction or another. Most of us pointed at a 24-year old gunman who took lives which were not his to take. Some of us pointed at guns and gun legislation. Others pointed at mothers– mothers who took their children to a midnight movie showing at a theatre in Aurora, Colorado and a mother who may have seen something important in her child that she did not address soon enough. Even a movie, The Dark Knight Rises, saw its fair share of blame. Inadvertently or otherwise, many of us referred to the Colorado massacre as ‘The Dark Knight Rises shooting,’ and headlines made note of the killer’s references to himself as The Joker. When we cannot comprehend an act (either of beauty or malice), it’s natural and important for us to figure out the individual person or thing responsible. Children want to know where babies come from, adults want to know where humans come from, and we all want to know how a tragedy occurs. But in seeking that knowledge, I find that we inevitably participate in the blame game which is– perhaps– how our society arrives at certain tragedies in the first place.
I know it’s been said been said before, but I think it bears repeating: guns don’t kill people. People kill people. Of course it should go without saying that it should not be so ridiculously easy for someone to carry a a gun. And the fact that many people cling to their right to bear arms as a means of protection is not a testament to the occasional “goodness” of guns, but another reflection of huge problems in our society. Guns are not the answer and they are not the problem. If we blame them then we miss the point– a person, a fellow human being (yes) killed 12 people and injured 59 others and horrified a community. A person did that using a firearm, but I’m far more afraid of what was going on in his mind than what weapon he decided to use.
This is not to say that the method is arbitrary– but because it cannot be blamed entirely, pointing our fingers at guns (alone) is an exercise in futility. Again, I say something that we amy not want to admit: a person did this. And I won’t qualify the word ‘person’ with adjectives like “psycho” or “disturbed”– though he may be those things I think we use those words to distance ourselves from the human being who may be more like us than we’re willing to admit.
One of the first conversations that I had about the Aurora, Colorado massacre was with my good friend Michelle. We immediately began addressing the shooter’s mother, as I found it very telling that she knew right away that her son was involved. As I began to blame his mother (for clearly knowing something and clearly doing nothing about it… so I assumed), I realized that I was doing what many people and many media outlets were going to do in this situation. I was picking my own target, and– quite frankly– firing away. I told my friend that good mothers, mothers who pay attention to their kids, know very early on everything they need to know about their child’s personality and disposition. And as I admitted to certain things I saw in my own children (things that have worried me, perhaps without reason and perhaps for good reason) I remembered that it’s extremely hard to really look at your children and be honest about what you see. Much like it’s hard for people to look at themselves and be honest about what they see.
The difference is that we know people are flawed, but children and mothers are assumed perfect. Even though we know that countless people spend years in therapy over mistakes their mums made (and what they chose to make of those mistakes), we still live in a culture based on the image of Madonna And Child: a perfect, virginal mother and her perfect, all-loving child. Anything other than that image (a mental health problem, for example) is a deviation, and we have to find ways to reconcile this.
Because we exist in a culture that requires us to see our children as perfect angels (not people), it’s difficult to discuss their true qualities. And because we exist in a culture that often assumes (though it knows better) that we are all naturally perfect mothers who are entirely responsible for the nature of our children (which is, really, ridiculous on a certain level– for we are responsible for their upbringing, not their personalities), our inclination is to shy away from the things that might make our children different… or dangerous. Afraid of being blamed by others, we blame ourselves (for not being the impossibly perfect Madonna And Child) and do ourselves and our children a great disservice as we try to perpetuate a lie. In this, the blame game is killing us.
I’ve read a few things online that have spoken to the horrible effect this massacre will have and has had on the movie-going experience. Chris Nolan (director of The Dark Knight Rises) spoke to his own sadness, that this happened at a place he calls “home.” A journalist and screenwriter lamented that we go to the theaters to get away, to “let go” of it all and to be purely entertained and engaged. Somehow, we’ve lost some of that. While others have come forward and attempted to draw a connection between the violence of the movie (and other movies), I think most of us know that no movie could be blamed for these events. Still, will we ever forget which movie was playing when all this happened? I think not. I want to remember The Dark Knight Rises for the amazingness that it was, but something has happened, and my memory of one of the coolest experiences of my life (seriously, loved this movie!) will be complicated by two horrific events. The first event is the Colorado shooting. The second is a far too personal event to share that involved my children, and a bad decision I made as I went to see the film.
I align these horrific events because, if nothing else I learned that we as individuals are completely responsible for the decisions we make and the worlds we create for ourselves and our children.
That said, I dare all of us to take responsibility for what happened in Colorado. To point the finger at ourselves and to say, I once committed a crime. I once ignored a person who needed help. I once made a stupid decision that affected– or could have greatly affected– my children. I once acted out of anger or lost control of my emotions or felt like I needed some kind of professional help and did not seek it.
We cannot change what happened but if we continue to play the blame game then we’ll end up right where we always end up–still pissed at someone or something and with few answers. Did we learn anything after Columbine? Do we ever learn anything after tragedy occurs? We can honor victims of the Aurora massacre (and those innocent lives lost everywhere) by learning to be better individuals, by starting with the self and truly believing that one single improvement in our own lives and in our own homes can incite change everywhere.
And in doing so, we Rise.