Like a lot of people, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the release of the final chapter of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, “The Dark Knight Rises.” A self-professed Batman nut, I’ve found the characters rich and complex, which, like the various movies that have chronicled the Caped Crusader, have been evolutionary.
Sadly, what does not remain evolutionary is the level of violence that some people will wield for reasons unbeknownst to human decency. With the horrific shooting that unfolded in Aurora, Colorado at the midnight screening of the summer’s most anticipated film, I, like many people, find myself asking, “Why?”
That’s the same question I asked when Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot outside a grocery store while meeting with constituents. It’s a question my then 10-year-old asked me about as we listened to the breaking news on the radio. Parents field the “why” question a lot from their kids, for reasons ranging from ridiculous to serious. As a parent, you do what you can to answer them honestly and on their level so they understand what it is you are talking about.
The question of “why” in this most recent Colorado incident is one the subsequent police investigation will have to figure out, but the biggest “why” I have today relates to the victims in the movie theater. Every life lost and person wounded in the carnage is a person of value. They had energy and vitality and people in their lives who cared for them. Each had a life story, but today, I’m really shaking my head at why there were young children in that theater.
Initial reports are talking about a three-month-old, as well as a six- and nine-year-old as having been killed, with other kids among the injured. Until there is a full police report, a lot of information about this awful incident will be all over place, but I’m going to sound entirely judgmental in asking this question: “Why were these children in this theater at that hour?”
Let’s get over the fact that the story this movie depicts is not an episode of Super Friends. For as brilliant and excellent as the first two installments were, each of them is dark, violent and intense. This final chapter is said to be all of that and more. We can debate what a child needs to see at what age, but I can think of other versions of Batman that are more age appropriate than this one. I say this while dealing with a nine- and eleven-year-old at home, both pleading to see this film.
None of us can ever know when a senseless tragedy and accident can occur that claims the life of someone we love or know. It can happen at any hour and any place, but there are things we as individuals, and especially parents, can do to mitigate the harm that can come to us, especially for the youngest and truly most vulnerable amongst us.
It’s absolutely true that no one in that theater knew a gunman would unleash hell. No parent would knowingly put their children in danger. That’s certainly true of the parents of the young girl killed during the shooting of Rep. Giffords in January 2010, but for the life of me, I cannot understand why a parent would take a child out after midnight to the movies in what is essentially an adult offering.
That’s a brutal and judgmental statement to make, but it’s a decision that will be talked about in the days and weeks to come. It’s also a horrifically painful decision that those movie-going parents will have to deal with for the rest of their lives.
There is a weighted responsibility that comes with parenthood. You have to care, feed, nurture, teach and most of all, love a child to get them ready for a world that can be bright and beautiful as well as beastly and brutal.
I am far from ever being a perfect parent. I’ve expanded my kids’ vocabulary from time to time and have certainly said and done things I regret. I’ve found after fifteen years in this most unique of adult statuses (parenthood) that the weight of all of your decisions and actions are tremendous, and so are the ripple effects.
In reflecting on the horrors of the Aurora shooting, the word “responsibility” comes to mind here in so many ways. I don’t doubt that the perpetrator of the Aurora shootings will be held responsible for his actions, but perhaps discussion that needs to happen in this country is how we as parents are held responsible for our children.
It’s a conversation I’m going to have tonight at the dinner table. Right after I hold my kids really tight.