menu

After Colorado Tragedy, Contemplating the Responsibilities of Why

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.

Rich Cooper blog primarily on emergency preparedness and response, management issues related to the Department of Homeland Security, and the private sector’s role in homeland security. Read More
  • guest

    thank you sir, that was the absolute first thing that went through my head too. “Why were these children there?!”  It still would have been a tragedy, but to lose life that is so young when they shouldn’t have been there is even more of a tragedy.

  • Guest

    I completely agree and that question was one at the forefront of my mind. I find it irresponsible and selfish. Get a babysitter. If you can’t afford one or can’t find one, is it really THAT important to be at the FIRST showing of a movie? Priorities, people. If you waited a day or a week to see that movie, would it REALLY affect your life so detrimentally? Geez. The world we live in.

  • Lav

    Why is it such an issue that children are out “that late”?  That seems an old fashioned notion in this 24-hour society.  With parents working second and third shifts and having to sleep during the day, its possible that the midnight showing is the only convenient time for both parents and children. Lots of families are now on non-traditional schedules to accommodate the jobs they want to get/keep, which includes keeping kids up late just so the parents can spend some time with them.  Admittedly, given that this was the first showing of this particular movie, non-traditional family schedules probably weren’t the main reason for these kids being at the movie after midnight, but….why does it matter?

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/YEDQQD44EK2YM6UYGYSWO5Y5AI Lily

       It matters because it’s child abuse.  A 3 month old NEVER belongs in a big theatre where film sound is extremely loud.  While it would be in appropriate to take a 4 or 9 yr old to a Disney film at midnight, I can see where that might be a one-off fun outing, no harm done that they don’t get enough sleep once or twice.  But this was no Disney film. It’s an extremely loud violent film.  If you can’t figure out why this was wrong, I pray to God you never have kids. I am literally terrified for children these days when I read comments from people like you who haven’t the vaguest clue what is right or wrong for a child’s health & safety.  It doesn’t make me old-fashioned, it makes me smart and caring. 

  • Intellect

    Ahh, more failed republican logic…

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/YEDQQD44EK2YM6UYGYSWO5Y5AI Lily

       Whose logic are you referring to? The blogger or posters?

  • TXLady

    The real question in all of this is… why are you blaming the parents?
    Lav is correct — in this day and age, we live in a 24-hour society. I see families at my local Walmart or grocery store at all hours of the night. I assume this is the only time the parents have to do their shopping.
    The parents of the children at the theater did not put their children in harm’s way. To even attempt to blame them for what happened, is irresponsible, and even cruel.
    Why don’t you look to yourself regarding ‘responsibility’. I believe you have a ‘responsibility’ to stop laying blame for bad things off onto the victims and their families.

  • http://socimages.blogsome.com/ Alessandra

    An infant in a late night movie theater, with a movie that has what kind of noise and sound track? And the infant is supposed to sleep in this nightmare? You are completely right. Regarding the other children as well. I once saw a couple take their 9 yr old to see “300” – 90% vicious violence content.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/YEDQQD44EK2YM6UYGYSWO5Y5AI Lily

    Lav and TXLady – are you completely insane? Or just stupid. Because first of all, nowhere did the blog or posters blame the parents for what happened at the theater & he states that very clearly. He asked a legitimate question that I & my friends have asked for 2 days.  Second, no we do NOT live in a 24 hour society but even if we did TINY CHILDREN DO NOT BELONG IN IT.  Children need set schedules for sleep time and do NOT belong out at midnight. PERIOD.  Third, this wasn’t a quick run to the store for milk & no time to get a babysitter.  This was a planned in advance trip to a midnight movie.  And this was no Meryl Streep talkfest. This is a loud, explosion & flashing sights, violent film & the parents had to have known it.  Taking a 4 year old is bad enough but a 3 MONTH OLD BABY??

    As for your ridiculous comment about parents with kids at WalMart late at night because you “assume that’s the only time they have to shop”, well maybe it is but why do their small children have to go with them?  As for your “non-traditional families” remark – what a joke. I’m assuming you’re about 24 years old so you think that’s just so cool, waking kids up late at night to drag to the store or an inappropriate movie so you can “spend time with them”.  As for callling the author cruel & asking “why mention it”, your d@mn right he should “menion it” – if a parent is so selfish & self-absorbed that they risk their child’s health simply so they can have the “fun” of seeing a big movie opening, they should be charged with neglect.  These children could have issues with their hearing the rest of their lives, the loud and frightening images could give a 4 yr old, 9 yr old etc. emotional trauma.  I’m really sick of everyone making excuses for parents like this & when a REAL adult points out their harm to their kids, we’re accused of being “old fashioned”.  Gee, maybe this is why there are so many violent, self-entitled brats running around shooting people.

  • Red Deja

    Thank you for posting this! I have been feeling a little guilty for thinking the same thing. I know it is a tragic event, and the gunman would have killed regardless, but an infant has no place at any movie, EVER! And young children don’t need to be out that late either. Can they even follow a story line at 3, 4, 6? Nine is a little different, but not at midnight, and the brutality in the film is not appropriate for a 9 yr old either.

    That being said, this discussion (and the one that led me here on a misleadingly titled blog on Chron.com) made me google the yr Jaws came out. I was 6. My parents went to see it, then decided they would take me to see it because I was driving them crazy about it. I had an infant brother who did NOT attend either time my parents went. Do I agree that a 6 yr old should have seen Jaws? No. We also did not go at midnight – my parents would have been asleep by then, not just their kids!

  • infertilemyrtle

    What a judgemental jerk.  Many people take babies to midnight movies because babies’ hours are all messed up and sometimes its good just to get out of the house with them.  In the dark you can nurse them and they will sleep sometimes.  The movie was PG.  I don’t see a problem with letting some children see it.  Some are comfortable with that sort of thing, some aren’t.  I wouldn’t be happy if someone had kids up late every night going to midnight movies.  But, its summer time.  Staying up late sometimes is a rite of passage.  Raising children under strict rules with no leeway for special events raises a very unhappy and resentful child.  Don’t kid yourselves with your holier than thou judgemental attitude.  I promise you it will come back to haunt you.  Every parent I know who has that attitude, has teenagers that are doing very concerning things behind their parents back.  And every single one of the young adults has basically told their judgemental parents off and then turned around and quit school and got married.  Its the really judgemental holier than thou parents that I see struggle with teenagers and young adults that just rebel and hate their parents.  Who can blame them realy?