Monday, July 23, 2012

'I Would Have Shot Him': Some Thoughts on the Aurora Tragedy

Posted By on Mon, Jul 23, 2012 at 5:53 AM

I keep seeing this sentiment on blogs and in comment threads: that if the writer had been there in the Aurora, Colo., theater watching the new Batman movie when James Holmes attacked, the writer would have shot him. Or at the least, if someone else would have been armed, they would have shot him.

I have two things to say about this. First, what ordinary person could have made that shot? It was dark and noisy. People were running and screaming. By some accounts, there was tear gas and Holmes was supposedly wearing body armor. Who is the non-assassin who could, upon being surprised in a dark, crowded movie theater, keep calm, take aim, and shoot a moving target in the head? Even if it was just dark and the tear-gas thing turns out not to be true, how would a person just carrying a handgun see him to aim at him? Who would feel confident that she wouldn't add to the bystander injuries by turning it into a shootout?

Second — which directly ties to the first thought — I understand that it's natural to cling to some superstitious belief: "I would have shot him" or "I wouldn't have been there because those things are stupid" or "I would have been home with my kid" or "I would have run the second I saw him." But the truth is that you are not alive today because you are luckier or more deserving than the people who are not alive today. Life is not some giant hyper-judgmental meritocracy where we all live until we fuck up bad enough that we lose the right to live anymore.

Sometimes you go into the theater on the left instead of the right. Sometimes you decide to ride your bike to work instead of driving. Sometimes you take the job rather than stay unemployed. Some nights you leave your gun at home. Hell, some nights you may even have your gun in the theater and decide there's nothing you can do. Those aren't wrong decisions. The people who make them don't then "deserve" (even in some small way) what happened to them.

Like I said, I get that it's a superstitious impulse. We want to assure ourselves that these things happen to those specific people for a reason and we, therefore, would not be caught so foolishly vulnerable. But it just seems so cruel and terrible an impulse — blaming the victims for things beyond their control.

Let's just mourn, rather than gloat, you know? Indeed, it could have been any of us. That's part of what makes it so terrible.

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