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thoughts on the Colorado shooting

Life mile-stones have a way of making us reflect on where we are and where we'd like to be. In many ways, the fact that I'm facing a milestone just now is pretty inconsequential – it comes down to the fact that humans evolved five fingers on each hand (ergo: base 10 counting) and the way the human psyche thinks round numbers are important. But someone wise once said that the unexamined life is not worth living, so I try to grab those more reflective moments when they come along.

On top of turning thirty, I also was profoundly affected by several things over the last few months. Some of them were political, like the "success" of Proposition 1 in North Carolina – something about that whole political event, the way it was framed and the way I reacted to it, woke up something inside of me. Before that event I had more or less worked myself around to believing the standard picture that Christianity condemned homosexuality was wrong (IMO theologically, but also on general principles as well) – but my reaction to that political event was the first time my gay rights activism felt natural. It was actually a very Aristotelian moment; I was no longer doing things because rationally I thought it was what I was supposed to do, but because deep within myself it seemed like the most natural action given who I was and what I knew to be true and good. There have been other things, too, such as the end of a fannish event I've been involved in for eight years, and other little things in my life. I've just felt more at home in my own skin than I have in years. Some days I'm more at home than others, of course, but even in spite of being exhausted and working too many hours, it feels like I come closer to eudaimonia these days than I have in my adult life.

I'm not saying all of this as a "look at how enlightened I am!" kind of moment. Far from it. What I am trying to say is that part of being self-aware, figuring out what makes me tick and how I can be the best Marta possible, is paying attention to the world around me. That means paying attention to the world around me, and since a lot of how I view the world is through the various news pubs I read (Der Spiegel, the NY Times, and various Al-Jazeera blogs lately, and of course Stewart/Colbert videos), it's news stories that tend to spur on that self-reflection. So perhaps it's not all that surprising that I've been thinking a lot about the Aurora, Col. shootings. Things like this are how I define myself. And James Holmes, the alleged shooter, was a church boy.

I don't know whether he was a Christian or not. I rather suspect that comes down to what you mean by "Christian." The Christian Post bills him as a "'normal Christian boy" (possibly with mental health issues), whereas the Telegraph points to a Match.com profile where he described himself as an agnostic. I've seen some sources describe him as very involved in his local Presbyterian church whereas others just say he came a few times and sat in the back. His family was also a long-standing member of Penasquitos Lutheran Church in San Diego, though that could just mean attending services a few times a year. The safest biography I can come up with is he grew up to some degree involved in a mainline Protestant Church, and then as he grew older, he drifted from it (but probably not entirely). The bits I've read about him remind me of people I know, who grew up in church families but for whatever reason become less involved as he went into adulthood.

There're a lot of people like that, and I'm not sure how much we should hold Christianity accountable for these peoples' actions. That was the whole point of the taxonomy I was trying to work up a while ago; there just seems to me to be a big difference between someone who's really involved with a church (even if it's only socially), and someone who just claims that affiliation without getting particularly involved. That said, it's pretty obvious to me that Holmes was a church-goer, even if not a particularly involved one. It was a Lutheran church youth group he would have bee involved in as a kid, and it was a Presbyterian church that didn't catch him before he went off like he did. I'm not into blaming either of those groups, but if people are ready to blame Islam for the Taliban or atheism for Josef Stalin (as I've heard many Christians do), it's only fair to hold Christianity accountable for the James Holmes of the world.

Which leaves me… I'm honestly not sure where, actually. It's so convenient for me not to want to assign blame, since it's my own group that comes closest to being to blame here. I'm not one of those who claim that if you commit murder you were never a true Christian. ("True Christians" have done as much horrific things as any other group.) But even so, I find myself not seeing what good that blame game does. It doesn't seem like it would prevent the next catastrophe, and I suspecct it would make those already affected by this tragedy feel that much worse. At the end of the day, though, I can't escape (nor am I trying to escape) the stark reality: this carnage was created by someone who looks like me in so many ways.

I think in the end that's the most honest thing I can do. I don't know what made James Holmes do the things he did, or why any God that exists lets things like these happen. Believe me, I've been trying to understand that last puzzle for longer than I've been blogging, or studying philosophy, or even writing fanfic. Wrapping my head (or more properly, my heart) around the effing ineffable plan and the idiocy of theodicy, as I call it in my more light-hearted moments, since I've known what it meant to suffer. And I still don't know. But this seems like precisely the kind of situation where honesty and integrity requires I not fill in that void with cheap certainties.

Fancy words, I know, and they feel like lies as I type this, or at least so much of an over-simplification of things that they can't possibly be true. They're entirely too neatly put-together for situations like this. All I can do is sit with the fact that I have no answers here, and live with that (and maybe some day live beyond that?). That seems poor pittance in light of tragedies like this; but, sadly, it's all I've got.

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dreamflower02
Jul. 23rd, 2012 04:34 am (UTC)
I have had him on my mind today as well. Of course in church today there were the prayers for the victims of such a horrific event, but I kept wondering about who and what this young man was.

Blame? I don't know that the church bears the blame so much as popular culture. Clearly the character of The Joker struck some sort of twisted chord in him, making him want to emulate the character. Who's to blame? The writers of the comic books who created such an iconic villain? I was an avid reader and collector of DC comics from the age of 10 all the way through college and into the early years of my marriage. Of all the various villains, The Joker was frightening even in stories that depicted him more lightly. He was insane; he was dark; he was a stone cold murderer; he found something funny in the suffering he inflicted on others. Why would someone idolize such a character?

Yet thousands of people over the years have read about The Joker--but only one has now decided to make himself over in that terrifying image.

Perhaps if Holmes had been more involved in his church-- whichever denomination it was-- he might have been less likely to do such a thing. But something in me says he would have been much more likely to reject any such efforts and hold the people who offered them in contempt. Because the hallmark of The Joker was his contempt for the rest of the human race; other people existed solely as foils for his horrific "jokes".
engarian
Jul. 23rd, 2012 10:23 am (UTC)
I don't think there are blames to be assigned in any direction here. The mind of anyone who would conceive, plan, and then carry out an action this horrific is a mind that operates on a plane that is terribly alone and vacant. I take solace in that fact, because if there were more minds of similar ilk, then I would feel that our society and culture has completely turned its back on its citizens and released the beast lurking within all of us.

- Erulisse (one L)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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