Amid the national grieving for Aurora, Colo. in the wake of the theater massacre there last week, a troubling side conversation blossomed.
It concerns the youngest of the victims, 6-year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan, who was with her mother at the Midnight premiere of the PG-13 “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Online and off, a question emerged with an air of incredulity: Why was a 6-year-old at a PG-13 movie, expected to contain images of extreme violence? And at a midnight showing no less?
Weekend stories in newspapers and blogs raised the issue, as did debate on Twitter. Then there was the headline in the Australian Herald Sun: “When she should have been tucked up in bed, six-year-old Veronica died in a nightmare of violence.”
The answer lies with Veronica’s mother, who is herself fighting for her life after being shot in the neck and abdomen.
It may have been, as NBC reported, a rare treat for a girl whose grandfather, with whom she and her mother had lived, died of leukemia only weeks earlier.
There is a broader question in this discussion than why the little girl and two unrelated babies who have survived were in the theater — most parents have made indulgent decisions they later regretted. That is: Why was it asked publicly at all?
Because we, the barely-informed public, have come to believe we have a right, even in the most dire circumstances, to cast judgment on someone else’s parenting decision.
Admittedly, I blanched when I first read the age of the victims. But every personal eyebrow raise, despite the accessibility of social media that glorifies stream-of-conscious prose, should not become public debate.
There is a line when a bystander might be justified, sometimes obligated, to remark on how a parent or another adult is treating a child. We’ve seen the consequences of looking the other way most recently in the form of a statue being lugged away from the Penn State football stadium Sunday.
Sometimes it’s hard to know where, exactly, that line is. Bringing a child along to a mainstream movie like “The Dark Night Rises,” even at an hour when her friends were asleep, is not near that line, and certainly not now.
That some feel it’s fair game, even as the mother lies in a hospital bed, and her family is preparing for a 6-year-old’s funeral, is a mark of how harsh our parenting culture has become. No witnessed misstep goes without comment, it seems.
There are far more legitimate questions about this case that center on the gunman and our laws, including how a disturbed young man obtained so much ammunition and why we keep repeating this particular history. There’s no room for the trivial and just plain cruel commentary.
Do you agree?