In exactly one week, I’m scheduled to travel with my son to Colorado, to a place not far from the massacre that claimed the lives of 12 moviegoers. My son is approximately the same age as the girl whose lifeless body was carried out of the theater. Blood was pouring from a hole in her stomach that had been torn by a projectile from one of the lethal weapons wielded by the crazed young man who inflicted terror, mayhem and death on people who imagined the fireworks they had shown up to witness would amount to a mere diversion from everyday life.
It is unbearable to imagine what the families of the victims are going through right now. Every parent struggles with the awful truth that as unlikely as accidental death and mortal illness are, we ultimately can’t completely protect our children from them. We deal with that daily. But there’s something particularly excrutiating about the thought of a child dying a violent and unnecessary death while watching a movie for children.
Batman is no Alvin and the Chipmunks. But the shooting nonetheless reminds me what a special thing it is to take your child to a movie. You step into their world, which you understand is temporary, one that will give away soon enough to the harsh realities of adulthood — a place where you slowly come to accept that you are no longer really safe, that your time on the planet is limited, and that there’s no shelter from the randomness of the universe. To take a child to a movie is to step into a place where none of this yet exists. You step into their childhood. To have that place shattered so violently, so randomly, and so inexplicably by the very worst of the real world just beyond it, a place children should ease into gradually over the years as the natural order of things runs its course — and for that sudden implosion to snuff out a child’s life in a burst of needless and preventable violence — is too much to bear.
And yet it could happen to any one of our children, at any time.
We can’t completely protect our children from falling trees, car accidents, freak drownings, or terminal cancer. But surely we should be able to completely protect them from gun violence. Yes, completely. Why is that not our goal? Adam Gopnik is enraged:
Only in America are gun massacres of this kind routine, expectable, and certain to continue. Does anyone even remember any longer last July’s gun massacre, those birthday-party killings in Texas, when an estranged husband murdered his wife and most of her family, leaving six dead?
But nothing changes: the blood lobby still blares out its certainties, including the pretense that the Second Amendment — despite the clear grammar of its first sentence — is designed not to protect citizen militias but to make sure that no lunatic goes unarmed...
How does one argue with someone convinced that the routine massacre of our children is the price we must pay for our freedom to have guns, or rather to have guns that make us feel free? You can only shake your head and maybe cry a little. “Gun Crazy” is the title of one the best films about the American romance with violence. And gun-crazy we remain.
The horror is touched, inflected, by the way that the killings now intertwine with the everyday details of our lives. The killings will go on; the cell phones in the pockets of dead children will continue to ring.
This can’t keep happening. We can’t let it keep happening.