Another shooting. Another shooter. Another group of people who met an untimely end at the malicious whim of a man who renounced his humanness.
We don’t yet have a motive. We know some interesting things about the shooter; his apartment is (at the time of this writing) rigged with complex explosives, and there are many more questions than answers right now.
But there are some things we do know.
There will be calls for a national soul-searching, of sorts. And perhaps it is warranted. But the conclusion I come to after each of these events is that the very vast majority of Americans–all but an extremely small handful–are an astonishingly good, decent, and forbearing people; even in the midst of carnage and destruction, the shooter was neither harmed before the police got there, nor was he harmed by the police or while in their custody. It wasn’t very long ago that he would have met his maker during or immediately after his attack. When the shooter, who forfeited his reason and humaneness in his attack, is still treated humanely, it admits that he is still subject to the rights he denied so many else. That’s a powerful statement.
In that vein, I don’t think politics has anything to do with this shooting–yet. That might surface later. I don’t even think that the Arizona shooting last year had anything to do ‘with politics’ per se, since it was the work of someone who was certifiably mentally unstable. The question remains whether or not the shooter was as crazy as the last one.
Sure, our disputes about politics and culture and everything in between are sometimes sharp and loud, but very, very, very few actively seek to harm those who disagree with them, regardless of persuasion. That says something admirable about us as a nation.
Did our culture cause this? In a word, no. Our culture caused something else: a community, and then an entire nation, immediately set about repairing the destruction on the most basic level of our being. Our culture shared the outpouring of grief and pain. Our culture defended the dignity of the dead and wounded, defended the process of justice for the accused, and most importantly, defended the notion that even great evil can be overcome by good. And we shall overcome…no matter how many times we must.
Right now I can only make one generalization about the shooter, and like an awful lot of generalities, it is probably hasty. So take it with a grain of salt. But it demonstrates that we are all capable of unspeakable evil; this shooter was bright–a PH.D candidate in neuroscience–and people that bright generally don’t shoot up crowded theaters. But this one did. It is a reminder that the weakness of our human family is present within each of us.
Right now it appears that he had a spotless record with the law and purchased all of his guns and ammunition legally. Where he got the explosives and body armor is one of the questions I’m most interested in right now. But it appears that there were no loopholes that he exploited in the procurement of his arsenal. Is this a weakness with the system? I’m not so sure. The system is currently prepared to stop those who already have records, or those who already seem unstable. If there is a flaw with the system that could be exploited again, then it needs to be amended accordingly. But there is no reason to restrict law-abiding citizens from lawfully procuring weapons for self defense, and I would be concerned if that outweighs benefits that such a change could produce. I think that if he did not have access to firearms, he would have found any other number of ways to harm people.
But this gets back to the dignity and lawfulness of all but a few Americans. The shooter should not be allowed to be the defining focus of discussions of American character. That focus rightly falls on those who did the right thing in the face of unspeakable terror. Let’s look at them and ask what sort of a nation we are. And when we do, that is a bright picture. Aurora is, after all, the Roman goddess of the dawn; if Americans remember the values this country was founded on, then we have the hope that evil like this, even if it cannot all be stopped, cannot desecrate the dignity and honor of ordinary, common Americans. That can’t be stopped with terror. That is what any who seeks to harm us need to understand. That dawn will not be darkened by evil such as this.