Reflections In Light of Tragedy

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I have been off the radar for a few weeks transitioning to my new job,
a new dog, and life as a non-student. It’s been a fun journey and I am
happily settling into this new chapter of my life.

But this morning I woke up to a horrific news headline that I could
not fathom nor could I control the sadness and anger that ran through
my body at 6:30 this morning. I had to blog about it despite every
news station covering it in full force as I type this.

The Dark Knight Rises premiered last night at midnight. I’ll admit I
was super bummed that my boyfriend and I kept forgetting to purchase
tickets and lost our chance to see the first showing of it with the
rest of the die-hard Batman fans. I scrolled through Facebook and
Twitter yesterday, as per usual, seeing statuses and Tweets counting
down to its premiere. It’s been the most talked about movie this
summer and rightfully anticipated after Heath Ledger’s brilliant
performance in The Dark Knight in 2008. But what happened last
night/early this morning in Aurora, Colorado could never be
anticipated and is leaving America in a saddened state as we process
how such a tragedy could happen during 2012’s summer blockbuster
premier.

The FBI have ruled out an act of counterterrorism and the police have
yet to determine a motive. Still, the reality is this gunman entered
the theatre, set off tear gas flooding the theatre, inflicting utter
confusion and chaos and then proceeded to fire shots, killing 12
people and wounding nearly 40 people. Why? How? It’s all we can ask
over and over again as we sit and shock and watch this story unfold.

Under the emotions, the questions, and the genuine pain I feel for the
community in Colorado, I am left with two thoughts. First, why do we
live in a country with a history of these tragic events and yet a
strong commitment to the second amendment boasting the right to bear
arms? Why do people insist that that right in the Bill of Rights is
intended for you, me, or this lone 24 year-old gunman that heartlessly
reeked havoc in Theatre #9 early this morning? It is not and should
not be interpreted this way. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in District
of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008) that the Second Amendment
protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm, unconnected to
service in a militia and to use that arm for traditionally lawful
purposes, such as self-defense within the home. The 2nd Amendment was
constructed when military activity could break out at any point in our
own country. There is a place for security and self-defense within
your own home, but when that “right” and protection prevails and
regulations and policies to obtain a gun become weak making it
extremely easy for people to obtain guns, horrifying events take place
much like what we are seeing in Colorado. How did this 24 year old
obtain all of these guns, chemicals, and tear gas canisters? Why is
there not strict checks and balances on this process? I don’t even
want to hear it, NRA. You cannot defend this whatsoever.

Secondly, this gunman is the textbook definition of a sociopath. At 24
years old, he did not just wake up yesterday morning and develop a
mental illness that led him to cause destruction at a movie theatre.
He has been living with mental health issues for a long time. I have
no idea what treatment he has ever received or been offered. I have no
idea what his actual diagnosis would be. But as a social worker I
cannot help but think about how fractured and disoriented our world
is, particularly the mental health sector. The shooter was allegedly a PhD candidate for neuroscience but had recently dropped out. Just because he was a well-educated individual does not make him unable to have mental health problems. A congressman called the shooter a “psychotic son of a bitch.” I get that this tragedy is stirring up strong emotions and rightfully so. I can’t stop reading articles about it and each time I get chocked up and a sickening feeling in my stomach. It is nothing short of horrifying, sad, and awful. But to call him that as a public figure is ignorant and uncalled for. Further, Mr. Congressman, you are making my point. He is psychotic. So let’s try and remove the stigma around being psychotic so no other movie theatres are randomly selected for a massacre, shall we?

It saddens me that he was never given the help he needed to be a safe, healthy human being. A large part of my heart is aching for all of the victims and their
families, friends, and neighbors but I would be lying if I said my
heart was also not breaking for this 24 year old man. I am NOT
justifying his actions. I am NOT making excuses for him. But we are
seeing tragedies and shootings like this more and more. There are
signs and red flags that I am sure Mr. Holmes gave off prior to last
night’s shooting. As the story unfolds and more information is released about him, I am sure friends, family members, and professors will speak up and mention some of these red flags that were brushed off then seeming to be only quirks or not that big of a deal. We saw it with Columbine. We saw it with Virginia Tech. We’ll most likely see it again. If and when these things come out, I hope we take a step back and discuss why these red flags are so often overlooked — not just with this shooter but with many mentally ill individuals every day.

My thoughts go out to those affected by this tragedy and my
hopes remain in our society to better the lives of others when they
need it the most.

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