I don't even know what to say. I don't know what to feel. My thoughts and emotions over this are so confused and strange. How can such a thing happen? How can we even find the proper reaction? I'm not sure why this particular shooting has affected me so so much. Previous shootings have been horrible, and of course I've been saddened. But there's something about this particular instance that digs at me.
I didn't hear about it until this morning while browsing Facebook over a bowl of cereal. The first thing I saw was a story from Superherohype.com reporting that Warner Bros. and President Obama had issued statements regarding a shooting that had taken the lives of 12 people during a nighttime screening of The Dark Knight Rises. I followed the link, and felt my stomach drop out.
I won't pretend that I have some connection to these people. I have none. Yet, for the first time in my life, I found myself genuinely heartbroken over a news story. Even 9/11 didn't give me such a visceral reaction. (To clarify, I was very young when the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center took place, and it took some time for the enormity of that event to sink in. I am not downplaying the events of 9/11 one bit.)
I wonder now, a few hours later, if my sudden feelings perhaps have something to do with the venue the shootings took place in. It's strange and terrible that a man would choose such a setting to commit such atrocities. Batman has always been a symbol of unappreciated justice, a dark figure unflaggingly fighting the masked and shadowed evil that lurks in humanity. I have not seen the film as of yet, but I know some of the characters involved are playing the part of terrorists, violent and guilt-free men who destroy lives with abandon. What was it that pulled the man responsible for the shootings to such a place? Was it the convenience of the people massed in one place? Or was it somehow connected to the film that was playing behind him?
I don't mean to suggest that the film inspired or informed the attacker in anyway. This is not my intention in the slightest. A man is responsible for his actions, and passing blame onto the film in any way would be an insult to the victims of his attack.
I suppose the feeling I'm trying to express is the sudden humanization of Batman and everything he stands for. It was an attack on me and what I believe. It was an attack on all the people of the world who care for a character who promotes such good in the face of adversity. For just a few moments while reading that first news story, I felt like I had fallen into the world Batman inhabits, a character reading the Gotham City Newspaper. My heart wanted to cry out for something to be done, for Batman to save these people. Why hadn't he been there? Why couldn't they have been protected? Unfortunately, a fictional character, no matter how beloved or symbolic, is powerless against the very real abomination that reared its head last night.
Batman remained trapped behind the screen, and I felt his desperation. I don't mean this is a literal sense. I know reality from fiction, but fiction is also what defines us. Batman and other superheroes alike reveal us, our flaws, our triumphs, our struggles, and our desires. We tell the stories of Batman because they give shape to our need for justice in a world we can't control. We need to see something good amid all the darkness.
Batman lost a fight last night. We lost a fight last night. For a short time, we were defeated, not by a character in makeup or with a silly name, but by a person, a human being with motivations most of us will never, ever fathom. There were no fists, no capes, and no grand symbols of the human struggle. This was not a Superman comic, this was a Batman story. And by that, I mean it was our story.
My heart goes out to the victims and their families. My thoughts are on the many men and women and children who witnessed this horror. Please, know that the world loves you.