As I write this, breaking news says that gunfire erupted from a man in a gas mask at a movie theater premiering "Dark Night Rises" the latest Batman installment, during a midnight showing earlier this morning in Colorado and that at least 14 people were killed and 50 were wounded. The suspect is allegedly in custody.
This has become an all too familiar story, one that seems to repeat itself with a frequency that is bone-chilling. The Columbine killings, the Virginia Tech massacre and the multiple deaths that occurred during the Gabby Giffords town hall meeting in Arizona in which she was critically injured too. Mindless, senseless acts of rage and brutality that mental health experts have just as hard a time understanding and explaining as the rest of us do.
There seem to be few safe havens anymore. High school and college classrooms aren't, political rallies aren't, movie theaters aren't, bars and clubs aren't, outdoor barbecues aren't and violence has even touched our churches and synagogues.
I always try and put myself in the shoes of the victims who most likely had been looking forward to this movie premiere with great anticipation and excitement. There was surely a buzz as people stood in line to get their tickets, eagerly talking about past Batman movies and wondering how this one would compare to the previous ones. They most likely got popcorn and cokes in the concession stand, picked out their favorite location to sit, and settled back for a couple of hours of pure enjoyment, temporarily suspending whatever was going on in their real lives for a bit of escapism; probably welcome escapism for many.
But that wasn't the attitude at all of one of the attendees in the crowd. He was there for a totally different reason; a reason drowned in darkness, despair and, most assuredly, hopelessness. He went to the movie last night with a loaded weapon; perhaps more than one and he knew when he went what he was going to do when he got there. It's unlikely that he knew any of his victims because his anger and rage was aimed at something much larger than a particular person. His victims represented a society he had given up on or perhaps, he thought, had given up on him. Whether it was one thing that drove him to his acts of violence or a multitude of things, we know that at least in his own mind, he had reached the breaking point, as had the shooters in the previously mentioned incidents.
Since most people who go off the deep end and commit horrific crimes like this either kill themselves or are killed by police, what we know about their motivation is limited. Since this shooter was captured, perhaps we'll find out more. But even if we do, will his circumstances be any different than thousands of other people who DON'T commit mass murders? Maybe he lost his job or his girlfriend or a close friendship. Maybe someone close to him died. Maybe he's a loner who has no intimate connections with other people. But those things happen to people all the time and to some people, ALL of those things happen but they don't respond the same way the shooters do. Most people find a way to cope with the most dreadful circumstances that could happen to them but some don't. Instead of bending, they break and innocent people receive their wrath when they do.
Although we've always had mass murderers, their frequency continues to increase. Are we alienating ourselves from two-way social relationships due to our ever increasing dependency of being wired to the Internet or our cell phones for most of our waking hours?
I think that's a real possibility. People now break contracts, quit their jobs and end long term relationships with a text message so they don't have to go through the pain and embarrassment of a face-to-face confrontation which shows little courage and even less character. When it becomes too easy to break off relationships with other people, it becomes easier to treat them as objects instead of people.
And when they become objects, they're much easier to kill.