Like all of you, I’m sure, I have not stopped thinking of the Aurora, Colorado theater shootings. And yet, I would very much like to.
I have written before that I have not even been able to watch a single episode of Law & Order since having children. My sense of empathy kicks in and I immediately put myself in the shoes of the fictional victim’s fictional parents and then…that’s it. I’m done for. So you can imagine how much it shakes me to hear of any story involving random acts of violence that end in the unthinkable.
I’d imagine we can all agree on that. But that’s where the agreement ends.
Trying to take my overly emotional parenting hat off, I’ve been pouring through posts and am finding it interesting to take note of all the different and ways that parents who are bloggers and writers process this kind of story. Some in more contentious ways than others. Some are downright…I won’t say it.
Okay, starts with a d.
Some parents simply grieve and ask for thoughts and prayers. Some defend their right to hold their children a little closer despite statistical improbability of this happening to our own children. Some thoughts turn to root causes, and arguments for stricter gun control laws –or, conversely, arguments for bearing more weapons. Because hey! Guns don’t kill people, mentally unstable people with access to assault weapons thanks to gun show loopholes and lobbying groups and…oh, wait. Wrong argument.
Some have written about the danger of assumptions about the gunman before we have facts. Some have written about the lack of service for the mentally ill.
Some are celebrating the lives of the deceased, like the brother of victim Jessica Ghawi.
I have seen quite a few articles and posts offering suggestions on how we talk to our kids about tragedies, and I think that’s one topic that never gets old–even if I wish it were less frequently necessary.
But the one reaction that has perhaps bothered me the most (because I expect no-holds barred gun advocates to do say what they say) are those who have come out immediately to blame the parents of the victims, asking why children or tweens or teens were allowed in a midnight movie in the first place. One such post is here, although I admit I hesitate to link to it.
The short answer to the question about why those kids were there: they were there because they were there.
Maybe it was a big special treat for someone’s birthday. Or because it was a crazy family adventure, like the parents who take their kids out at midnight for Black Friday shopping. Or maybe in some cultures, it’s just not a big deal. I still remember on a trip to Club Med, how odd the Europeans thought we were putting our 3 year old to sleep before 8, when their children were just sitting down to dinner. Or maybe, hey–it was downright inappropriate.
In any case, none of that matters for one freaking second. Not now. Not in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy.
The children were the victims. Not the perpetrators. Their families, more so. And I have seen those parents who have lost children themselves, like Tanis and Heather, jumping in on social media channels in fierce defense of those families from a perfectly appropriate position to do so.
I’ll leave them to it.
So many parents lives were changed forever yesterday. Pain, horror, guilt, grief, anger, are only some of the emotions these poor people with have to deal with for years to come. They should have nothing but our complete sympathy, but instead the judgers come out, in record time really, to shame the parents a little more.
I have little more to add.
So now, after my blood pressure has had some time to resume its usual level, I’ve come to a conclusion:
I think perhaps some parents handle the horrific thought of a dead or hurt child with logic that allows them to assure themselves, Well at least *my children* would never be in that situation.
On the outside, it’s the pinnacle of thoughtlessness and sanctimony. The very opposite of Lisa Belkin’s post, linked above, in which she suggests that any one of our children could have been there.
And yet, the more I think of it, I wonder if the posts and comments that attack parenting choices of murder victims are a defense mechanism to protect our own minds for the excruciating, horrible, fleeting image of our own children in the theater that night.
Sanctimony and finger-pointing born from pain.
I’m trying desperately not to call those people douches. I’m trying to imagine them hurting, just as I am.
I just hope then that we can all imagine the hurt of the families of the victims, too.
Hey there awesome commenters – I know this is a highly charged topic and comments overall are thoughtful and fantastic as always. But anyone calling anyone else names, and I’m deleting. Please attack the idea and not the person. Thanks, Professor Liz.