There is a suburb outside of Chicago named Aurora. This is the closest I will probably ever get to the community near Denver that was hit by violence early this morning.
As someone suspended between fandom and archive, this incident is terrifying. I can’t imagine the unreality of watching one of the darkest superhero movies of our generation, at midnight, and seeing a true villain come through the doors in full combat regalia with three guns and multiple tear gas projectiles. It would have been traumatizing. If this had been a practical joke gone wrong, if he’d done nothing but stand there and wave his guns around, it still would have made the news, he still would have been detained, and a psychiatric evaluation would still have been issued. More than likely, he would have been charged with some misdemeanor for the awful shock he gave moviegoers young and old. As Alisha Gaines noted on twitter, “it matters that many witnesses first thought is was ‘part of the movie.'”
But for this man to then open fire…in a theatre filled to capacity…in the dark….
I have nightmares around scenarios like this.
And when I heard this was happening in New York, I didn’t feel better. I felt worse.
There is no question that all of my thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims, the survivors, their kin, and with the city itself. But there is also no question that in a city where the mayor and police department are under fire for using ‘Stop and Frisk’ to harass, beat, and kill young black and Latin@ residents, increasing the police presence doesn’t make me feel safe.
It makes me feel terrorized.
Who do we think they will target first if they (think they) see something amiss at the movies this weekend? How many young people will be killed and how many more will be frisked, placed in handcuffs, or publicly intimidated and made to feel violated and shamed in the name of public safety?
I do not think a large police presence prevents crimes. I’m sorry, but there is nothing in the data that shows this to be the case and when it comes to blacks and Latin@s, the evidence shows the opposite.
Instead we should be discussing community strategies to prevent violence and promote mental health. And not in a stigmatizing way. Right now, the press is obsessed with feigned surprise that the shooter had nothing on his record (before this!) except a parking ticket and was a doctoral candidate with a ‘distinguished’ future ahead of him. Cable news is circulating and re-circulating his high school picture and reporters are interviewing neighbors who describe how ‘normal’ he seemed before he decided he was the Joker, booby trapped his apartment, and drove to a movie theatre to end lives.
Underscoring how disturbed he must be is dishonest. This is what we want and expect to hear. It’s how we’ve trained ourselves to discuss mental health and tragedy, is the easiest way to squeeze logic from what appears to be so senseless. Portraying him as an unfortunate anomaly underscores his tragic mental state but forgets that we overlook our mental health in this country and proudly abuse those whose mental state transgresses some cookie cutter model of ‘sanity.’
He isn’t the first young man to deliberately shoot into a crowd in the name of chaos and in a fog of anger and confusion and deep-seated fear. At this point, how abnormal is he?
When the hell are we going to have a healthy and holistic conversation about mental health–and throw our support behind initiatives that heal the minds and bodies of every member of our community?
I have questions. If you’ve got answers, leave some in the comments. And I mean it. Practical ways to make change happen, resources, toolkits, essays to read, people to contact. Who is building the community we want to see, the community where expressing emotion through violence of any magnitude is impossible? Where do coalitions need to be built?
The information is already out there and circulating. One resource popped into my feed: Creative Interventions Toolkit: A Practical Guide to Stop Interpersonal Violence. In a different vein, Librotraficantes are creating insurgent reading rainbows across Arizona. There are so many ways to be involved in building bridges and making peace; meet the movement where you are.
As was pointed out many times on Twitter, the shooter escaped with his life. And we need to reflect on that. A young man, presenting as white and armed like he was going to war, was peacefully apprehended after going on a shooting spree that ended up killing twelve patrons and wounding 71 others at last count.
Now I want you to imagine that he was black.
You see what I did there? I thought you might.