I don’t often weigh in on national news. That isn’t really the focus of this blog. But today, national news went local.
I live just south of Denver, in the city of Englewood. My home is about 20 minutes from Aurora, the scene of a gruesome mass-killing which took place last night at a midnight showing of the newest Batman movie. We’re also about 15 minutes from my parent’s house in Littleton, which sits just a mile or two down the road from Columbine.
It’s a strange thing to position yourself in between tragedies, as though somehow your proximity gives you a greater amount of insight into the meaning (if there even is such a thing) behind the massacre. Neither of the two events affected me in any immediate sense. I mean, I didn’t know anyone who was killed at Columbine. My little brother was in elementary school at the time, his school a few blocks away from the scene. I recall my mom calling me, frantic and panicking about the school being on lockdown, and she couldn’t get to Jake.
I guess we were affected a little.
I don’t know who was killed last night, or who is injured. My grandmother jokes that we’re related to half of Denver, with cousins in every corner of the city. There might be a relative in the list of the injured or dead — I suppose there’s a chance — but I hate the thought. I’m sure I would have received a phone call by now.
This idea that proximity engenders relevance is confusing. So much of my waking time is spent pushing ideas through various internet channels of communication, connecting to people in other cities, other states, other countries. So much of what happens, or is communicated through the internet, comes to feel simply like information, consumed without much mindfulness.
And then something happens nearby, something so visceral and bodily, and I feel disoriented.
Columbine became a symbol. The word, our state flower, turned into a list of villains and victims. The memorials of the dead were erected near high school football fields, and license plates were imprinted with the words “Never Forget.”
Coloradans are certainly remembering today.
I don’t know if Aurora will become a symbol in the same way that Columbine did. Perhaps it will come to represent something about violence in entertainment, or the lack of security in public places. Perhaps this will be the moment where fear takes center stage, and we become distrustful of one another. Once they release the information about the assailant, perhaps people will seek to understand what it was about his family, his home-life, his schooling, his socioeconomic condition, his politics, his gender, which led him to make this choice. We will apply our arm-chair-sociologist perspective on the matter, and locate — pridefully — the reason he did it.
Not that the reason will make it any easier to understand.
As a religious person, one who is often engaged in conversations about what good a personal religion can do for one’s life, I feel inclined to do something religious in response to this. I’m not certain what good it will do for anyone other than myself, but I still feel the need.
Perhaps I’ll pray for the victims, or for the shooter, or for his family. After all, they’re out there in the city somewhere, trying to make sense of what just happened.
Prayer feels like an appropriate response somehow.
I’d like to open up the space for all of you who may not share my proximity to these tragedies to offer up the prayers that seem most appropriate to you. The prayers may be directed to specific deities, or they may simply be words of peace that you’d like to offer up to anyone who reads them. You may begin your prayer with “I pray to…,” or “I pray that…,” or you can use another form, if you like.
But please join me in taking a moment to respond softly, and kindly, and with a sincere heart, in prayer.