You see the phrase "we are saddened" expressed by PR wings when a tragedy strikes. We can read between the lines and know that in many cases, the employees of the company may well be saddened, but the need to create a quick press release that admits participation while denying culpability is at the core of the statement.
But today, I am actually and truly saddened by the events at the screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Auroroa, Colorado. As of this writing, what information I have found states that 12 to 13 people are dead, and many more wounded. A gunman took the opportunity presented by a darkened theater and a room full of people with their attention elsewhere, and he took it upon himself to unleash horror. Words fail me.
I arrived at work in a Batman t-shirt today and had not checked the news aside from the weather report. Jim, the manager at the coffee shop, is a former comic geek (and now a barista by day and a reservist soldier on the weekend. Great guy.) asked me if I was wearing the shirt "because of Colorado". And then he saw my blank stare. "You haven't heard..." And he explained what he knew to me.
I'm not buttoning up the sport shirt I'm wearing over the bat symbol. Batman didn't kill these people. And despite my misgivings about some of the messaging about Batman and taking the law into one's owns hands that I expressed yesterday, part of why I think I can continue to embrace Batman as symbol is that Batman is , at the end of the day, a statement of defiance against cruelty and terror. I haven't seen the final installment of the trilogy, but I can say that in mining the Batman mythos of the past 70 years, what Christopher Nolan dug up was the ability of a man to confront fear and let it pass over him and through him and let it become nothing. In Dark Knight, we saw what seeming chaos looks like as a man wants to watch the world burn, and the choices we can make, even supposedly the worst of us, in those moments where we're put to the test - whether we give in to fear - those moments matter for all of us.
So, I put on the shirt with a smile on my face when I got dressed today, but now I'm wearing the shirt in mourning. And, if I'm allowed to use the word, in defiance.
Be prepared for American politics to go crazy today talking about how the other side made this possible. But those are cowards seeking an opportunity. Nobody made this crazy person pick up guns or smoke bombs. This was a person looking for an excuse and an opportunity. This is when we decide how we'll react, and how we choose to respond shows who we really are.
Today we should be looking to Colorado not for answers, nor for blame, but out of respect for the dead and wounded. I am very truly saddened, and I am very truly sorry.