July
20th 2012
Yet another mass murder in Colorado

Posted under: American history, unhappy endings

Information here, with updates likely available through the day at The Denver Post

Our political leaders continue to respond as though mass murders committed by young men armed to the teeth is a natural, inevitable phenomenon, like a wildfire, drought or tornado, instead of a political problem with responsible political solutions.  Or, rather, I should say that the only political leaders who feel empowered to speak up  after events like this are the ones who want to put more guns on the streets and in the hands of private citizens.  (How’s that working out for us?)

We’re living in a Banana Republic.  Actually, that term is condescending to Latin American countries.  Maybe we should just own the violent and semi-lawless state we’ve created and call all Banana Republics Yankee Republics instead, or Yosemite Sam Republics.

Your suggestions are welcome here.  I’m going to go weed my garden, listen to the news, and cry.

37 Comments »

37 Responses to “Yet another mass murder in Colorado”

  1. Perpetua on 20 Jul 2012 at 6:44 am #

    Have you been following all the furor over Rush Limbaugh and his paranoid rantings about the new Batman movie as anti-Romney, pro-Obama propaganda? So I was reading this post over at Ta Nehisi Coates’s blog at The Atlantic on the Batman movie (the conspiracy theory hinges on the fact that the villain’s name is “Bane”, like Bain Capital) and everyone was mostly joking about the delusions of RL. And then I heard this story this morning, and I was horrified, immediately making the connection between these two things. So I’m wondering if we’ll find out that his dude was an extreme right wing guy. (As opposed to the mentally unstable Va Tech kind of guy.)

  2. ej on 20 Jul 2012 at 7:14 am #

    It stuns me (why, I don’t know because I know better) how much damage that man was able to do in such a short time. But I guess that is the whole point of a gun.

    And you are right-I’m sure people will say this is precisely the reason why guns should be available-b/c if someone in that audience had one, they could have prevented this. Ha!

    What is it about Colorado and crazy mass shootings? It seems to be a bit more common there than elsewhere. I’m so glad Todd and Maggie went to see Brave yesterday instead of Batman!

    ej

  3. Paul Harvey on 20 Jul 2012 at 8:24 am #

    Sickened and saddened, Historiann, and the inevitable response from our local politicians (arming everyone, everywhere, all the time), will just make it sadder. Going out to the garden seems like a good plan. Between these nationally reported events and some really awful local happenings that no one outside our community would know about, this has been a pretty terrible summer.

  4. Belle on 20 Jul 2012 at 8:29 am #

    We’re living in a Banana Republic. Actually, that term is condescending to Latin American countries. Maybe we should just own the violent and semi-lawless state we’ve created and call all Banana Republics Yankee Republics instead, or Yosemite Sam Republics.

    Not sure why we have to keep the fiction of a republic. We glorify violence and guns, and weep when such things manifest.

  5. Spanish Prof on 20 Jul 2012 at 9:25 am #

    What is also horrifying is that, at least according to CNN, many people didn’t leave the theatre for a while because they thought it was all a show, special effects and entertainment that were part of the movie. How used to violence can you be to even believe that?

  6. Historiann on 20 Jul 2012 at 10:07 am #

    Did any of you hear the President a few hours ago from Florida?

    And if there’s anything to take away from this tragedy it’s the reminder that life is very fragile. Our time here is limited and it is precious. And what matters at the end of the day is not the small things, it’s not the trivial things, which so often consume us and our daily lives. Ultimately, it’s how we choose to treat one another and how we love one another.

    Nice sentiments, but this could be said about the victims of a flood, fire, tornado, or lightning strike. Life is only “very fragile” because we tolerate or even celebrate massive firepower in the hands of the citizenry, and because white men in our culture feel authorized to turn weapons on the innocent because of their own frustrations.

    Yes, the alleged shooter (as I guessed) is a young, white man who it was reported around here dropped out of medical school at the University of Colorado recently.

  7. Historiann on 20 Jul 2012 at 10:10 am #

    And, Paul is right on. This has been a really crummy summer. Going to see a stupid movie should not involve more risk than too many Good-n-Plentys and getting gum stuck to the bottom of a shoe.

  8. Historiann on 20 Jul 2012 at 10:12 am #

    Apparently, the alleged suspect is a crazed graduate student as well as a med school dropout.

  9. Spanish Prof on 20 Jul 2012 at 10:26 am #

    Not my favorite politician, but here is what Bloomberg had to say today:
    http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2012/07/20/bloomberg-demands-gun-action-from-obama-and-romney/

  10. Historiann on 20 Jul 2012 at 11:11 am #

    Thanks, Spanish Prof. I heard that too earlier and meant to comment on it. I agree with you: not my fave either, but he’s the only pol in the U.S. who’s willing to bring up stricter gun control.

  11. Northern Barbarian on 20 Jul 2012 at 11:15 am #

    This is so sick and so sad — I hope that your garden is comforting. One of these days someone is going to try to fire back as the NRA advocates, and then I’m afraid we’d have a chaotic mass shoot out.

  12. Comradde PhysioProffe on 20 Jul 2012 at 12:43 pm #

    And it’s worth pointing out that Bloomberg has been a staunch advocate for increased gun control since the first day he became mayor.

  13. Notorious Ph.D. on 20 Jul 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    I like Eddie Izzard’s take on this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsN0FCXw914

    Nota Bene: I tend to turn to black humor as a coping mechanism. If that’s far from your style, I would advise you NOT to click on the link.

    And H’Ann, if you think that’s in poor taste, I promise not to be offended if you delete the post.

  14. Historiann on 20 Jul 2012 at 2:03 pm #

    I loves me Eddie Izzard. I think quite frankly that black humor is the only way to go. I’m hearing in the news that Hollywood is concerned that people might connect this mass murder to the particular subject of the movie that was showing at the time.

    Unfortunately, I think that Americans are likelier to blame movies rather than our guns-a-go-go culture or the longstanding American male presumption of his entitlement to murderous violence.

  15. Paul on 20 Jul 2012 at 2:45 pm #

    Historiann, yes, I agree about the Obama commentary (and countless other speeches of this sort that always come up); I had meant to write earlier that I was sick of being sickened and saddened by these events, more so now that the kinds of weapons (AR-15 assault rifle) that he was legally allowed to purchase. The scandal is not what is illegal; the scandal is what is legal.

    Onion has nailed it about the tiresomely predictable responses:

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/sadly-nation-knows-exactly-how-colorado-shootings,28857/

  16. Historiann on 20 Jul 2012 at 2:45 pm #

    Interesting thoughts from Paul Campos at Salon. Campos is a proffie at the U. of Colorado law school. He argues that this shooting 1) highlights the uselessness of security theater, and 2) should remind us of all of the murders in places like Aurora that don’t get national and international coverage, esp. because the victims tend to be poorer, and/or brown or black.

  17. Historiann on 20 Jul 2012 at 2:56 pm #

    Paul: OMG. That Onion article is so perfect and so true.

    I guess the word “tragedy” is what really grates on me. In the Greek drama tradition, isn’t a “tragedy” an awful story whose outcome has been preordained by the fates or the gods? That is to say, it’s inevitable, which seems to speak to the ways in which we have given up on creating a less violent America.

    Then again, maybe that sense of destiny or fate in the word “tragedy” is (tragically) appropriate. When we permit people legally to assemble home arsenals, events like this are probably inevitable.

  18. Contingent Cassandra on 20 Jul 2012 at 3:55 pm #

    Indeed, the availability of guns is really the only part of the situation that we might, with the right political will, be able to control to some degree.

    A certain number of young men (and, to a lesser extent, women) *are* going to succumb to mental illness in their early twenties, and a smaller subset of those are going to act out violently against others as a result. Various cultural and societal forms may help shape the form that violence takes, but they don’t cause it. The kinds of guns (and other weapons of mass destruction) available can, however, have some effect on the magnitude of the damage.

    Maybe we’ll eventually find a way to prevent, or at least predict, mental illness (though I’m very leery of what we’d do with the latter information), but, for the moment, gun control is the only real solution we’ve got (and no, a shoot-out at the multiplex would *not* have been a solution, and I’m not at all convinced that it would have lowered the death toll).

    I’ll be interested to hear if anyone had any idea that the shooter had problems. Apparently he had no criminal record,and bought the guns legally, so this isn’t a failure of the screening system.

  19. Historiann on 20 Jul 2012 at 4:37 pm #

    No, it’s exactly as Paul Harvey said above: the scandal is what’s perfectly legal.

  20. Quail on 20 Jul 2012 at 4:48 pm #

    Once again, Historiann, you are right on. It’s never about guns, it’s always about one lone wolf. And it will always be “too soon” to talk about political solutions…until the news cycle moves on and we all forget about it.

    I do wonder about the “grad school dropout” side of the story, because I know plenty of us grad students who need mental health resources. Do those who get kicked out receive mental health care, or do their benefits (if there are any) end when their student status does? I can imagine that whole process of dropping out(and it’s likely a chicken/egg scenario of which came first, illness or academic decline) taking a real toll on my mental state if it were happening to me, especially if I was already ill.

    What about friends, labmates, advisors? What am I equipped to do as a TA or prof – especially walking all sorts of other fine lines as a woman? I know lots of white male grad students who are loners…but I also know that it is not my responsibility to take care of them.

    And as for conceal-and-carry vigilantes preventing massacres like this – the guy put on a flak vest probably so he wouldn’t get taken down right away. Let’s all just wear flak vests and carry guns and call it good.

  21. Comradde PhysioProffe on 20 Jul 2012 at 5:41 pm #

    I like Eddie Izzard’s take on this:

    I want that fucken outfit!!!!!

  22. Susan on 20 Jul 2012 at 5:55 pm #

    I had to watch an hour of CNN while getting a pedicure today. It was painful.

    It probably helps Bloomberg that he’s an independent, and very wealthy. He doesn’t have to please anyone. And in NYC at least, the NRA is not a force to be reckoned with.

    There are two words in the American political lexicon that I’d like to ban: “tragedy” and “hero”. In the classical literary tradition, tragedy is caused when good, well-meaning people make big mistakes. But it’s in the interest of doing right. So the tragedy of Hamlet is that Hamlet is trying to do the right thing to avenge his father’s death, and then all these people end up dead. The tragic flaw is tragic in the context of the nobility of the person.

    What happened in Aurora is tremendously sad, and as others have noted, a demonstration of our crazy gun laws. It has caused enormous grief to at least 13 families. But there is no nobility here.

    And just for the record, not all “first responders” are heroes. Some are, some are not. Just doing your job is not heroic. End of diatribe.

  23. truffula on 20 Jul 2012 at 6:38 pm #

    I agree with Susan. Bloomberg’s wealth surely means he does not feel obliged to pander to any interest group.

  24. cgeye on 20 Jul 2012 at 7:11 pm #

    Megadittoes, Historiann and Susan — just repeating this because the numbing sentimentality I’ve seen all day — this indulgence of interviewing every possible person who was in the theater, their relative and available pundit — blunts the anger necessary to actually *change* what disgruntled white men do with guns for kicks:

    “I guess the word “tragedy” is what really grates on me. In the Greek drama tradition, isn’t a “tragedy” an awful story whose outcome has been preordained by the fates or the gods? That is to say, it’s inevitable, which seems to speak to the ways in which we have given up on creating a less violent America.

    Then again, maybe that sense of destiny or fate in the word “tragedy” is (tragically) appropriate. When we permit people legally to assemble home arsenals, events like this are probably inevitable.”

    I’d like to stop the use of that word, because it truly, deeply, classically blames the victims. These kids weren’t Othello, or Oedipus, or Medea, or Antigone; they were people willing to skip a day’s work, or get little sleep, to see the latest hype. I truly think that it will take massacres of people the 1 percent consider important, before they execute their own version of gun control, which won’t really make the rest of us safer, but will add one more layer of security theater.

    And I feel squicky typing this out loud, — but why do theatres and media companies spend more money screening, bagging and tagging cellphones and recording devices, but not weapons? Piracy, not safety, has been their drone for at least 20 years — and now they’re caught flat-footed. And I betcha all that enhanced security presence will be primarily deployed in catching patrons without tickets and with their own snacks.

  25. Lexia on 20 Jul 2012 at 7:14 pm #

    When I wanted to celebrate my 40th birthday by taking my first long solo hike, I chose Canada.

    I loved the Blue Ridge, the Rockies, the Cascades, the Olympics. What I did not love was the acceptance of violence in America, particularly violence towards women.

    On that long lovely five day hike, I met a nurse from Holland who had come to Canada by way of France. She told me she had first wanted to hike alone in Yellowstone, but was put off by the insistence of the rangers that she should defer to the probability that violence towards her would occur, and find some man to hike with.

    The gun laws in Canada are very strict and male violence is just not as accepted as it is here. It makes an enormous difference overall.

  26. cgeye on 20 Jul 2012 at 7:14 pm #

    And, from a regular commenter on that TalkLeft link: “Even if someone in the audience had a gun too, you’re going to gun down someone who is laying down military-style suppression fire?”

    The only response an conceal-carry armed populace will generate is an escalation to grenades, IEDs and other auto-detonate gear — worse fatality stats, and a surer martyrdom.

  27. Historiann on 20 Jul 2012 at 7:20 pm #

    The Weekly Standard’s Steve Hayes: whattayagonna do? Sometimes people get shot up, and trying to address the causes of gun violence is an inappropriate politicization of the problem.

    We could argue all night long about who killed whom, and with what kind of gun. Let’s just all agree that any talk of gun control is a tacky politicization of a tragedy. Look, over there! Hollywood makes violent movies! And it valorizes women who have children out of wedlock. The issue is our corrupt culture, not the powerful killing machines that are perfectly legal and accessible to just about anyone via the gun show loophole.

    /snark

    This, from the people who are absolutist on the Second Amendment, and are also eager to pass laws forcing people to show a state-issued photo ID before entering a voting booth. More guns = good! More voting = bad!

  28. koshembos on 20 Jul 2012 at 7:48 pm #

    Crummy summer? Sure!

    We are a failed state.

  29. Mary Catherine on 20 Jul 2012 at 10:23 pm #

    I also don’t like “tragedy.”

    Adam Gopnik: “The murders-it dignifies them to call them a ‘tragedy’-have hit us all hard, though the grief of the friends and families of the victims is unimaginable.”

    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/07/aurora-movie-shooting-one-more-massacre.html

    A tragic (as in, involving death and destruction and much pain and great sorrow) loss for the family and friends of the victims, of course, but as applied to the event itself, the term “tragedy” seems to elevate a disgustingly stupid and squalid episode into something grand and exemplary.

    Ugh. I begin to be wary of “senseless” tragedy, also.

    Yes, it is “senseless,” of course it is: it is crazy and irrational, and in defiance of the usual rules and norms and expectations by which we make sense of the world (you go to the movies; you buy a popcorn and a soda; you watch the film; and then you go home). But “senseless” now seems to lend support to the “whattayagonna do? Sometimes people get shot up” perspective on the issue. Issue? What issue?! There’s no issue here, or if there is, it has nothing to with guns, and access to guns…

    We can make sense of the senselessnees, but this is to “politicize” the problem, apparently, since it inevitably leads to thoughts of regulation and of gun control.

    And how did “A well regulated militia…” become the absolute and never-to-be-challenged right of any individual who has not yet been taken into state custody to keep a damn arsenal of assault weapons? A militia is to the individual as the People is to a guy eating cheetos in his parents’ basement and plotting his revenge? Well, sweet Mother of the Christ, but that’s just all kinds of nuttiness.

    My thing is: if we’re going to get all fetishistic about the late eighteenth-century debate over militias versus standing armies, let’s agree, for the sake of argument, that any and all citizens can own a late-eighteenth-century-style musket (to be all originalist about the second amendment, I mean): heavy to carry, and late {more than 30 seconds) to load, and very, very noisy too. You couldn’t carry out a senseless massacre in a crowded movie theatre with late 18th-century weaponry, and that’s exactly where I’m willing to draw the line, for the sake of compromise with the 2nd-amendment absolutist nutjobs.

  30. Historiann on 21 Jul 2012 at 6:03 am #

    Heh. I also saw that Gopnik piece. Sounds like he took it a little personally, as apparently he had a teenager at a midnight showing of the movie too.

    I thought this sentence sums it all up: “How does one argue with someone convinced that the routine massacre of our children is the price we must pay for our freedom to have guns, or rather to have guns that make us feel free?”

    I think this is exactly right. Most people don’t own guns. Most gun owners own one, and it’s either a handgun or a shotgun. Why don’t people see that they’re being fooled into putting a theoretical right above public safety and common sense?

    I know I sound like a Joanie One Note on this, but I think it all gets back to male privilege and the gendering of gun ownership going back at least 400+ years. Legislatures are eager to pass laws about women’s access to birth control, abortion, etc., but try to take away a right associated overwhelmingly with men, and you’ll get nowhere in this country.

  31. Mary Catherine on 21 Jul 2012 at 8:38 am #

    Re: male privilege. Yes, the issue is highly gendered: male patriots versus the feminized nanny state. But who owns the guns? Not the bankers and the one-percenters, I’m pretty sure. Not men of the professional/technocratic elite class, either. The more privilege (wealth, status, etc.) a man has in America, the less likely he is to own a gun. I wonder if there’s some kind of weird “compensation” going on with the gun fetishists, which has to do with a perceived loss of male privilege? Which isn’t to disagree with you, but just to suggest that it’s not a straightforward male versus female thing.

  32. Historiann on 21 Jul 2012 at 9:35 am #

    I think your analysis is right on. It’s very much a class thing too, and I think you’re exactly right about the compensation. Guns are some of what gets thrown by the one percenters to the rubes for their votes. (The other two things are God and white privilege.)

  33. Sweet Sue on 21 Jul 2012 at 10:28 am #

    It feels like tragedy to those who live through an empire’s end as we are doing now.
    I want to know when did we elect Wayne LaPierre president of the United States?

  34. cgeye on 21 Jul 2012 at 10:22 pm #

    I think it’s far less ‘who owns the guns?’ than it is ‘who owns the *men* who own the guns?’ If you have guards with enough ammo to buy you time for your escape, wouldn’t arming and shooting at your enemies be a waste of time?

    Much easier to back the gun-nuts rhetoric that every citizen has the right to need automatic weapons, because under the guise of defending their right to carry those advocates won’t examine why guns at a mass-murder level need to be untraceable and fast-moving.

    It, like every other fucking macho issue, also is related to Vietnam. Those who fought tooth and nail not to serve, and retained their privilege, use the protective coloration of backing mass murderers, either active in practice or theoretical through proactive war and gun decontrol.

  35. cgeye on 21 Jul 2012 at 10:28 pm #

    And, I knew I remembered this on the telly, but I thought it came from Rachel Maddow, another Obama apologist — from Gopnik’s article:

    “On the last episode of Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom,” Jeff Daniels’s character, in a scene set shortly before the Gabrielle Giffords gun massacre, was thought to display political courage by showing, accurately enough, that it’s a lie to say that Barack Obama is in any way in favor of gun control. This was said *in Obama’s defense*.”

  36. Sensible on 22 Jul 2012 at 10:57 am #

    I’m a bit late to comment on this thread, but I wanted to pick up on the Bloomberg sub-topic: Yes, it’s very commendable that he’s called for gun control, and part of his ability politically to do so rests on his position as an Independent. But I think it’s also important that he’s advocating gun control in NY *City* (= “urban” = black and, increasingly, brown). However nuanced and laudable his position on gun control may be, I think his political capital also depends on racist imaginings of “the city” and his reputation as “tough on crime”. In this context, gun control is translated as “taking guns away from *those* people. Both these attributes shield him from the masculinity-assault that the right and NRA generally level when public figures support gun control.

  37. Gender and the law : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 22 Jul 2012 at 2:40 pm #

    [...] fair to see the guns primarily, if not exclusively, as a men’s rights issue.  Commenter Mary Catherine and I had an exchange about this the other day, [...]

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