On The Colorado Theater Shooting

Is anybody really surprised?

Some may think this isn’t the appropriate question to ask. It may be that popular opinion would dictate that we should be asking why this happened, or how we can show support for the victims of this tragedy. But I want to know if anybody is really surprised.

Now, before you think I’m saying something I’m not, I want to be clear: I’m not asking you in a veiled way if you think this guy was right or whether you think his actions make sense and therefore what he did should have been expected. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m only asking a simple question:

Is anybody really surprised?

The reason I ask is, I’m not surprised at all. And I’m quite frankly suspicious of the people on television who act like they’re surprised this happened.

I mean, when Columbine happened, everybody was shocked, right? High school students with firearms gunning down other high school students, seemingly at random. Wow. But then you had Virginia Tech, and school shootings became, well, fashionable in a sense, so much so that most school shootings, like the one in Chardon, Ohio, a Cleveland suburb, barely made the national news and remained a local story.

It happens with such regularity, we don’t notice it anymore.

You had the Gabby Giffords shooting, but that only made headlines because the targets were no longer high school students but politicians. So, we were shocked again for a minute. Wow. That’s terrible.

But now, what’s left to shock us? We know it’s coming. We expect it. Sure, the location may change—one might be a school and the other a mall; one at a McDonalds and the other at a movie theater. And the victims may also be from various groups, like kids at a Jewish day-care or Batman movie-goers, or people who prefer Big Macs to Whoppers. But my point is, when a medical student dons body armor and a gas mask, loads up several weapons, goes berserk during a showing of the latest Batman movie, and then keeps police occupied for hours with explosives rigged all over his home, nobody’s shocked.

I don’t think anybody can be. If you have just a handful of brain cells that haven’t been pickled in bong water and high fructose corn syrup, you understand full-well how somebody in our world, facing the hopelessness of the future and the meaninglessness of the present, could uncork all that disillusionment and just, well, go nuts. We all know. Despite our adherence to conventional morality and our obedience and loyalty to the non-violence dictates of our culture, and even while we empathize with the victims and mourn with their survivors, on a deeper level that probably makes most of us very uncomfortable, a level we would probably like to deny even exists, we know where that shooter came from. Whether we like it or not, deep down—deep, deep down—we know that each time we see another shooting, we take an inventory of uptight bosses and demeaning teachers and all the back-stabbers and suck-asses who have made our lives miserable, and we measure the distance we would have to go from here in order for us to be donning the body armor.

We all know where the shooters came from. We know what drives them. It’s the same thing that drives chickens crammed like sardines in industrial feedlots to wig-out and start pecking each other to death. With us, the factory feedlots are schools and traffic jams, board meetings and check-out lines. Our unnatural, pressurized, unfulfilling way of life, reducing us as it does to worker ants with no sense of purpose, is starting to get to us more and more.

More and more of us chickens are starting to peck each other to death.

Those Columbine kids weren’t so unusual. And every day, as the body count gets higher, they become more and more ordinary.

So what’s next? A WalMart? A Kroger? A tanning salon, perhaps? A mall?

It won’t be long before the ordinary and mundane settings of our lives will be riddled with bullet holes and splashed with blood splatter as we continue working and shopping and stepping around the blood-spill in aisle five. We may even see new industries, like fashionable body armor for soccer moms on-the-go.

And we won’t be surprised.

We really won’t be.