ďSome Men Just Want to Watch the World BurnĒ

ďDid you hear about Colorado?Ē my brother asked. This was Friday, July 20. I hadnít heard much of anything since 6pm the day before, when my wife and I began watching the Dark Knight trilogy at a local theater, culminating with The Dark Knight Rises. When the film ended, sometime past 3am, we went straight home and right to bed. As I was off on Friday, I was half-asleep when my brother called and told me the news.

This one felt different. I remembered Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Fort Hood, which were all, objectively, just as horrific. But the Aurora, Colorado shootings affected me on an entirely different level. Movie theaters have always been my refuge, my sanctuary. Whatever else was going on in my life, whatever problems I may have been experiencing, I could always go to the movies and feel revitalized and renewed. Now twelve people had lost their lives at such a place.

The connection was not limited to the location. More than with any other shooting, I identified with the victims. I could imagine how they felt right up until the shooting started. As we are all aware, itís not the casual moviegoer that goes to a midnight showing of a filmís debut. Itís the die-hards that do this (or in my case, a die-hard and a very understanding wife). Itís the fans that have looked forward to this date for months or even years. Now that date was finally here. As the screening time approaches, the anticipation builds. The audienceís energy multiplies. The fans look around and see their comrades, some in costume, and know they are going on this fun ride together. The theater goes dark and the screen lights up. At last!!! For me, and so many others, the ride was an exhilarating catharsis. For those in that one theater in Colorado, it was all violently taken away. It could have been me and my wife in that theater. It could have been any of us.

Itís hard to be rational while considering what happened. If only Batman, Superman, Spider-Man or any superhero were around to stop that kind of evil. While that will never be, we can be inspired by people like Jon Blunk, Matthew McQuinn, and Alex Teves, who were all killed in that theater while protecting their girlfriends. Their heroism and sacrifice is reminiscent of Liviu Librescu, a 75-year-old Holocaust survivor and Virginia Tech professor, who five years ago blocked the door as a gunman tried to enter the classroom. The gunman killed Librescu, but the professorís students escaped unharmed.

With the horror, grief and inspiration come many questions and one in particular: Why? Why would someone try to kill men and women who were complete strangers to him? Why that time and that place? An initial look at the shooterís background did not uncover any motive. Maybe investigators will uncover something that can explain why he did what he did, but I doubt it. Ironically, the best explanation, if you can call it that, came from The Dark Knight. Alfred (Michael Caine) informs Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) that ďsome men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.Ē Those men are real, which leads to the next question: ďWhat can we do about it?Ē

Wiser people than me will debate that question and I have my own thoughts about gun control that I will save for another forum. Some on television mentioned drastic security measures, including placing metal detectors in theaters. That would not have deterred the Colorado shooter (who hid the guns outside the emergency exit). And what would these new measures entail? Some procedures, such as alarming the emergency exits and installing security camera might make sense, but Iíd hate to have moviegoing comparable to departing from an airport. Then thereís the question of who would pay for all of these measures. Finally, if we did cover all the movie theaters, what about restaurants? Malls? Ballparks? Concert halls?

The short answer very well may be that people like the shooter are simply out there. We can be smart and avoid unnecessary risks, but itís impossible to live completely danger-free. During the DC sniper shootings my mother told me not to go to any place with a parking lot. I still havenít figured that one out.

My wife grew up in Israel, and I have travelled there a few times. In its relatively short history, Israel has endured countless terrorist attacks. Yet the people there do not live in fear. Many Israelis have been killed on buses, but they still ride them. Same goes for nightclubs and restaurants. If Israelis can not only carry on, but enjoy their lives, we can certainly not let one incident at a theater, no matter how horrible, stop us from going to the movies.

So the movie theater is still a refuge; itís still a sanctuary, albeit a fragile one. The next time Iím in a theater and the lights go down, I might look around a bit more. I might be somewhat more apprehensive. That will pass. I will also think of those moviegoers in Colorado and hope that they were able to get some joy out of The Dark Knight Rises before an evil sociopath intervened. Most of all, I will remember that I am doing something that I love and that I am so lucky to have that chance.

Adam Spector
August 1, 2012


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