The Debt We Owe…

I n  M e m o r i a m

Veronica Moser-Sullivan, 6 | Alexander J. Boik, 18 | Micayla C. Medek, 23

Alexander C. Teves, 24 | Jessica N. Ghawi, 25 | Jonathan T. Blunk, 26

Alex N. Sullivan, 27 | Matthew McQuinn, 27 | John T. Larimer, 27

Jesse E. Childress, 29 | Rebecca Ann Wingo, 33 | Gordon W. Cowden, 51

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In April of 2007 a lone gunman rampaged the campus of Virginia Tech killing thirty two people, injuring seventeen more and sending shock waves across the nation that continue to this day.

It wasn’t the first time someone has terrorized a university campus.  Sadly, it may not be the last.  It certainly wasn’t the last time a gunman terrorized a crowd of people.  But for me what was different about the days that followed April 16th, 2007 was my perspective on the events.  It was the first time I can recall in my life such an act taking place.  It was the first time I can remember such detail.

And I wasn’t even there.

The fact is, on today’s information superhighway, we are getting to look into parts of the world we’ve never been in.  We are getting to experience events of the world we weren’t present to experience.  And it is happening so fast.

So fast that often times Tweets are going out as events are happening.  So fast that video is being recorded of events as they are happening.  In some cases, we are more content to record an event than to diffuse it.  In some cases, we are more content to read about it than to prevent it.

In some cases, we are more content to watch than to act.

Last Friday it was all people could do to protect themselves.  But shortly after, in the aftermath, the internet buzzed with information surrounding the event.  Pictures.  Video.  Tweets.

I’m ashamed of the voyeuristic vultures that we have become.  Ashamed that we are pushing the limits of what is acceptable.  Ashamed that we are discovering there is someone out there willing to push just a little more.

In a way it is ironic this most recent, tragic event occurred during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises.  This very trilogy discusses the apathy of Gotham City, and the need to have one man risk his life to protect those unwilling to protect themselves.  The storyline challenges the viewer to think about the consequences of going to extremes to fight criminals who go to extremes.

In the first film it was the mob.  In the second, it was a man who simply wanted to watch the world burn.  I have yet to see the third, but the trailers make it clear it is a grand spectacle.  I have read that Bane is a criminal like no other.

But make no mistake, I am not blaming the movies.  In fact, the first two movies serve as a great exercise in playing out the psychology of such behavior.  It is a look into the consequences of our actions, without seeing real people get hurt.  It is a glaring example of the need for society to act.

Not to expect one man to make the change.

As I said before, in the theater at the time it was all people could do to protect themselves.  Those individuals were dealing with a man nobody could have stopped, short of being prepared for him in the first place.  But it is in the aftermath where we need to change…

In 2007 I had posted a few, meaningless blogs on MySpace, to share my love of music and to engage in my passion for writing.  My life was different then, but I still hold the same beliefs.  In the days following the Va. Tech shooting, I posted the names of the victims as a small measure of honor and respect.  I made it a point to say that I will never post the name of the person responsible.  He does not deserve the recognition.  I believe that today.  In the wake of the Aurora tragedy, I do not believe we should be delving into the life of a madman.  He made his choice, he must live with the consequences.  Detailing his life for the world to see will only glorify him to others.

A martyr is a dangerous symbol.  As Batman is a symbol for justice and a call to action for citizens to band together against crime, a martyr can mobilize an individual who may have needed the wrong person to look up to.  We have the power to control that.

Years ago I remember sitting and watching a baseball game on television.  The announcer made a quick shout of surprise as the camera jolted to one side to show a half naked man running across the field.  He was quickly tackled by stadium personnel and taken away.  On Sunday night, while I was watching baseball, the game was delayed because of a fan who ran out onto the field.  The difference?  Major League Baseball now has a policy that is enforced by all of the television partners to not show the audience the fans who run out onto the fields.  It isn’t much, but it’s a start.

Sure, thirty-five thousand people saw him run out onto the field.  But millions watch on TV.  The impact is greater on TV.  Not showing it on television lessens that impact.

Is it a fix?  No.  There are still men out there who simply want to see the world burn.  They won’t cause mayhem for press.  But there still are men out there who will.  And we don’t have to give it to them.  We shouldn’t.  We shouldn’t give ANY recognition to the men who perpetrate these heinous crimes.  It’s a small step, but it’s an important step.  Big change doesn’t happen with one grand act.  Big change happens with small changes working together.

We have a choice.

Let me put it this way.  The man in Colorado who did this had a choice.  He was influenced by the Batman movies and he had a choice.  Become the villain or become the hero.  Wouldn’t we rather see him become the hero?  If he had made that choice, wouldn’t this conversation be different?  If he had dressed up as Batman and roamed the streets fighting crime would it be a tragedy?  No.

But we wouldn’t be posting his picture all over the internet either.  We wouldn’t be delving into his life to learn more about him.  We wouldn’t necessarily know his name or his motives.  We wouldn’t be celebrating him for taking a risk to make a positive impact on the world. 

But we should.

We should be as aggressive and fixated on celebrating the good as we seem to be about the bad.  We should not patronize the evil men in this world, but instead drown out their senseless acts with the cheers and celebrations for the people in this world who help others and make a positive impact.

If you agree, write to your congressman and tell them you want legislation that makes publicizing the name and picture of the suspect illegal in such high profile cases.  Share this with everyone you know and have them do the same.  (start HERE)

Let’s make a choice.

Let’s change the way we do things, the little things, and see if it leads to something bigger.

Let’s remember the people who left their homes to enjoy a movie and never returned.

We owe it to ourselves to make a change.

We owe it to them.