By Beth Davies-Stofka
July 20, 2012 - 14:08
I have been up since 5:00 AM mountain time, watching local TV news coverage of the shooting at a local movie theater that left 12 dead and over 50 wounded.
Occasionally I've turned to CNN and ABC, and over the last seven hours, I've watched the story grow increasingly canned. I've seen eye witnesses increasingly coached, made more dramatic for the camera. It's now a circus, with over 16 cameras reported at the movie theater itself, and 100 FBI agents on scene to investigate.
Before the raw reality of the early morning scene is lost, I want to tell you one thing, and please remember it. The young people who came out of that theater alive this morning were hurting.
American culture has always included a certain element that questions the popularity of our superheroes. Even before Frederick Wertham or the Catholic League convinced adults that comics were a major contributor to juvenile delinquency, there were those who suspected that comics, pulps, pornography, and other cheap, mass-produced escapist publications somehow created violent tendencies in the consumer. Perhaps we can't help this. This goes all the way back to the Puritans. It's part of our American cultural DNA.
Nowadays, the accusers are more concerned about video games (and porn). But still, in the coming days, you will probably hear church ladies and pundits wring their hands over the Dark Knight effect on American youth. You will probably hear about how superhero movies (and video games and porn) are undermining the morals of our young people, and igniting tendencies to violence and delinquency in them.
But I saw something very different at 5:00 AM, as they emerged from the high school where they had been taken for interviews and medical care. I saw smart, articulate young people, driven to tears by what they had seen. I heard them painfully describe their efforts to help others while hiding from bullets. I saw them cry as they remembered shooting victims covered in blood.
These are superhero fans. These are young people who went to the midnight premiere of an almost three-hour movie packed with psychopaths and sociopaths, delivering an endless stream of mob violence, torture, individual acts of depravity and cruelty, shootings and bombings, fear, death and pain. And they went to this planning to have a good time! If our latter-day Puritans are correct in their diagnosis, any one of these kids would be spilling over with anger, and threats of violent reckoning.
But they weren't. Over and over, they said the same things. "You just don't shoot people," they said. "You don't kill. It's not right. I want to know if the person I saw covered in blood is okay." And then the tears came.
Please, if you take anything away from this, remember that. Ignore the Puritans. Ignore those who will use this event with laser-like focus to advance a self-interested agenda. Remember that our young people are good people, and love them. Love them with all you've got.