From my letter to my best Australian friend:
Thinking a lot about the horrific massacre in the Colorado movie theater last night. I wouldn’t say I’m struggling with it. I know these things happen in modern-day America. I’m thankful it wasn’t worse (bad though it is.) I look for silver linings, and I think these things do generate more discussion. Although we’ve had a few decades of this violence and nothing seems to change. I don’t think it’s merely that we have easy access to guns. One of your countrymen (@indefensible) said on Twitter:
“American society makes sense when you realize they are all fucking terrified of each other.”
I think that’s probably true of most people, actually. It’s rare to find people who aren’t afraid of being alive in society. Sure, there’s a lot of legitimate things to worry about… when you’re actually confronted with them. Most of the time, we don’t see those things at all—and we still suffer the anxiety of them.
The other part is the culture of violence in this country. I suppose it’s understandable in the context of our history. Not acceptable, but understandable. I just don’t know how a culture moves away from it. The willingness of people wanting blood for vengeance is sickening. Today I heard people say, “I’m not really for the death penalty, but this guy who shot up the people in the movie theater deserves to die.” I don’t need to get into all the reasons why I don’t support the death penalty. And I can empathize with the pain people feel that moves them want punishment for the guilty. I just don’t know what good it does. Who are we to judge whether one is deserving of life or death? Do we have any greater moral authority than the extremely disturbed individual who tried to execute dozens of people last night? I know I don’t have that authority. Nor do I feel any great need to perpetuate a violent act as punishment for another violent act. This is perhaps the route by which violence becomes circular. A cycle of violence becomes a culture of violence.
I’m not playing that game.