This is not a good week to be a journalist.
Watching the massive 24/7 coverage of the massacre in Aurora, Colo., coverage that will only serve to inspire some future twisted male mind to seek infamy — to die hated but not unnoticed — one cannot help but be disgusted.
As journalists, it’s understood to be our duty to do things like call up a mother in San Diego to inform her that her son killed 12 people, all so we can then report endlessly on what her cryptic response means or did not mean.
Airtime must be filled; an explanation must be found.
The movie theater mass murderer was a child of upper-middle class, educated, affluent and apparently loving parents, with an umblemished record. In high school he was somewhat quiet, but had a circle of close friends. By graduate school, he appears to be always alone, but still smiling, polite, helpful. He studied the neurological roots of mental illness.
If you must speculate, it sounds a lot like schizophrenia, which typically emerges in late adolescence or young adulthood.
But what does that explain, when 99.9999 percent of schizophrenics never pick up a gun and murder anyone?
There is no good answer to the question, “Why?”
We desperately search for some explanation, some pattern, so we can bring order into chaos, so we can protect ourselves from fear, pronounce somehow confidently “never again.”
If we end bullying, or pass some gun laws, or –whatever — evil will be purged from our midst.
But the only answer to the problem of suffering is the one that God gave Job. Job asked “Why?” and God did not offer any explanation. He simply said, “I am,” and Job was comforted.
The only comfort in the midst of evil is the presence of God and/or of His fruit, which is goodness.
Whether we believe in God or not, this is the essence of faith: In the midst of all the visible evil, we affirm that good is stronger than evil, that love is better and more real than hate and horror.
And, yes, through the media frenzy, the fundamental decency of the people of Aurora shone like a beacon. Mayor Steve Hogan urged us to focus on the victims and the heroes, and to refuse to allow the city of Aurora to be defined by the transitory horrible evil in its midst.
On MSNBC, journalists asked Jordan Ghawi, the brother of Aurora victim Jessica Ghawi, to pontificate on gun-control laws. He refused. On his website, he wrote that he was doing interviews to bring attention to Jessica and the other victims: “Going to continue to give interviews until the victims’ names are remembered and not the coward of a shooter.” Jordan urged us all not to mention the killer’s name.
On Fox News, another news personality tried as hard as she could to get a teenage female victim, shot in the face, to express her primal emotions against the shooter because, well, viewers enjoy such displays. “I don’t want to stoop to his pathetic level,” this teenage girl said. The dignity this child-woman displayed!
Three men died taking bullets for their girlfriends. Stephanie Davis kept her fingers tight around the neck wound of her friend Allie Young, rather than flee the theater. Countless first responders rushed into unknown danger, with a killer still on the loose.
A 14-year-old boy named Prodeo et Patria (it means “For God and country”) was shot in the back and escaped the theater; he then went back inside to rescue his mother and father. While there, he stayed behind to help a wounded stranger escape as well.
He’s an immigrant from Indonesia, by the way.
Maybe there are some lessons to be learned from Aurora: Get the face and the name of the killer off the front page. Focus on the victims and the community that loved them and rallies on their behalf. And above all, give us the heroes, the lights in the darkness of horror and evil.
Not so much because they deserve it, but because we need them.