When Else Would You Do It

July 24, 2012

At my hotel the lobby television is a 24 hour cycle of gunshots, 911 calls and testimonials. It is all Aurora all the time. “When will we see the killer?” “Doesn’t he look dazed?” Cut to the girl with the ice cream cone. Repeat.

I was born in Denver, Colorado. I lived in Aurora for a little while as a kid. When my parents divorced I’d visit him there every other year. Alamaeda Avenue is a street I’ve driven on a lot. It’s like a lot of roads everywhere in suburban America, mall, development, shops and more.

Without question the news is grotesque. It’s a 24 hour spin feeding off people’s fear and morbid curiosity. After all: don’t you want to see what evil looks like? My friend Martin sat with my wife and I at dinner the other night and railed about the manipulation of it all, of the machinery of a tragedy to a corporate news station. All valid points, all honest points. But there’s a lack of manipulation that’s even more upsetting to me.

On CNN’s website an article appears that is congratulatory. “Kudos to Romney and Obama for not politicizing the tragedy.” And I have a visceral reaction. I feel my teeth clench, I feel my stomach tighten. “Kudos for not politicizing the tragedy.”

This is nonsense. This is rhetoric. This is don’t think America.
Don’t think America, just mourn.
Mourn for the dead but don’t talk about how they died and how it could be stopped.
Don’t pose real questions America, the dead wouldn’t want that.
The dead wouldn’t be honored.

Never mind how we go about making the dead not happen.

A tragedy is when things should be politicized. A tragedy is when change SHOULD occur. Because a tragedy reminds us that our apathy will not save us. That we are all vulnerable, all responsible. We have no problem politicizing the Sandusky-Penn State rape case because it terms of judgment it’s basically easy: “don’t rape children, don’t protect rapists- or else.” This is a message Americans can get behind.

Gun talk is harder. So gun talk is something we don’t politicize. That we don’t make a tragedy messy with.

Obama’s speech was pretty. It was eloquent and good. But is it what was fully needed in this time? Not in my mind.

“No semi automatic weapons.”
“No hundred round clips.”
“No bullets by mail.”
“No weapons meant solely for the murder of humans.”

Those are hard words in our times. Those are also brave words. I want brave words in a tragedy. More than solace, even. I want bravery. And despite what Hollywood has told you bravery is hard. It is rare. And it is never easy, bravery rubs people the wrong way.

To not politicize a tragedy is to be as useless as the news cycle. It will allow you to ignore the truthful conversation, the real intrinsic discussion that is difficult and necessary and will allow the whole thing to disappear post trial, post jury, post headline…

Kudos to saying something heartfelt and beautiful about our country in a time of need. But what I wanted was change…
What I wanted was bravery…
What I wanted was hard…

And you, both of you, dear candidates, let it pass.

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