“You see, madness, as you know, is like gravity: all it takes … is a little push.”
—The Joker from “The Dark Knight” (2008)
Madness. That’s the word people are searching for when they are trying to explain, compartmentalize and quantify tragic events so that we can better wrap our heads around them. Just as our eye is drawn to a crooked picture on a wall or a seatbelt hanging outside a moving car door, we instinctively know when something is out of place, and we just as instinctively want to fix it. And when we can’t? It can eat at us. Frustrate us. And depending on your proximity to the event in question, it can wear our minds to a nub.
The simple expression of basic truth in that opening quote is something that we, as a society, prefer to avoid (and therefore why it immediately stuck in my mind). Some of you who have had their sanity tested—really tested—know exactly what I mean when you read that line. It is just that simple. Many of us are just a good solid (or not so solid) push away from turning into Roger Rabbit.
Thirteen years ago at Columbine High School we wanted to know the same thing: Why? Where were their parents? Was it the music they listened to?
Sept. 11, 2001—2,985 lives lost. Why? We can’t blame the religion the perpetrators said compelled them to do this or people will think we are rude, so was it something we did to inspire this?
Hurricane Katrina, Aug. 23, 2005—1,836 lives lost. Tens of thousands were displaced, wandering on foot across Louisiana and Mississippi, and so desperate for the “why?” Some actually blamed then-President Bush for not signing the Kyoto Accords, which clearly would have fixed the world’s climate and therefore prevented that hurricane from occurring.
People need to fill in the holes, to put things in a safe place so that they don’t have to live in perpetual fear of the reality that this kind of shit really happens some time, and we can’t do anything about it. That’s why we were glued to Fox News and CNN for 50 consecutive hours after the planes hit the WTC so long ago: Why? How? Disbelief.
You can put your purse in the trunk of your car in the mall parking lot at Christmas time. You can install floodlights around your homes and get a large dog to decrease the odds of burglary. But you can’t legislate the James Holmeses of the world, and it scares the hell out of us.
Will a new gun-law be enacted somewhere as a result of this shooting? Yup. But what gun detractors inexplicably fail to realize is that peoples such as Holmes, when preparing to break the law, generally don’t care about the law. Crazy concept, right? We’re screening 80-year-old ladies and 6-year-old kids for guns boarding airplanes these days and making it harder to get guns in the hands of law abiding citizens that could STOP people like Holmes while they go about their rude, non-law abiding activities. But it makes us feel better … it makes us feel accomplished, even if it equates to trying to cure alcoholism with liquor.
But like the bumper sticker says: “Shit happens.” There isn’t always an explanation, a reason or justification. All you can do is be prepared for it, no matter how unlikely it may seem. There doesn’t have to be a “why”—only a response. Mine will be with a Springfield XD Sub-Compact .40 and a racing but determined heart.
Afterwards? Well if there was an explanation, it wouldn’t very well be called “madness," would it? No need for legislation. Just preparedness. At least that’s how I keep sleeping well.
Alex Teach is a full-time police officer of nearly 20 years experience. The opinions expressed are his own. Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/alex.teach.