Midnight movie and a massacre

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Alden Graves

I’ll wager that 71 people who went to a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colo., last week didn’t realize that they were doing more than just going to a movie -- they were giving the gun lobby another chance to defend our Second Amendment rights. Twelve of them paid the ultimate sacrifice, but at least the founding fathers’ concern for arming militias could be restated. How often do these great opportunities come around?

Too often, as anyone with a rationale that isn’t still mired in the mythic mayhem of the Old West understood a long time ago. Most of the politicians hollering Second Amendment infringement every time someone proposes some kind of sane control on firearms in this country probably wouldn’t know the Constitution from the directions on a box of Jell-O.

The trouble with America doesn’t lie in deeply corrupted banking systems, insatiably greedy CEOs, inept, ineffectual politicians, or the chasm that exists between the haves and have-nots. We’ve misplaced our duty as a civilized people to assert that "enough is enough." And can anyone honestly argue that we have had more than enough from crazies with their Rambo guns and the lucrative business that enables them to act out their bullet-splayed fantasies? While flacks for the gun industry get rich, we are getting killed.

Repetition begets numbness, however. How many of us turned to someone else when the scope of the shootings at the Century Theater became apparent and asked, "I wonder if they’ll do something about controlling guns in this country now?" And then immediately realized how quaintly ludicrous that question has become.

It’s a fairly safe bet that Vermont’s three representatives in Congress would just as soon admit that they never much cared for maple syrup as face the wrath of their constituents over restricting the access to guns. Sen. Leahy can tell his endearing story about the time he got his first gun, the most noncommittal endorsement of a volatile issue that an otherwise intelligent man can muster. The volume of the discussion from Sen. Sanders, who can proudly boast that he has a failure rating with the NRA, is pitched considerably lower on this particular subject.

The president, who cowers like every other ambitious politician in the country at the sound of the NRA’s war drums, is predictably sorry about America’s latest mass murder. You begin to wonder if some speechwriter whipped up a generic address for these occasions some time back -- maybe after Columbine. It might go something like this: "_______ (fill in wife’s name) and I were very saddened to hear of the tragedy in ________ (fill in site of latest massacre). We send our condolences to the families of the dead and encourage all Americans to join hands and fight the scourge of violence in whatever form it takes."

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Note: It is vital that __________ (fill in politician’s name) maintain a somber expression, wear one of those little flag pins, and, if you value your job, refrain from uttering one single word that will give the gun lobby the slightest impression that you are determined to really do something about the problem.

Obama shuffled off his culpability beautifully.

We were also treated with a typically loony far-right response to the shootings, this one emanating from a representative from Texas (big surprise there). Not having the slightest clue as to what drove a 24-year-old graduate student to don a suit of body armor, booby trap his apartment, take two handguns, a rifle and an AR-15 assault rifle and open fire on a crowded theater audience, Rep. Louie Gohmert decided to harvest some political hay by pronouncing that a breakdown in "Judeo-Christian beliefs" was at the root of the problem. That explanation will no doubt play well with Gohmert’s constituents, who evidently aren’t very perceptive to begin with, but the rest of us had better hope for a deeper -- or at the very least an informed -- analysis of the mindless violence that permeates American society today.

But Rep. Gohmert wasn’t satisfied just to raise a little Bachmannesque religious tension. He wanted to add some irresponsible extremist sentiment to the dialog. What puzzled the congressman is the fact that no one else in that theater was packing a gun. So, the next time you want to go out to a movie, decide where you’d like to eat, call a sitter if necessary, and make sure the Glock is loaded during the coming attractions. Welcome to Louie Gohmert’s America.

Warner Bros. didn’t immediately release the weekend box-office haul for its expensive, 3-hour paean to a comic book character. For Hollywood, it was the ultimate sign of respect for the dead and wounded. It would be nice to believe that the public would think twice about adding more millions to the Time Warner coffers in an effort to convince the studios to curb the level of violence in their product, but I’m not getting my hopes up on that score either.

And there is a battalion of lobbyists for the film industry handsomely rewarded for assuring us that the murder and mayhem we watch in the movies doesn’t have anything to do with it anyway.

Alden Graves is a reviewer and columnist for the Banner.


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