As part of our summer plans, Daniel and I attend a kid-themed movie each week. It’s a standing, Monday morning date that we both look forward to. Since the shootings in Colorado, however, it’s a whole different experience for me.
Daniel, at age 9, is blissfully unaware of the events that took place in the theatre in Colorado. I am not so lucky. As Daniel and I entered the theatre to find our seats, I thought about the moviegoers that fateful night in Aurora and how something as minute as seat selection may have meant the difference between life and death. As we sat down, I scanned the place for exit routes, something I have never done before. I looked at the little girl and her mother sitting to our side and then at the young father with three little girls sitting in front of us. My morbid imagination kicked in to overdrive: could these innocent, nameless, strangers be the last people I ever see?
For weeks after 9/11, I could not look at an airplane without picturing it exploding midair. The security in places I once felt safe have all diminished. While it is unusual for me to be a pessimistic person, my perspective about safety has been continually challenged by senseless tragedy after senseless tragedy. After the Aurora, Colorado nightmare, all I could think about was my friend, Margaret, and her two children, who reside in this normally placid area. While I determined very quickly that they were ok, I couldn’t help but imagine the worst.
My kids, of course, believe I am exceptionally paranoid. Then again, they have never lived in a world where violence wasn’t all around them: shootings in schools, shootings in malls, and shootings in theatres. While violence has always been a way of life, when I was a kid, it always seemed to be something that we watched on the news, safe in our homes. That is no longer the case, and more terrifying is the frequency in which these acts are perpetrated. They are becoming commonplace and our children accept barbarity as a way of life. It’s sad, and I am heartbroken for the families who lost love ones but also for the rest of us who have to live with our new reality.
Our children, however, are “used to” the inhumanities that we inflict on each other. They expect violence. It’s on all 300+ channels of tv; it’s on the Internet and in the video games that they play. Of course they’re not afraid; this has been their reality all their lives. And I guess the fact that I am “exceptionally paranoid” comes from my realization that in more and more of these instances, children are the victims. The Columbine High School shootings. The attempted assassination of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, which claimed the life of a child. And now, Aurora, Colorado, where a madman not only shot and killed a six year old child, but also shot a baby. You bet I am paranoid when it comes to the safety of my kids!
So while I sat in the darkened theatre, I turned and watched my son, laughing at the images onscreen. He was totally oblivious to my concerns and just continuted to enjoy his movie. At that moment, I decided to do the same. I chose not to be a slave to fear and not to let the “bad guys” rule my life. As I moved my gaze from Daniel to the screen, the irony that we were watching “Arthur Christmas” was not lost on me. It may seem corny, but right then, I needed a movie about magic and joy and Christmas spirit. A sense of peace washed over me. Instead of focusing on the terrible events that take place in our world, I looked around at all the happy, laughing children and focused on them. And from the brightness of the movie screen, the peace and love of Christmas illuminated everyone in that theatre, and my fear was gone.