I love my state. It is beautiful. We have a deep commitment to preserving that beauty, and because of this we have the county’s largest array of protected open spaces, parks, and wilderness. We prioritize keeping the places where we live beautiful, functional, artistic. The population here is highly educated, diverse, and healthy. Most of the time, I am very, very proud to be a Coloradoan.
But then, there’s this other side of Colorado I’m not so proud of. We’re a pretty purple state, meaning we have a even mix of conservatives and progressive forces, values, and people in our state, which I actually think is a good thing. It keeps things balanced. But the conservatives we have in this state are a special breed of conservative, not your average “fiscal responsibility and personal accountability” type, but the compound building, weapon hoarding, government fearing, anarchist type. A large portion of our conservatives are this type, this violent, extremist, hateful type, and it makes it’s mark on our culture.
Bearing this in mind, I am not terribly surprised to wake up this morning to find my state in the middle of another senseless, brutal incident of gun violence. In the state that is both home to Focus on the Family (quite possibly our country’s largest and most influential religiously based hate group) and the founding location of the Libertarian party (political party of choice for people like Timothy McVeigh), It is foolish to sit around wondering why so many mass shootings take place here. Look at the kinds of influences we’re surrounded with. Have you ever listened to Tom Tancredo speak? Any place that let a man like that reach the levels of political power that he has reached clearly has some issues that need to be addressed.
We don’t know the shooter in Aurora’s motives yet. I will not be surprised if they are political, and I will not be surprised if they are not. But even if they are not directly political, I find it hard to believe that the political climate in certain pockets of this state did not play a role. You can’t swim in a cess pool without being impacted by it in some way. When a culture is wrapped up in this much obsession with violence, hate, and mistrust, of course it’s going to breed a few nut bags. People who are prone to break and go violent crazy are more likely to do so in an environment that glorifies crazy violence. This kind of crazy violence is glorified by that special breed of conservative we have so many of in Colorado.
There are a couple of things I want to address about this incident. First off, a lot of people are talking about gun control, whether it is or isn’t the answer. I want to make this clear: I support our second amendment rights. I believe that taking guns away would do nothing but punish responsible gun owners, people who use weapons to hunt, for hobbies, or collectibles. This does not mean that I support the right of everyone to have any kind of weapon they want, where ever they want, whenever they want. That’s just dumb. Of course there needs to be gun control. Of course there should be background checks and wait periods and some people should not be allowed to purchase guns, ever. Some weapons never need to be owned by the common citizen either, there is no need to own an M16 to hunt deer. And there are some times and places where guns should never be permitted. This kind of control should be no hindrance to responsible gun owners and should be supported by responsible gun owners. Like wildlife and game regulations, they exist to make sure we can be responsible, and so that we’re all kept safe from irresponsible people as much as possible.
I hate to see guns attacked when something like this happens, not because I think guns are awesome or because I think vigilantes carrying guns will prevent this kind of tragedy (I don’t), but because I think it distracts us from the real issue behind this violence. We live in a culture obsessed with violence. It’s entertainment. Brute force is viewed as virtuous. We spend more money on our military than any other country in the world, more than all of our enemies combined, times two. We meet violence with more violence in our justice system, and work to make profits off of it. We idolize the tough guy, the vigilante, and we demonize the intelligent, educated, civilized as elitist, snobby, sissy, and weak. In certain political climates (such as the ones I deplore so much here) we march with guns in parades and take guns to political rallies, for what purpose, exactly? To invoke more fear and intimidation? Or to prove your balls have dropped?
Furthermore, we live in a culture with gross inequality, where the vast majority of us are fighting each other for whatever table scraps the top 1% decide are worthless enough to toss down to us. This environment breeds a lot of fear, contempt, desperation, and hatred. It also makes it easier for those people at the top to manipulate us even further with conspiracy theories and pathetically veiled commands to do violent things against each other, to trick us into directing our hatred towards each other. If nothing else, it makes it so that people in need of treatment for drug addiction and mental illness cannot get it, and those people, without help, tend to do tragic things.
When we focus on inanimate objects, like guns, either against them or in defense of them, we are ignoring the real issue. The real issue is gross inequality and a culture that glorifies violence. Until we address those issues, I fear we are going to keep seeing these kinds of heinous, terrible incidents, whether it’s another mass shooting in Colorado, or a drug addict literally eating a homeless man alive, or a domestic terrorist attack on a government building, or the countless acts of domestic violence that take place largely in noticed in homes across America every day.
I will say this though, there have been people who have been some people who have suggested that a hero vigilante with a concealed weapon could have prevented this tragedy. Anyone saying that is overlooking the fact that in the minds of the people committing these acts, they are the hero vigilante. Furthermore, most of the people who like to fancy themselves a hero vigilante have never had to shoot at someone who was shooting back, and they don’t know what their reaction would be in that situation. It would only work if you’re a better shot than the other guy, anyhow. We actually lived in a world like this once, it was the old west, and unlike in the movies, the good guys were not always the quickest shot. And, I don’t know about you guys, but I prefer not to live in a world where I have to live in so much fear of everyone else that I have to carry a gun with me everywhere I go. That sounds like a terrible way to live. If I wanted to live that way, I’d go live in a developing nation.
I actually heard someone say that if this had happened in a Republican part of town, the shooter would have never gotten so far, because someone would have been carrying a gun and would have shot that guy. Let me put that fairy tale to rest right now, because this shooting DID take place in a Republican part of town, very highly populated with military members, close to Buckley Air Force Base. Come to think of it, every major shooting that has happened in Colorado in the past 15 years has taken place in a Republican part of town. Columbine happened in a very conservative part of town (I lived there my whole life, I know). The church shootings a few years ago took place in an upper middle class, conservative Denver suburb, much like Littleton, and Colorado Springs, quite possibly the most conservative place in the country – and that gunmen still managed to kill (was it?) two people in the Springs before an armed church security guard (only hate churches in the Springs have armed security guards), NOT a Republican vigilante, shot him dead. The shootings at Deer Creek Middle School (where I went to middle school) took place in the exact same conservative community that Columbine happened in. And now this one, in Denver’s military district. Shall we compare this to more liberal ends of town, like Boulder? I can’t think of a single incident of gun violence ever happening in Boulder. I’d rather live in the world where shootings never happen in the first place, as opposed to the world where I hope I’m the quickest draw, or at the very least the quickest draw is a vigilante on my side.
I am so heart sick over yet another mass shooting in my beautiful home state. I am praying for the victims and their family, and our community as a whole in Denver and Colorado. But I have to say that I’m no longer surprised when these things happen here. It is part of the culture we have fostered here, and until we decide to address it, I fear we will see more incidents like this one. I still love my state, and have hope that we will change for the better in time. Until then, you take the bad with the good, I suppose.
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