Recovering from a massacre

 

The Washington Post has an interesting story on the most seriously injured of the surviving victims of the Aurora, Colo., theater shooting. People rarely look at the aftermath of a traumatic event like this. Here’s one woman’s situation:

[Farrah] Soudani, whose abdomen and leg were ripped open by shrapnel, underwent five operations at the University of Colorado Hospital, where doctors removed her spleen and one of her kidneys, and used skin from her thighs to patch up her left calf. Her left lung and pancreas were damaged, and three ribs were broken.

On Thursday evening, Soudani was released from the hospital and into the reality of her forever-changed life. It includes mounting family tensions over how to pay for her medical care, where she should live and who should look after her.

For the severely injured victims and their families, the Colorado shooting poses challenges that go beyond physical pain and recovery. Some of the victims, such as Soudani, are uninsured; others worry that they won’t be able to pay their rent and other bills. A few are likely to be permanently disabled and perhaps unable to work. Many are young adults, faced with a staggering setback.

It raises a bunch of questions. If guns were regulated, would the victims be in this situation? If health care was enacted, would these people be worrying about their bills? These are some of the major issues that should be addressed in this year’s election campaign. Instead, we’re debating tax cuts for the rich.

 

A moment in the movie theater

The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to news reports from Friday’s Colorado shooting, the attack began during a scene in “The Dark Knight Rises” where the bad guys break into a Stock Exchange and begin firing weapons. People in the theater at first thought the real shooting taking place was an act … a promotional gimmick for the fake shooting occurring on screen. They felt that way until they saw the bodies falling around them.

I went to see “The Dark Knight Rises” yesterday. When the shooting at the Stock Exchange began, my first reaction was to look around to make sure no psychopath was coming in from the corner emergency exit.

When are our legislators going to stand up to the National Rifle Association? Are we destined to always look to the emergency exits hoping no one comes through them when the movie guns start firing?

But then, we do have a fetish for movies with lots of guns. Here’s the trailer for “Gangster Squad,” which showed as one of the previews for “The Dark Knight Rises”:

Warner Bros. pulled it after the Aurora shooting. The firing on the theater crowd in the trailer isn’t seen as an act by a lunatic. It’s a methodical, precise execution by people with guns without regard to the lives they’re taking. Purely evil.

Warner Bros. is using that scene as a selling point to get me to spend $12 ($8 at matinee) for my movie enjoyment. People will say that entertainment violence breeds real violence. But other countries get the same entertainment violence we do, and they have nowhere near the gun deaths we experience. Because other places regulate guns, and we don’t.

Still, I have no reason to see “Gangster Squad.”

Goons with guns: Aurora, Colo.

John Cole at Balloon Juice makes this observation:

It occurred to me tonight that we live in a country where the Supreme Court has decided the 1st amendment does not give you the right to yell “fire” in a crowded movie theatre, but the 2nd Amendment gives you an unfettered right to amass enough guns to shoot 71 people in the same theatre.

And he points out that we are now a broken record when it comes to America’s reaction to gun violence:

R- Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

D- Yes, but guns make it very easy to kill people in large quantities. He would not have been able to stab 71 people.

R- Stop trying to politicize this tragedy! What we need are not fewer guns, but more guns. If only someone else in that theatre had had a gun, they would have been able to stop him in his tracks.

D- Yes. Nothing could go wrong with crossfire in a dark theatre. This is absurd. There is a clear lesson here, and we need to do something about the ease with which people get firearms.

R- There’s no lesson to be learned, the guy was crazy. You can’t stop every crazy person.

D- We could try to make it harder for crazy people to walk around with a shotgun, a rifle, two handguns, and gas cannisters.

R- I knew Obama and you liberals were coming for our guns. Second Amendment!

Despite what happened in Aurora, Colo., Thursday night, where a lunatic with a lot of guns killed at least a dozen people during the premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises,” nothing is going to change. We went through shock yesterday. Today, we will mourn. Tomorrow, we’ll listen to the argument that you shouldn’t adjust gun policy because of the actions of a crazy person. And by Monday, we’ll look at new reports about massacres in the Middle East or Africa and pat ourselves on the back because we live in a civilized country.

Someone will say this isn’t the time to talk about politics. But here goes.

1) Our legislators are cowards. They know nothing is absolute in the Constitution (look at how we’ve bastardized free speech) but they appear to think the Second Amendment is actually the Second Commandment of the Book of Exodus. They’re not going to do anything to restrict guns, because they’re in the pocket of the National Rifle Association and they’d rather remain in office than protect Americans from armed psychopaths.

2) The gun lobby is killing us. We can be shot by people who feel threatened by a can of iced tea and a bag of Skittles. We can be shot by a two-bit hood on a city street who was sold a gun in a back alley. We can be shot by a goofball who went to the local gun fair and forgot to put on the safety as he jokingly and unwittingly waves a loaded gun in our face. If we’re cops, we can be shot if we enter someone’s house in Indiana. And the NRA‘s answer is that we need more guns.

3) When you’re driving along the highway and see a cop pull a car over for no apparent reason, you’re going to see a black guy behind the wheel. When an Arizona cop stops a person on the street and demands to see identification, you see a Latino searching through his pockets. When you’re at the airport and going through security, the woman who’s pulled out of line for a more elaborate screening is going to be a Muslim. But when you pick up the morning paper and read that a gunman went nuts at the local mall or a teenager packing heat rampaged through his high school, what do you think the shooter is going to look like?

Some idiot in the White House press corps today asked the president’s press secretary if Aurora was a terrorist attack. What the moron was asking was “did a brown person do it?” Because in this country, only brown people are perceived to be terrorists. The answer from the press secretary was: no.

But it was a terrorist attack. Just like the attack in Arizona on Congresswoman Gabriele Giffords. Just like the attack years ago at Columbine High School (which isn’t far from Aurora). Just like the attack earlier this year in Oslo when the white supremacist murdered more than 70 kids at a youth camp. But we don’t call white guys with arsenals terrorists. We say they’re “deranged.” And that is our racial profiling lesson for the day.

4) To our friends on the right. Despite your paranoid fantasy, Obama isn’t going after your guns. And that’s why he disappoints our friends on the left. If he had trampled your god-given right to have as many guns as you have fingers and toes (at least the ones you haven’t shot off yet), Aurora might not have happened.

The first superhero movie

We’re all excited about the opening of Marvel’s “The Avengers” today. The reviews have been impressive, at times glowing. It promises to be a blockbuster.

Then at the beginning of July, we get “The Amazing Spider-Man.” A reintroduction of the masked web-slinger, though we had a pretty good introduction to him in 2002 with “Spider-Man.”

And in late July, “The Dark Knight Rises.” It will likely be the best of the costumed-crime-fighter offerings this year, but I honestly can’t imagine it coming anywhere near the magnificence of “The Dark Knight.” Heath Ledger‘s Joker was the greatest interpretation of any comic book character, and he was the villain. But that movie was so amazing that people fail to recognize that Aaron Eckhart‘s Harvey Dent/Two Face was also an outstanding character interpretation. The Joker showed a true psychopath. Two Face was a decent man driven to insanity. Both actors were magnificent in their roles. And Christian Bale was pretty good, too, as the Batman.

So we’re going to wallow in comic book, superhero Nirvana this year. But let’s simplify things for a moment and figure out where this all began.

It sure didn’t start with Marvel, which brought us Spider-Man, Iron Man or the Hulk in the ’60s. Captain America first appeared in 1941 in Marvel’s predecessor, Timely Comics. I don’t even think it started with DC comics, which brought us Superman in 1932 and Batman in 1939. And that goes pretty far back.

If you want to look at the original masked avenger, who battled crime and injustice but hid his secret identity behind a milquetoast of a man, you have to go 1920.

 

That’s the silent classic “The Mark of Zorro,” with Douglas Fairbanks, who should be remembered as the first action hero. If you saw the latest Academy Award winning best picture, you’ve seen a clip from this. In “The Artist,” silent movie star George Valentin is down on his luck, living in a dive apartment and watching movies from his glory days. One of the movies shows a masked man zipping across the screen in an acrobatic chase scene.

If you are a true movie fanatic, you immediately said to yourself (or to the person sitting by you), “Hey! That’s “The Mark of Zorro!” That wasn’t the most recent Best Actor winner Jean Dujardin running across the movie within the movie. That was Douglas Fairbanks, no special effects, performing his own stunts.

Every movie masked avenger … every superhero … from Batman to Spiderman to Rohschach in “Watchmen” to Hit Girl in “Kick Ass” is the progeny of Zorro.

This movie above is in the public domain, which is why you can see it in full on YouTube. It is more than 90 years old! You are, in effect, entering a time machine.

When I first saw it in college almost 40 years ago, the soundtrack was different (and much better). But if you’re a true comic book movie fan, it’s worth your while to put aside the next hour and 15 minutes and watch the first superhero movie.