Where was the “community?”

It’s now been three days since the atrocity in Aurora, Colorado. I’m sure everyone is more than informed of the details of the shooting, the shooter’s apartment, the shooter’s background … as well as the endless pontifications on why he did it.

Why did he do it? And what could have been done to prevent it? Inevitably, the discussion has come down to politics, of course being an election year. And with that – the politicians, with their “two cents worth,” have been spewing from whatever soapbox and in front of whatever camera they can find.

Front and center in this sound bite debate, as one would expect – is gun control. New York mayor, Richard Bloomberg, has been on every network touting stricter gun controls and more effective enforcement of the ones we have. On the other side, you have Colorado Representative Joshua Trevino denouncing the gun advocates for exploiting the situation, and Representative Louis Gohmert of Texas dragging out God and Jesus in his absurd comment blaming the shooting on a decline of Christian values.

Site of the Aurora, Colorado shooting

There’s even talk of legislating the security in movie theaters. More “knee-jerk, after-the-fact” legislation thrown up by our do nothing insignificant Congress; that’s all we need! Can’t we get ahead of the curve and address the problem at the root.

Now I could get on my soapbox and join the gun debate … but I won’t. There’s nothing I can say that hasn’t been said, or will have any affect on anyone’s opinion – so I’m going down a different road.

The shooter is described as a loner, an outlier, and probably an outcast. But did he have to be like that? What caused him to become so disenfranchised that he would lash out like he did? Where was the support structure?

Where was the “community?”

From all accounts, he didn’t seem like “a mass murderer in-waiting.” He was an honors student and even volunteered as a counselor at a summer camp for kids in Los Angeles. What caused him to change, if indeed he did change? Or has he really always been like this. Didn’t anyone see that something wasn’t right? Loner or not … wasn’t there anyone?

This is just another example of our abandonment of the responsibilities of community – and helping our neighbors … and even ourselves. We feel it’s not our job to lend a hand. We rely on our institutions, the institutions that are increasingly failing us.

We want the government to fix the economy and find us a job when our elected officials have no desire to do any of that. They’re too busy dialing for dollars to keep in office so they can continue to do nothing on our dime.

We want public schools to educate our children when there teachers are “hand-tied” from actually teaching and promoting learning. If it doesn’t fit in an oval blackened by #2 pencil, it’s not part of the curriculum.

We want our health care system to fix us after we’ve done little to prevent us being at risk in the first place. For most people it’s a pill over a little physical activity and gastronomic self-constraint.

It seems we’ve lost what it’s like to be a neighbor. We depend on these institutions, and with the deterioration of these institutions – this leaves us with a void. This is a void that used to be filled, and still should be – by our communities. Shouldn’t a community be concerned with wellbeing of the community of a whole, especially those on the fringe, those that need the help most. Because without the community, our neighbors … most have no other options than to spiral out of control, like the shooter in Aurora.

Now I’m not saying that his friends and neighbors should have seen this coming. It’s no one person’s responsibility, but what if simple gesture might have made a difference, a difference that might have made him think the “system” wasn’t rigged against him. Something seemingly insignificant could be the catalyst that could change a person’s life.

Can’t we just open up our eyes to those outside the walls of our “personal castle?” Societies of the past used to live according to the adage: “It takes a village.” While we can’t live in the past, nor should we … it’s unfortunate we don’t learn the lessons of our predecessors. Progress is taking the accumulated knowledge of the past, adapting it and using it in context today.

Spend some time today thinking … thinking about anyone but yourself. Who can you reach out to?

Who can you show that they are part of the community?


You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg


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2 thoughts on “Where was the “community?”

  1. Good question Clay. Perhaps not surprisingly, I had a similar thought in May after a rash of shootings here in Seattle. Playing the blame game is so 2008. 😉 What can we do is my question. Get closer as a community, my answer. From a June 11 blog post…

    “…All of Seattle is shaken right now. Guns are not our thing. Community gatherings and meetings and discussions are happening everywhere. We are not close enough as a community yet, we are learning. We aren’t getting help to people with mental illness who need it. We aren’t providing enough options and support to kids to keep them out of gangs or guns out of their hands. Some among us believe that shooting a gun across a busy street or into a crowded cafe are the best options. We are not close enough as a community yet….”

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