Sometimes it takes an outsider to see things clearly. In the case of the shootings in Aurora, Colorado, the foreign press this week did an excellent job of reporting on the incident without the overwrought pathos that often muddles American coverage of American tragedies.
Unsurprisingly, many foreign articles on the shootings focus on the prevalence of guns and the lack of gun control that makes the United States unique among developed countries.
The Globe and Mail of Canada notes that, ironically, President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney are scheduled in the fall to face off in a nationally televised debate at the University of Denver, a 10-minute drive from the theater where the massacre occurred last week and a 15-minute drive from Littleton, site of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre.
The paper highlights how after the incident both Obama and Romney called for stricter enforcement of existing gun control laws, an essentially useless policy given that nobody had the power to stop the shooter from assembling most of his arsenal in the weeks prior to the attack:
In fact, police say, James Holmes, 24, purchased all his weapons legally, passing background checks which – in Colorado – require that a person not have a criminal record or be certified insane or an admitted drug addict. Mr. Holmes, also legally, purchased 6,000 rounds of ammunition. However, the bombs and booby traps in his apartment were likely illegal and he didn’t possess a “concealed carry” permit entitling him to hide his handgun as he walked around.
In a separate story, The Globe and Mail asks Canadian expats living in the U.S. what they think of American attitude towards guns. One interviewee, Kieran Edling, a Toronto native studying in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, summed up the American ambivalence towards the issue nicely:
Philadelphia consistently has one of the highest homicide and gun crime rates in the country…Aside from what’s causing the gun violence here, efforts to write smarter gun control laws here get stifled by the state. Outside of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is a very rural state and people love their guns. The “culture war” theme recurs.
Policy paralysis isn’t the only American response to shooting sprees. Pakistan’s Dawn.com put its finger on the denial that often rears its head when the American media seeks answers to why shooters decide to kill their neighbors.
“Although police told a court in Colorado on Monday that the killing ‘was a deliberative process by a very intelligent man who wanted to do this,’ most Americans are still struggling to understand why it happened,” the site reports. “The U.S. media are focusing on the suspect’s life, trying to find clues that could help them understand why this happened. So far they have not been very successful.”
Dawn.com relates how Holmes came from a good family, received a federal grant to study neuroscience, was an athlete rather than a loner in high school and otherwise seemed to have a bright future. “This obviously is not the profile of a mass murderer. So various media outlets are now trying to dig deeper,” the report says.
The newspaper lists the theories that attempt to explain Holmes’ crackup: U.S. gun culture, his love for violent Batman characters, etc. None satisfies, however. The implication is that Americans don’t want to admit they’ve got a problem with guns despite the fact that mass shootings have become a relatively common occurrence in recent years, like an alcoholic who denies he or she drinks too much after they lost their license to a DUI arrest.
Batman, hero of many faces
On the light side, amid the reports on the Aurora shooting, I came across this excellent review of “The Dark Knight Rises,” the move that was playing in the theater where the shootings occurred.
The Hindu writes that this latest Batman movie might put British-American director Christopher Nolan’s trilogy among the best in the history of cinema. It’s a big claim, but the newspaper applies some Jungian analysis to back up its assertion:
Not many trilogies have had the sense of clarity that Nolan has demonstrated with this perfect three-act story (though the filmmaker claims that he hadn’t planned the films in advance). The trilogy serves as a textbook example for Joseph Campbell’s theory of the hero’s journey popularly known as the Monomyth. If Batman Begins marked the hero’s ‘Departure,’ The Dark Knight served as an ‘Initiation’ for his transformation towards self-actualisation and [the movie] provided the perfect finale of the ‘Return’ when the hero becomes the ‘Master of Two Worlds’ and earns his ‘Freedom to Live’.
It’s a reminder that the U.S. culture, despite its warts, still provides an example to the world, even when that example involves a man dressed like a bat.