In coming days, curiosity about the “Batman” killer will sweep aside everyday anxieties to swamp us with unanswerable questions about mental illness, popular culture, gun control and the degradation of American life.
James Holmes will join Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in dominating the Google universe, leaving them--and us--helpless to do more than express shock and grief in a literally unspeakable situation.
As HBO’s “Newsroom” ends its weekly installment of agitating us into reflection about our media diet with last year’s Gabrielle Giffords shooting in Arizona, our nerve endings are now in a Denver suburb.
Slowly, the victims will acquire names, faces and life histories to let us mourn them as real people rather than statistics, but what then?
In time, the unspeakable will exhaust its 15 minutes and we can go back to worrying about the presidential campaign and who is sleeping with whom in Aaron Sorkin’s fevered imagination.
The darkness will still be out there.
Update: The Day After brings the usual news of national helplessness. We learn that a semi-automatic rifle used in Aurora would have been banned if a 1994 law were still in effect and are reminded that “presidential candidates look at this issue and see the same thing other elected officials do: a rich, fierce, loopy lobby on one side, and, on the other, people with petitions, slogging along.”
Columbine. Virginia Tech. Tuscon. Aurora.
Almost a century ago, in “A Farewell to Arms,” Hemingway disavowed abstract words about the slaughter of innocents as “obscene,” saying that "finally only the names of places had dignity.”
So it is today.