Aurora Tragedy Challenges “Too Soon” Culture

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Three weeks after the Manhattan skyline vanished underneath a cloud of fire and ash, comedians from all over the world gathered at the New York Friars Club to host a roast of Hugh Hefner. Located mere miles away from the rubble still burning from those events that Tuesday morning eleven years ago, the audience sat in an unnerving and awkward silence, wondering when it would be time to laugh again. Or, more correctly, if it would EVER be alright to laugh again. Our world had seemingly changed forever.

The jokes were ones that you would expect given the guest of honor: how Hef had erectile dysfunction, how he had three limbs in the grave, how if Ice T tried to live the same lifestyle, the gangster rapper would be arrested for kidnapping and raping hoards of young white women. And as the comics tiptoed around the line of what was in good taste and what crossed boundaries, all the audience could do was feign laughter, as the elephant in the room weighed heavily on everyone’s conscience.

Enter Gilbert Gottfried.

Gottfried, to many, has the reputation of the creepy old uncle, best known for his voiceover work in kid’s movies. Throughout his career, he has played such diverse roles as parrots, ducks, and other various birds, seemingly as a roués to make it easier to get closer around young children, much in the same vein as an ice cream truck driver or birthday clown.

But to the Friars, Gilbert is a legend, “the comedian’s comedian.” A perpetual line-stepper on the Howard Stern Show, he’s famous for his sharp wit, dirty jokes, and off-hand Holocaust quips that would make even Louis CK think “this guy has some serious problems.”

A nervous unease hushed the crowd as Gottfried took the mic.

“I had intended to catch a plane, but couldn’t get a direct flight because they said they have to stop at the Empire State Building first.”

For what seemed like an eternity, deathly silence plagued the room, only to be met with hisses, boos, and calls of “too soon!” Gottfried remained at the mic frozen, his eyes dilated and his hands wet as the Hudson River. Then, almost out of survivalist instinct, he pocketed his prepared remarks, and went into a rendition of The Aristocrats so obscene, so over the line of what’s acceptable, that by the time that the punchline came, it had Rob Schneider literally rolling on the floor laughing.

The amazing thing about that story is how, in one moment, one man made it okay to laugh again. Mere blocks away from the rubble, what had held the audience hostage – the fear of addressing the tragedy had finally been brought out in the open. Fear was released from Pandora’s box. The first joke had been made, we had all survived, and now an emotional road to recovery could begin. We could finally enjoy ourselves again.

I had first heard of the unspeakable tragedy that occurred last night on my commute to work this morning. Without really realizing the gravity of the situation, about three minutes later, I sent a buddy a text message making some throwaway joke about the shootings. He laughed, I put away my phone, walked into my building, and went about my day.

See, I’ve always believed that the best way to address fear – fear of the unknown, fear of death, fear of a lost sense of security – has been to dehumanize it, to make jokes about it, to make it seem less terrifying. I always joke about how this is an inevitable result of being a children of divorce, but I think that there’s truth to that. Much like how Herb Brooks would mock the Russians’ facial features and lack of culture in order to transform the 1980 USA Hockey team’s image of the Soviets from machine to men, men who bleed, men who aren’t infallible, I’ve always thought that the best way to confront what scares us is to make that idea less scary.

It was only after I closed the door to my office, and started reading and reflecting about the horrors of last night, that I started to regret that joke text message that I had sent. The image of a random man, cowardly hiding behind a mask, and putting a bullet hole into the head of an infant has a serious way of sobering one’s conscience up. I can’t get that visualization out of my head. It’ll likely haunt me for a couple of nights as I lay in bed trying to sleep.

Carol Burnett once said, “Comedy is tragedy plus time.” There’s going to be a time when we’re going to be able to get those images out of our head, and even make light of them. I think it’s healthy for the soul.

But now is not that time. Now is a time to mourn, to reflect, to pray.

This isn’t a regional tragedy. This is a national tragedy. The security blanket that our nation has been protected by since Columbine and Virginia Tech now has a country-sized hole in it. What was once our sanctuary, the freedom to walk down the street or into a building unharmed, is now a reminder that, for all the progress made, the world remains, and will always be, one messed up place.

The day will come when the elephant in the room becomes no larger than a stuffed animal, but we shouldn’t let that day pass too quickly.

Because, while it is healthy to dehumanize fear, we cannot allow us to dehumanize ourselves in the process.

 

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  1. 2
    Success

    Though well written, I have to disagree. You can mourn and pray yes, but the longer you dwell in the dark, the harder it is to find the light. It’s an absolute tragedy but let’s save the negative histrionics.

    ^ ThisTake a lapReply • 2 years ago
  2. 1
    SinnersLikeMe

    I’m not sure what the laws are in Colorado but in NC i don’t believe you can have a concealed weapon inside a movie theater. This tragedy is the biggest mass shooting since Virginia Tech and concealed carry permits are not allowed on college campuses or in movie theaters… so many lives were lost during these two tragedies and it could have been prevented if law abiding citizens with clean records had less strict gun laws.

    ^ ThisTake a lapReply • 2 years ago
    • 1
      General Frattis

      I don’t know Colorado’s gun laws but I know in Virginia by law you can Open carry/conceal carry pretty much where ever the fuck you want, except for court houses/other gov’t buildings. Private Business’/colleges in this state have the discretion to say whether or not they permit gun’s on there premises. http://www.vcdl.org/static/gue.html

      ^ ThisTake a lapReply • 2 years ago
    • 0
      Fratasty Football

      I’m all for concealed carrying and I believe it would have helped in Virginia Tech, but this is a whole different beast. I would not want someone with casual experience with a handgun trying to fire back at an assailant through smoke. Chances are there would be more casualties by ricocheting bullets and people getting caught in the crossfire.

      ^ ThisTake a lapReply • 2 years ago
    • -1
      BossMan DubC

      ^^ So very true. A law abiding citizen would have left thier weapon in the car, secured, and gone inside. Both believing that people will have the integrity to obey the law, and that there are not psycos out there that plan to harm.

      ^ ThisTake a lapReply • 2 years ago
    • -1
      ScobeySnax

      The shooter was a Ph.D. candidate with a clean record, all of his guns were legally purchased, and it’s my understanding that he had no history of mental illness or criminal record. I am strongly opposed to most gun control regulations, but how exactly are you supposed to prevent a seemingly intelligent, normal guy like that from purchasing a gun?

      ^ ThisTake a lapReply • 2 years ago
    • -1
      Topside69

      Virgina techs policy is to not allow any guns, even if you have th concealed weapons permit. The school shouldn’t be allowed to make its own gun control rules.

      ^ ThisTake a lapReply • 2 years ago
    • -1
      General Frattis

      @SinnersLikeMe Private business’ and colleges make up their own laws/regulations regarding the carrying of a firearm on their venue or property. Some business’ are gun friendly while others are not, even if one were to have a concealed weapons permit. I live in the state of Virginia (Less gun laws then Texas) and when it comes to carrying on a college campus it is completely legal for a non-student to carry on a campus, (More than likely they will be asked to leave by campus PD) but a student is not allowed. Being a student you pretty much sign a bunch of rights away.

      ^ ThisTake a lapReply • 2 years ago
    • -1
      we_are_the_1_percent

      Actually at CU you can carry a concealed weapon on campus, it was a recent ruling from the Colorado Supreme Court. Colorado has really loose gun control laws, so it’s likely he was allowed to carry in a theater.

      ^ ThisTake a lapReply • 2 years ago
    • -2
      PearlsandPines88

      This particular movie theater doesn’t allow guns, regardless of if the owner has a concealed carry permit. We generally have really loose gun laws in Colorado, but it’s left up to the movie theater to allow it or not.

      ^ ThisTake a lapReply • 2 years ago
  3. 0
    didorox2011x3

    Damn… my heart goes out to everyone hurt by that. My friend was going up through colorado lastnight and she wanted to go see this movie. I know she had to go through aurora and didn’t know if she went or not. Glad she didn’t go.

    ^ ThisTake a lapReply • 2 years ago

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