Artist Roland Barthes once said "Trauma is a news photo without a caption." He's wrong, of course. After the events of July 20th in Aurora, Colorado we've been bombarded with an endless torrent of news photos, broadcasts, blogs, and opinion pieces about the actions of James Holmes, their impact, and its significance in the debate of violence in pop-culture. We've got plenty of photos, plenty of captions, and the trauma is very, very real.
You see, I have a unique insight into comics and violence. As a comics creator I have written war stories, violent stories, and I've even had an opportunity to play in the streets of Gotham City. But unlike my fellow writers and artists, at age nineteen I nearly died when a lone nut with a gun put a bullet into me.
For more details regarding the incident you can read this article published in Riverside's Press-Enterprise newspaper fav.me/d58o9ud . But all you really need to know is on a summer day in 1993 a man I'd never met believed he had the right to enforce his own brand of "justice". Because he disapproved of how a friend of mine was driving, this man put a 9mm round through my back, which busted a rib and became entangled in my intestines. I was lucky to have survived.
Now with the media abuzz about the latest Colorado shooting, and once again blaming everything from pop culture to atheism for the tragedy, I find myself taken back to those days and weeks after my own personal trauma. From my hospital bed I recall a lot of people telling how I should view what'd happened...
I was told I lived because God still needed me on Earth.
I was told I'd taken the bullet because I was an atheist and therefore didn't receive "the good lord's protection."
I was told I was living proof gun control laws weren't strict enough.
I was told if only I had a gun, I could have defended myself.
And when I left the hospital it only got worse. I heard more about god and gun laws and all the things I should think. I encountered people who were certain I "must have deserved it, or it wouldn't have happened." Surely I was in the wrong part of town, or wearing the wrong type of clothes, or perhaps listening to the wrong kinds of music. And worse were the overwhelming number of individuals who automatically assumed the shooter had to have been a young, poor, black male.
Here are the facts. The man who shot me was white, a father of two, a Born Again Christian, and an aspiring cop who had failed to make it on the force. I was shot in my own neighborhood, an upper-class suburb of Riverside, in the middle of the day. And my clothes? In those days I was looking pretty goth.
My point is, I was the one who took the bullet. I was the one who nearly died. My trauma is real. My memories are forever scarred. And yet very few people actually wanted to hear what I had to say. From all avenues everyone was so eager to fit me in their own world view, then want me to validate it. Everyone had an opinion, but few actually wanted to LISTEN and LEARN.
So once again as Colorado endures another massacre I urge everyone to drop their assumptions, their agendas, and need to fit this tragedy into their own lens of perception. Just try listening for a while.
Firstly, I'm sorry you had to go through such a terrible experience. I hope you've made a full physical recovery
I live in a country where violence is common-place and random. It is never the victim's fault but sadly, it's common for people to try and project guilt onto the victim. This lets them to distance themselves from the occurrence, allowing them to believe it could never happen to them.
...I cannot believe people had the balls to do that! I really wouldn't have been able to hold my temper; especially towards comments like 'you probably deserved it'. People like that deserve a smack in the teeth!
I'm going to be completely honest here and say that the last thing on my mind was 'god'; gun laws and all that kind of bollocks... Mine was centered on the general horror of the situation; the families and friends of all those involved; and all those who managed to make it out... Fucking hell man; their lives must be such a mess right now; and those poor sod's will have to deal with it for the rest of their lives when everyone else has forgotten about it
I think the only other thing I was thinking of was wanting to know 'why'... What in the hell was Holmes thinking; what was his motive? Did he even have one?! It's just so confusing to me...
Either way; I'm sorry you had to face all that sort of ignorant crap after your attack; I'd hate to imagine how it made you feel
hear hear! sorry for what you had to endure. i seldom know what to say to people who have such crap happen in their lives, but i find saying nothing but i'm sorry i don't know what to say, is better and more honest then some of the other crap people say in their attempt to comfort. it's like they are comforting themselves rather than giving a crap about the actual victim and thank you for calling them out on their BS.
Wow...This was an amazing read, Josh, and I am so thankful that you survived that day and that we got to meet! You are one of a kind and I'm so thankful that I got the chance to read your perspective. I think you are right, we should listen a lot more instead of accuse.
This right here is the absolute truth. You are an amazing person for having to deal with people and their assumptions. I was actually supposed to go to that very theater with my friends here in Colorado since I recently moved back and they live in Aurora while I live in Littleton. If I had not had to work early in the morning, they would have met me there to see the movie in the very theater the shooting took place. Now I am not one to say that there are coincidences, but I do believe there is a reason for everything that happens, and not in a Bible carrying way. No. But in a way that things happen and all we can do is learn to deal with them. I am so very glad that you are alive today.
Wow JOsh, a traumatic story indeed! Brutal - but I'm glad you survived it! What happened to the guy who shot you? I've never had that kind of trauma enacted ON me, but I did lose my sister when an escaped convict went on a stabbing spree in a shopping center.
So you urge us national bystanders to listen - but who are we supposed to be listening to? And what are we listening for... aside from the facts surrounding the event?