Friday, October 24, 2014

Thoughts on Shootings (and the stuff that went down in Ottawa).



There's a scene in the pilot episode of Life (the TV series with Damian Lewis and Sarah Shahi) that I still remember as being the moment where I fell in love with the show. It was the moment that carried me through the really fantastically bad parts of season two (and there were some really fantastically bad parts in season two). 

It's a pretty normal moment for a police procedural: our detectives have tracked down the bad guy and are kicking in the door because that's what cops on TV do, and there's a shootout and the bad guy gets shot and dies, and we in the audience are all supposed to feel good about it because the bad guy was a bad guy and the cops are the good guys.

That's not the thing here, though. We've been told the bad guy is a bad guy. He's in an apartment with enough coke to get a good chunk of the LA Metro Area high, and it's pretty clear that the bad guy killed a 9 year old to show how much of a bad guy he was. But anyway, there's a shootout, because TV, and the bad guy gets shot by Sarah Shahi's character and falls down on the gross, dirty bed. And Damian Lewis' character runs over and kicks the bad guy's shotgun away, and leans down and puts his hand on the bad guy's forehead, and just holds it there. And he whispers "Shhh. It's all a dream. Go back to sleep, it's OK. It's all just a dream."

On one level, it's a comment on Damian Lewis' character and that character's somewhat off-kilter survival methodology, because as an oddly-shaped buddhist, he points out a number of times that life is really just mostly a dream (it's more complicated than that, even in the show, but just bear with me) so what he's saying is, at least to him, on some level, true.

But it's also this strange moment of comforting, where other cop shows would be all like "welp, nice job, well done, ignore the dead guy", there's this moment of bringing the humanity to a character that we-the-audience didn't even know existed two minutes ago, and will stop existing right there in front of us. It's humanizing on a number of levels, not just for the protagonist we're supposed to like, but for this obviously-bad-person who existed simply to be killed. It was a moment that said "look; even the bad people, even the really bad people, deserve comfort and love, at least a little bit, at least at the end."

I am profoundly moved at the article going around from the newspaper in Ottawa about the people who tried so hard to comfort and save the soldier who was killed. I'm glad that story is being told, and I think it's a great lesson to learn for all of us. 

But I also wonder: did anyone comfort the man who died when the Sergeant at Arms shot him to stop him from killing anyone else? 

"When you are dying, you need to be told how loved you are." That simple human moment is so, so important, not just for the person being comforted but for the person doing the comforting, but for we-as-the-audience, we-as-human-beings, because we are all, good and bad, angry and happy, sad and joyous, hurt and hurting, human beings together. And at the end, when we breathe our last, good or bad, hero or villain, it is important that we are reminded at that moment when we are present for each other in whatever way: "When you are dying, you need to be told how loved you are." We know that Michael Brown didn't get that comfort. We know that Trayvon Martin didn't get that comfort. 
Jaylen Fryberg didn't get that comfort.

I am sorry for the victims. I am sorry for the perpetrators. I am sorry for the RCMP veteran who had to kill someone to stop them. I am sorry for everyone who had to witness it, and for all of us who saw it and read about it and knows someone who knows someone who was there. I am sorry for all of us, all of us human beings, that it happened. But I do hope that we don't forget that those words, those brilliant, simple words, are as true of the most despotic villain as they are of the most virtuous hero.

"When you are dying, you need to be told how loved you are."

My wife would remind me now that we are all dying, every moment; that we are all one breath closer to the last one. We know that Michael Brown didn't get that comfort. We know that Trayvon Martin didn't get that comfort. 
Jaylen Fryberg didn't get that comfort.

You are loved. All of you. Every one of you, even the ones I don't like very much. You are loved. You are so, so loved.