PRUDEN: ‘The greater love’ survives a massacre

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Gloria Steinem was wrong. Once in a fit of frustration, she rolled her eyes, stamped her feet and declared that “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” This became a battle cry in the war between the sexes.

Three young women, who survived the movie-palace massacre in Colorado because three men gave their lives to save them, beg to differ.

The names of the three — Jon Blunk, Matt McQuinn and Alex Teves — are inscribed permanently in their hearts, vivid reminders of the words of Christ as recorded in the 15th chapter of the Gospel of John: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” This is the passage where Christ teaches that authentic love is not mere emotion, treacly sentiment celebrated in the syrupy lyrics of Tin Pan Alley, but the act of sacrificial giving. “This is my commandment,” Christ told his disciples, “that ye love one another as I have loved you.”

Three sacrificial acts in a darkened charnel reveal the spark of humanity that can survive in the human heart.

Alas, the temptation to play politics with tragedy, with scribblers and cameramen standing hungrily at the ready, was too much to resist for politicians and others with axes to grind. Even those who should know better tried to one-up the Prince of Peace with the trivia of politically correct argle-bargle.

“This empty evil adds to a series of violent acts that weigh heavily on the national consciousness,” said the Rev. Francis H. Wade, an Episcopal divine who is the interim dean of Washington National Cathedral. He then moved the conversation smartly away from the pain of tragedy and saddled up a favorite hobby horse: “[These are] acts that must surely occasion focused discussion on the interplay of violence and the availability of guns.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York couldn’t wait to get in their two bits’ worth for taking guns away from those who had nothing to do with tragedy in Colorado or anywhere else. The prevailing sentiment of the pols was the Gospel not of the Apostle John but of Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, to “never let a crisis go to waste.”

Most of the reaction, from every pol who could croak a note within hailing distance of a camera, conformed to the ritual which all know by heart — go on a bit about how awful the event was, how broken up the pol may be, and above all how his “thoughts and prayers” are with the victims and their families. (Speechwriter shorthand for “thoughts and prayers” is “T&P,” as in, “make sure to get the T&P up high in the statement for the press.”)

Nowhere do the crocodile tears flow with more sordid abundance than in Hollywood, whence sprang “The Dark Knight Rises.” Christopher Nolan, the director of the movie that inspired the massacre, was beside himself with regret, though not necessarily remorse, and not necessarily for the dead and wounded.

He assigned his “thoughts,” pointedly omitting “prayers,” and quickly moved on to tender remembrance of his own dreadful suffering. “I would not presume to know anything about the victims of the shooting but that they were there to watch a movie. I believe movies are one of the great American art forms and the shared experience of watching a story unfold on the screen is an important and joyful pastime. The movie theater is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me.”

No doubt. The man’s church, the movie palace (which has shrunk in most places to the dimensions of a toolshed), has been desecrated by reality imitating the mindless gore and offal on the screen. The Colorado massacre has ignited anew a debate on whether the movies, video games and other media have so polluted the culture as to make massacres inevitable.

The shooter, the self-described orange-haired Joker of the Batman comic books, is solely responsible for the carnage in Colorado. It was he who did the deed. Collective guilt is for the sociologists and head-shrinkers. But only a fool argues that movies like “The Dark Knight Rises” have not dumped trash and garbage into the cesspool the culture has become. We all swim in the pollution; a few of us, unable to keep heads out of the sewage, cannot resist the temptation to imitate in pursuit of transient fame. But we take the comfort and consolation we can from an unexpected act of greater love.

• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

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