Thoughts At Large

Passionate thoughts on random topics

Tag: Colorado

Comfort for Aurora

Remembering the Victims

“In the hope that it may be no intrusion upon the sacredness of your sorrow, I have ventured to address you this tribute to the memory of my young friend, and your brave and early fallen child.” Abraham Lincoln, May 25, 1861 in a letter of condolence to the parents of Colonel Elmer Ellsworth

I did not know Jessica Ghawi, Alex Teves, Alex Sullivan or any of the other nine victims murdered in the horrific July 20, 2012 shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado during a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.” I do not know any of the 70 people who were injured that night and survived. But as an advocate for gun violence prevention, Jessica, Alex, Alex and many others have become my (forever young) friends. It is because of them that we work for a safer future so others are not sacrificed on America’s insane firearms alters.

The trial for the monster responsible for this all too familiar, American-centric, gun-related carnage is underway in Colorado and I find there is no way to accurately or compassionately convey my love to the survivors, their families, or the families of those murdered without sounding as if I can possibly understand their grief, pain, suffering, loss, anger… even this list seems somehow presumptuous. To those strong enough and compelled to attend the daily court proceedings, this list of presumptions must also include: the ability to sit in the same room with such a monster, knowing that he is attempting to “game” the jurisprudence of Colorado with his “superior” intellect, and the self-control and commitment to a civilized society not to throttle him when he lifts his veil of innocence whenever the jury is not in chambers. Cameras are everywhere.

It is, therefore, ironic that I find the most reflective and appropriate comments in the haunting words of one who would himself later become the victim of gun violence. In a letter dated Nov. 21, 1864, President Lincoln wrote to Mrs. Lydia Bixby, a mother who it was believed had lost five sons in the Civil War. He wrote:

I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. 

And so, with these borrowed words, please let the victims and their families know that I am thinking of them, grieve for them, honor their children and don’t presume to understand their pain. I haven’t the right words. Allow Lincoln’s to carry my comforts.

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An Interview with James Madison

Published July 4, 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Thanks to Doc Brown, Marty McFly and time travel, James Madison was cryogenically preserved when he died in June of 1836 at the age of 84.  He was the last surviving Founding Father, considered the Father of the Constitution and author of the Bill of Rights.  Today, healthy and alive, he celebrates his first “second” birthday, having been reborn on July 4, 2011.  We sat down at the Off the Record bar in the Hay-Adams Hotel here in Washington to discuss what he thinks of the political experiment he helped craft over 220 years ago.

ThoughtsAtLarge:

First of all Mr. President, let me thank you for taking the time to meet with me and to wish you a very happy first birthday.

Madison:

Thank you, although I must say, I feel rather like the 261 year old I really am!

ThoughtsAtLarge:

Well, I can only hope to look as good as you at 261, if you don’t mind my saying so, Mr. President.

Madison:                  

Very kind of you to say.

ThoughtsAtLarge:          

Mr. President, as one of the original architects of the American democracy, how do you think it has performed?  And as a follow-up, is it what you had envisioned it maturing into?

Madison:          

Let me first qualify your statement.  Yes, I was one of the people involved in the formation of the government, although, you must understand two things straight away. First, most of us were very young and the times were very uncertain.  I, myself, was only 26!  Second, we consciously created a republic, not a democracy.  The distinction is worth noting.  But to answer your question, I am generally pleased with how it has withstood time, although, it was intended to be more fluid than it has been interpreted.  For example, the three-fifths compromise as written in the Constitution seems both offensive and silly today.

ThoughtsAtLarge:

You are talking about Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 which states:

“Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”

Madison:

Yes, that was a compromise between the northern and southern states regarding slavery.
But the 13th and 14th Amendments rendered that clause moot, thankfully!

ThoughtsAtLarge:

You were originally a Federalist, or a proponent of a strong central government, but ended up changing to a Democratic-Republican, in favor of strong state’s rights.  Why the change?

Madison:               

Well, you have to understand that, at the time, there was no sense in having strong state’s rights without a strong central government.  However, once that was achieved, we could turn our attention to assuring the ability of individual states to control their own destiny.  Certain concepts lend themselves better to an overarching unanimity, while others can be subject to a more regional interpretation. 

ThoughtsAtLarge:

It is ironic that as the chief author of the Bill of Rights, you were originally against having them at all!

Madison:  

That’s correct!  I didn’t think they were necessary.  I also worried that by delineating specific rights, others, not delineated would not be protected.

ThoughtsAtLarge: 

There are now 27 ratified amendments to the Constitution.  Doesn’t that speak to your desire to have the government’s framework remain fluid?

Madison:     

To a degree, yes, although it was not our intention to have future Supreme Courts attempt
to opine on our intentions in 1789 without taking into consideration society today.

ThoughtsAtLarge:

Can you give us an example?

Madison:         

Of course, the First Amendment never foresaw radio, television, the internet, and iPhones, Fox News, MSNBC or CNN.  The Second Amendment never foresaw any firearm more powerful than a single shot musket or the rise of the United States military to be the most powerful in the history of mankind. 

ThoughtsAtLarge:

It’s ironic you should mention the Second Amendment.  You were a strong proponent of protecting the citizenry’s ability to bear arms.

Madison:                     

Yes, I was, but, again, times were very different.  Our concerns revolved around foreign invasion and insurrection rather than a federal government evolving into a tyrannical dictator.  After all, it was the government we created!  We certainly never foresaw the awesome firepower now available to our citizens.  Remember, it was within the confines of a well-regulated militia that this amendment was conceived.  Today, it has been interpreted to mean that virtually any and all manner of firearm is available to our citizens.  I have read the gruesome accounts of mass murder committed by citizens with access to unbelievably powerful weapons.  Indeed, every day there are firearm murders, suicides and accidents committed under the auspices of my amendment.  This sickens
me!  Our government has evolved over time.  So too, must the Constitution, including the Amendments!  Common sense!  Where is the common sense?

ThoughtsAtLarge:   

So you would be open to changing the Amendment?

Madison:                    

Times change, sir, and so too must law.

ThoughtsAtLarge:   

I see our time has expired, Mr. President.  I want to thank you for taking the time to meet with me to discuss your unique perspective on our government.  May I ask what your upcoming plans are?  Given the changes to which you must be adapting, I am curious to hear your plans.

Madison:        

I have relatives, descendants really, that live out west, far beyond what I knew as “west”!  I am traveling on my first airplane later this month and meeting with them.  I am also fascinated by the cinema.  My, let’s see if I can get this correct, great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great granddaughter wants to see the new Batman movie.  I am very much looking forward to it!

ThoughtsAtLarge:   

That’s lovely.  Where does she live?

Madison:           

Aurora, Colorado.

Awful Events Today

Jessica Redfield was one of the victims killed in the shooting today in Aurora, Colorado.  Below is a blog entry she posted on June 5th.  Awful events today.

Late Night Thoughts on the Eaton Center Shooting

I can’t get this odd feeling out of my chest. This empty, almost sickening feeling won’t go away. I noticed this feeling when I was in the Eaton Center in Toronto just seconds before someone opened fire in the food court. An odd feeling which led me to go outside and unknowingly out of harm‘s way. It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around how a weird feeling saved me from being in the middle of a deadly shooting.

 

What started off as a trip to the mall to get sushi and shop, ended up as a day that has forever changed my life. I was on a mission to eat sushi that day, and when I’m on a mission, nothing will deter me. When I arrived at the Eaton Center mall, I walked down to the food court and spotted a sushi restaurant. Instead of walking in, sitting down and enjoying sushi, I changed my mind, which is very unlike me, and decided that a greasy burger and poutine would do the trick. I rushed through my dinner. I found out after seeing a map of the scene, that minutes later a man was standing in the same spot I just ate at and opened fire in the food court full of people. Had I had sushi, I would’ve been in the same place where one of the victims was found.

 

My receipt shows my purchase was made at 6:20 pm. After that purchase I said I felt funny. It wasn’t the kind of funny you feel after spending money you know you shouldn’t have spent. It was almost a panicky feeling that left my chest feeling like something was missing. A feeling that was overwhelming enough to lead me to head outside in the rain to get fresh air instead of continuing back into the food court to go shopping at SportChek. The gunshots rung out at 6:23. Had I not gone outside, I would’ve been in the midst of gunfire.

 

I walked around the outside of the mall. People started funneling out of every exit. When I got back to the front, I saw a police car, an ambulance, and a fire truck. I initially thought that maybe the street performer that was drumming there earlier had a heart attack or something. But more and more police officers, ambulances, and fire trucks started showing up. Something terrible has happened. I overheard a panicked guy say, “There was a shooting in the food court.” I thought that there was no way, I was just down there. I asked him what happened. He said “Some guy just opened fire. Shot about 8 shots. It sounded like balloons popping. The guy is still on the loose.” I’m not sure what made me stick around at this point instead of running as far away from the mall as possible. Shock? Curiosity? Human nature? Who knows.

 

Standing there in the midst of the chaos all around us, police started yelling to get back and make room. I saw a young shirtless boy, writhing on a stretcher, with his face and head covered by the EMS as they rushed him by us to get him into an ambulance. The moment was surprisingly calm. The EMTs helping the boy weren’t yelling orders and no one was screaming like a night time medical drama. It was as if it was one swift movement to get the boy out of the mall and into the ambulance. That’s when it really hit me. I felt nauseas. Who would go into a mall full of thousands of innocent people and open fire? Is this really the world we live in?

 

Police start yelling again “GET BACK NOW!” Another stretcher came rushing out of the mall. I saw a man on a stretcher, the blanket underneath him spotted with blood. Multiple gunshot holes in his chest, side, and neck were visible. It’s not like in the movies when you see someone shot and they’re bleeding continuously from the wound. There was no blood flowing from the wounds, I could only see the holes. Numerous gaping holes, as if his skin was putty and someone stuck their finger in it. Except these wounds were caused by bullets. Bullets shot out of hatred. His dark skin on his torso was tinted red with what I assume was his own blood. He was rushed into the ambulance and taken away.

 

More people joined the crowd at the scene and asked what happened. “There was a shooting in the food court,” kept being whispered through the crowd like a game of telephone. I was standing near a security guard when I heard him say over his walkie talkie, “One fatality.” At this point I was convinced I was going to throw up. I’m not an EMT or a police officer. I’m not trained to handle crime and murder. Gun crimes are fairly common where I grew up in Texas, but I never imagined I’d experience a violent crime first hand. I’m on vacation and wanted to eat and go shopping. Everyone else at the mall probably wanted the same thing. I doubt anyone left for the mall imagined they witness a shooting.

 

I was shown how fragile life was on Saturday. I saw the terror on bystanders’ faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was reminded that we don’t know when or where our time on Earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath. For one man, it was in the middle of a busy food court on a Saturday evening.

 

I say all the time that every moment we have to live our life is a blessing. So often I have found myself taking it for granted. Every hug from a family member. Every laugh we share with friends. Even the times of solitude are all blessings. Every second of every day is a gift. After Saturday evening, I know I truly understand how blessed I am for each second I am given.

 

I feel like I am overreacting about what I experienced. But I can’t help but be thankful for whatever caused me to make the choices that I made that day. My mind keeps replaying what I saw over in my head. I hope the victims make a full recovery. I wish I could shake this odd feeling from my chest. The feeling that’s reminding me how blessed I am. The same feeling that made me leave the Eaton Center. The feeling that may have potentially saved my life.