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The Joker

By Kathy Y. Wilson · July 25th, 2012 · Kathy Y. Wilson
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Colorado is a square, expansive state and it doesn’t take long living there to realize the great Rockies are God’s GPS.

Look west — find the majestic mountain range — to get your bearings in Colorado. It’s what I did when I lived there; it’s how I navigated the city in our black 1984 Ford Taurus using Colorado Boulevard as the main artery connecting Denver to all points east and west.

It might be the promise of the great West rising from the plains — glistening cities like Denver and suburbs encircled by housing developments and strip malls, like Aurora — that still draws people to Colorado.

Twenty-eight summers ago the Metropolitan Denver area still felt like the open West, unlike, say, Los Angeles, with its fog and congestion.

Even in all its natural beauty, Colorado still seems cursed by violence, collateral damage of biblical proportions, perhaps, of its deadly outlaw past of the 19th century that drew panhandlers, homesteaders, the generally adventuresome and the criminal-minded alike.

When I rode into Denver in the blazing summer of 1984 with my stepfather, mother and sister, we joined thousands trying to make the West work for us. We only lasted two years, but in my memory nearly everyone we encountered were transplants like us. I did befriend two native Coloradans in classes on the Denver campus of the University of Colorado, the same campus once attended by the orange-haired gunman accused in the midnight massacre of 12 people in a multiplex cinema in Aurora July 20 during a premiere of The Dark Knight Rises.

Aurora (population 332,000-plus) is a little larger than Cincinnati  (296,000-plus) and is largely suburban with pockets of bleak-looking ghettos, as I recall. We lived for a time in a building festooned with Crips graffiti on the eastern edge of Denver, just across the corporation line from Aurora. I ventured into Aurora during my long days of unemployment, wasting the day before I had to be home to meet my sister from school and before I enrolled in fall classes.

Back then, I was struck by how much the Aurora I saw was like Hamilton where I was born — pawn shops, fast food joints, track houses — and like Dayton where my aunts lived because, as with Wright-Patterson, there is the Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora.

We moved five times in the two years we lived in Colorado and I never once felt safe; not when we were all together and definitely not alone, as I was most of the time.

Colorado is where I learned to be hyper-aware of my surroundings.

It’s where I sharpened my people-reading skills because everyone seemed to be on some kind of hustle.

We moved from that apartment a few blocks west to a house on what we thought was a nice street. That winter, that house was burglarized in broad daylight and my mother was convinced that — unbeknownst to me — I’d interrupted the burglary when I came home from classes and that the robber was hiding in the house until I left again early that evening.

Once the police proved largely disinterested, I did my own investigation. I found our few meager electronics — including my coveted Fisher double-deck ghetto blaster with a small ring of nail polish remover on top accidentally spilled there by me — in an Aurora pawn shop less than a mile away.

Spooked by my mother’s conjecture that I could’ve been in the house with our robber, I became anxiously and keenly aware of violent crimes. That Christmas Eve, a woman about my mother’s age was abducted in the parking lot of her job by a young couple who murdered her, stuffed her body in her car trunk among Christmas gifts and rode around that way until they were caught by police.

In the spring, a stranger was abducting children near my baby sister’s elementary school a few blocks away. I was frantic in the afternoons getting to the school gate to pick her up in person, no longer content to watch for her to walk down the street and cross a busy thoroughfare.

Two years of living in poverty and anxiety in Colorado seemed like a dream compared with the nightmare of the April 20, 1999, Columbine High School massacre.

That massacre foreshadowed by two years the obfuscation and appropriation of the word terrorist soon to enter the lexicon and be forever exclusively attached to people of Middle Eastern or African descent after September 11, 2001.  
However, Columbine capped a decade-long, Western states string of white male terrorism that played out publicly and violently: Ruby Ridge, Idaho (August 1992); Waco, Texas (February 1993); Oklahoma City bombing (April 1995); Unabomber arrest (April 1996).

Deconstructing the media, white terrorists are rarely called so and are always deemed “troubled,” “genius” or “disturbed.” Black and brown people are “evil.”

Even in registering dismay and disbelief, the Aurora movie theater suspect who introduced himself to authorities as The Joker upon arrest, is being, yes, hailed, as “a brilliant former student.”

Notice I haven’t once called him by name?

That’s because I refuse to even remember it, let alone say it or write it. I believe he is brilliant; brilliantly calculating in his quest to always be remembered in association with what was expected to be the largest-grossing movie this summer.
The giddiness to be part of pop culture that celebrates the kind of fantasy that at least references violence but does not make that violence appear real is why thousands across America flocked to midnight screenings of the movie.

And the disconnect between reality and fantasy for regular viewers of this kind of fantasy may be why so many reported being slow to respond to the shooter’s initial burst of violence.

They thought it was part of the show. It was.

The shooter wanted fame; to be the show.

He may have driven himself to insanity figuring out and implementing the details of how he’d upstage the show.

So now The Joker’s on us.


CONTACT KATHY Y. WILSON: letters@citybeat.com


 
 
 
 

 

 
07.25.2012 at 01:23 Reply

Provocative yet pointless:  the inimitable style of Kathy Y.  .......No seriously, I often rip on Kathy but she's actually kind of funny at times.  That said, I just hope she doesn't make very much money doing this.  Something would just feel very wrong about the world if she was.

 

07.26.2012 at 10:57 Reply
_

Beyond disappointed that this is the piece to be published in response to the Aurora shootings. Kathy, I want so much to be on board with you because I think you have a strong voice, but I continue to be let down. To take this tragedy and tiwst it to fit your unfounded claims on race is embarrassing. And "The Joker's on us"? What the hell does that mean! I'm sickended by what you may be implying here and only take peace in knowing that the victims and their families will never have to read this.

I'm sure you'll write this off as just another white person up in arms. I'm sure you're convinced that you speak the "truth" and forget us if we can't handle it. Let me know how that works out for you. And let me know if you can ever get past writing for shock's sake.

 

07.26.2012 at 03:13 Reply

"Deconstructing the media, white terrorists are rarely called so and are always deemed “troubled,” “genius” or “disturbed.” Black and brown people are “evil.” ' 

JOHN LINDH WALKER, THE SO CALLED "AMERICAN TALIBAN" IS AN EXCELLENT EXAMPLE OF WHITE TERRORISTS BEING CATEGORIZED AS "A GOOD BOY".  IT'S SAID THAT HE'S SERVING A 20 YEAR SENTENCE.  20 YEAR SENTENCE?  HE COMMITTED TREASON.  HE SHOULD BE DEAD!

KEEP WRITING, KATHY. 

 

07.27.2012 at 09:21 Reply

<<"Deconstructing the media, white terrorists are rarely called so and are always deemed 'troubled,' 'genius' or 'disturbed.' Black and brown people are “evil.”>>

That's your perception, I guess. Seems I've heard plenty of talk about this shooter, the columbine shooters, and others of that ilk--all mostly white, by the way--being called "evil." So did you just make that up?

Anyway, what a weird, disjointed column.  What does "The Joker's on us" even mean? And it's "tract houses," not "track houses." Sheesh. 

 

07.30.2012 at 11:54 Reply
K

I immediately began skimming your article to see how you would turn this tragedy into your racial soapbox.  If you haven't heard white serial killers such as Ted Bundy being called "evil", I wonder if you have selective hearing.  Here's a popular book you might enjoy, Kathy.  Most of the men mentioned in this book are white.

 

THE EVIL THAT MEN DO 
FBI Profiler Roy Hazelwood's Journey Into the Minds of Sexual Predators 
  By Stephen G. Michaud with Roy Hazelwood 
Illustrated. 262 pages. St. Martin's Press. $25. 



 

 
 
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