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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Another shock for Arapahoe

By the early 1980s, many friends of mine from Georgia Tech as well as my first roommate in Athens, Ga. had moved to metro Denver. I visited them several times. The attractions of the area were obvious, and I considered moving there too. Arapahoe County, just south of the city of Denver, grew from 162,000 in 1970 to 392,000 in 1990; now it's roughly 600,000. Having been back there on business from time to time over the last 20 years, I know that Arapahoe is one of the nicest suburban areas in the nation.

Arapahoe High School, the scene of yesterday's fatal shootings, is 8 miles from Columbine High School where 15 people (including the shooters) died from gunshots in 1999. It's 16 miles from the Aurora theater where 12 people were shot in the summer of last year. For a resident to deal with any one of these three events would be difficult enough. Dealing with all three is unimaginable.

Psychologists, psychiatrists, and sociologists will have to say whether the Werther Effect is a factor in these killings. There will be renewed calls, understandably, for gun control. But my jetlagged reaction at 3 a.m. is more emotional than logical. I cannot reconcile the horror of these three events with the natural beauty of Colorado and the desirability of life in Arapahoe. Two things come to mind. One is the chilling line in the movie Casablanca that "human life is cheap." Arapahoe is not Casablanca, and neither are the venues of the other mass shootings since Columbine -- apparently endemic in American society. But a disregard for human life is a precondition to all these shootings. Love thy neighbor, goes the simple advice that we have such a difficult time embracing. The other thing in my mind is that it's the season of Advent, not Christmas. Advent reminds us that we need a different, better communal life.