|Photo by David Levy|
Like most people, I’ve been thinking a lot about the tragedy in Colorado this past week. Whenever something like this happens, I do, and in my mind, the question that always seems to arise is, how? How can someone do something so unthinkable, so awful?
I’ve written about crime most of my life. I worked as a journalist for years, and I’ve seen a lot. I was in San Diego when a man opened fire in a McDonalds restaurant filled with people; many of them died. Many were children. I remember feeling more vulnerable than I ever had before and realizing how fragile life can be when the wrong person enters it. I remember feeling scared.
Many people who write about real-life crime develop a thick skin; they must in order to get through the day, to do their jobs, and I suppose to some degree, I did, too. But I think there was also some part of me that didn’t. A part that was still bothered by extreme acts of cruelty and to this day, still is.
Now, I write books about the same kinds of people: evil ones. Granted, my characters are fictional, but I don’t think that much matters. They represent an element in society that’s very real. You might think it odd that I do this, and people often ask how I can dream up such awful things, and for that, I actually have an answer. I know why. I’m pretty sure that on some level, in some way, it helps me deal with the horrors of real life, much like the one we recently saw. It allows me to create evil, and then it allows me to see evil meet its end. There’s cathartic value there, and for my readers, I suspect the experience is much the same. We all have ways of coping with the dark side of life, and I suppose this is mine. In my books, good always prevails.
Still, you’d think with all my exposure to the bad things that I’d have an answer for what happened in Colorado. But I don’t. I really don’t. All I can think about are the innocent people, the ones whose lives have been permanently changed for the worse, that will never be the same again. People who were doing nothing more than trying to spend a quiet night at a movie. And in the end, I keep coming back to the same question. How?
Maybe there is no answer. Maybe evil is just evil.
In the days to come, I’m sure we will hear about selfless acts of courage and of people who lent a hand to those in need, ones who chose kindness over evil. I guess if anything good can come from something like this, it would be that the best in people often materializes during the worst of times. That’s what I’ll choose to focus on.
And I’ll keep writing.