This may be a dangerous post to write, but perhaps those are the posts actually worth writing.
The above link is something that is being shared by friends and schoolmates of mine as of late, both past and present. By all means, I encourage whoever reads this to go and sign the petition; it is a call to action to stop the making of a film that seems to bear a vague relationship with the May 23rd tragedy that occurred at UCSB due to the film being insensitive to the tragedy. I have not watched the trailer, nor have I done any research on the film itself and what it is actually about. For all I know, it could be an unfortunate misreading of a low-quality film’s premise because of the emotionally charged location and plot. What the people sharing this have said about the film is that it glorifies the shooter, that this is what he would have wanted, and that the making of this film is profiteering from a tragedy that affected thousands of students – all fair sentiments to be shared.
However, two things give me pause about this sudden deluge of protests against the film: the disintegrating clarity of rights and the limitation of human sympathy. I’ll start with the more unsavory of the two so as not to leave my readers with a bitter taste in their mouths. The notion of rights being infringed upon here is evident when we take a step back from it emotionally: the freedom of speech. It is possible to claim that the film is infringing on public order, in which case someone who is vehemently against the production of the film might take Berger Bros. Entertainment to court. However, at the core of it, what is being called for is the prevention of some people, however misguided in the context and plot they chose, from expressing a story that they want to convey. Now, this statement comes not with support of their actions, but in defense of an idea; the more passionate among us might challenge this claim by asking, “Well, why don’t I make a movie glorifying the terrorists who flew the planes into the Twin Towers?,” to which I respond, “Because you have the decency not to.”
The interesting thing about having freedom is that it can be abused. Just yesterday, in fact, we had Bible study and went over 1 Peter 2:16, which says “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God” (ESV). While not all of my readers may be believers, this notion itself still can apply; it’s about how to use the freedom we’ve been given. As a believer, that freedom is the freedom to operate within God’s will because the freedom is not a freedom to act on my own, but a freedom from sin. In the same way, the freedom of speech that we have all been given according to law is a freedom that can be used to encourage and a freedom that can be used to disparage. How we choose to use our freedom is based on our individual sense of respect for one another and the imagination of how other people would respond should we choose to say one thing or another – which brings me to the limitation of sympathy.
It hurts my heart thinking about the incident, and even the poem written soon after the shooting could not fully encapsulate the fear, sadness, and disillusionment that followed after. Nevertheless, this depth of sorrow only extends to the realm of my own personal experience, for no other tragic shooting that has happened across the nation brings me to a yearly remembrance of the tragedy each year with a deep personal sadness. There are certainly people who feel the anguish of tragedies that occur across the nation, much less across the globe, and yet fewer still are those who consistently remember global tragedies with a deep personal investment. In many ways, the tragedies of Sandy Hook elementary, or many other shootings, are only remembered when something similar has happened. Our compassion only remembers with repetition; that is to say, we only recall tragedies when similar situations occur, and it compiles into a vast amount of temporary grief. Perhaps it’s that we haven’t learned anything from these tragedies which brings them back in different manifestations time after time, or perhaps it’s just that for all of our ability to commiserate, we prioritize our sympathies based on our own personal experience. People who rarely share these types of posts have been seen sharing this one, and why this one? Why not share about any of the atrocities occurring around the world?
Our hearts are far too small to help one another; our brokenness is illuminated by tragedies, and we are loathe to gaze on it, believing that we have progressed. We believe that our world is getting safer, that people are learning to love one another more. And yet, look at the darkness that is filling our world. We are so overcome with grief that we have forgotten to love out of the grief; we seek justice too soon, we dry our tears with our fists. For those of us who believe, it is by grace we have been saved, through faith, and that not of ourselves lest anyone should boast. We have been loved from the depths of grief. God is not pleased that we bear sin’s shackles, but His great response to that sadness is sacrifice, and with sacrifice, a love that sets us free.
I do not support this movie. I do not support the glorification of perpetrators of tragedy. This is my opinion. But, I do not want this single case to arouse my sympathies; I want my sympathies to extend around the world that exists within the boundaries of “all nations.” Because if I am upset at this case but not the circumstances of people being killed on the other side of this planet, I am involved in too small a vision. The only effect that will bear any useful fruit from this opinion is to be loving towards all around me, that they might share a similar view of the world – perhaps even the view of the world from the eyes of one who believes in a God who loves perfectly. It may sound naive, perhaps, to believe that the desires of people to profit from tragedy, to commit enormities, to discourage those around them can all be changed by loving more. And yet I know how I have been changed by the love of my Saviour, and so I believe.