In the aftermath of last night's mass shooting at the midnight showing of Batman here in Colorado, everyone is already trying to understand what happened and, more importantly, whom to blame.  Did the movie make him do it?  Is it Hollywood's fault for constructing bullet-ridden fantasies and foisting them on the public every summer?  Is it the NRA's fault for making sure he had access to the weapons he used?  Is it the government's fault for not enforcing gun control policies or not banning the sale of assault weapons?  Is it the media's fault for covering these sorts of terrible events 24/7 and drawing crazies to the spotlight like moths to a flame? 

Let's be very clear here.  One person is at fault: the shooter. 

No one made him do this, he wasn't tricked into committing a heinous outrage against humanity.  He chose to attack a group of strangers, he methodically planned that attack, and he carried it out.  At any point, he could have turned back and not done this, and no one would have known, but he made the choice.  That's it.  No mitigating circumstances, no political arguments, no media spotlight.  He chose, he acted, he killed.

Free will's a bitch, ain't it?

We are all independent beings, each created with a free mind and a free will.  We have complete freedom to act, and both we and the world bear the consequences of those actions, good or bad.  The same mind that can create a symphony of aching beauty can craft a message of enduring hate.  The will that can choose to lift up starving children from poverty can instead choose to massacre innocents.  That's the power of choice, and it comes with the birth certificate.

We all want to know why this happened, what drove a man to murder his fellow human beings.  We want to find some extenuating circumstances, some childhood trauma or chemical imbalance that made him incapable of knowing right from wrong.  More than anything, we want to know that this potential for unreasoning violence is limited to him (or people like him), that we could never do anything so awful.  We want to lie to ourselves.

Because in the end, the why doesn't matter.  The reasons that we hear, or the ones we make up, won't change the fact that every one of us has the same power of creation and destruction in our hands every moment of every day.  With every choice we make, large or small, we make the world more beautiful or more ugly, full of love or full of hate.  And the consequences of these actions ripple around us constantly.  Some actions, like last night's, make a big splash that quickly reaches around the world.  Others may only touch a few people, but those ripples keep going, as action inspires action inspires reaction, until the waves carry over the horizon.  You will never know how many lives you will change simply by being on this planet.  Your power is greater than you can possibly fathom, and you don't even have to get on TV to use it.

So what will we do with this power?  That's the question we must answer every day.  Will we choose to work for our own benefit, to take what we can and let everyone else fend for themselves?  Will we reply to evil with evil, hating those who we think have done us wrong?  Will we abdicate our power to others, letting them make the decisions and simply choosing to follow along?  Or will we revel in our world-changing capabilities and make our own waves? 

More importantly, how do we respond to the evil, destructive choices of others?  I, for one, believe that good can overwhelm evil, that "perfect love casts out fear."  When one person chooses great evil, then many people must rise up and choose to go out of their way to do good, in large ways and small.  We can choose to sit around and be fascinated by one person's horribly wrong choices, or we can choose to go out and make more beauty, more love, more joy, and drown that darkness in light.

That's what I choose to do. How about you?
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