Since hearing about the shooting in Colorado, I’ve spent a lot of time on the Internet, obsessed with understanding the motives of James Holmes. I know this is a losing battle, but I do it none-the-less. Here’s what I notice in the comments section of most posts:
- Everyone wants James Holmes killed, post-haste.
- Almost everyone thinks he’s not insane.
- Many people think he’s a genius and is faking everything.
- Suddenly after a trip to Colorado, Christian Bale is Coach Paterno hero-worship-worthy.
So, first… I don’t really get America’s obsession with the death penalty. The only reason I like it is the prisoner has no chance of parole. The rest of the process seems to be silly. Most often, the convicted is never killed, and there are expensive appeal processes. However, these commenters want Holmes killed immediately, do not go to trial, do not pass go, do not figure out why he did it. While I understand Holmes is refusing to cooperate or speak, I actual am in the boat of thinking there’s a lot to gain from understanding what he did and why. Should he be let out on the street? Absolutely not. But maybe offer some type of leniency in prison terms (protection, for example), if he pleads guilty and cooperates in psychological studies. As a scientist, you’d think somehow you could appeal to that part of him – assuming you get him into a less angry, more stable state of mind.
Second, what’s the obsession with insisting this guy is sane? To me, anyone who can kill one person or any number of people isn’t emotionally or mentally stable. In the case of lashing out in anger and killing one or multiple people on a whim, that could be considered temporary insanity, whether they’re “insane” or not. I’ve been angry before and lashed out and said dramatic things I didn’t mean. I think many people who hurt or kill each other are in the same state of mind, and have less self-control so they follow-through on injury. But those who spend months planning an attack like this, how is that sane? How can people, who have been proven to be mostly good, plan such a horrible attack, wanting to kill as many people as possible? So, even if we assume he’s the most spoiled child in the world (as some are saying), why don’t all spoiled children plan such a horrible attack? And how did he go from an intelligent, driven student who seems shy and insecure, helping children at camp, to an adult who wants to find the biggest venue he can think of, and kill as many people as possible? Sure, his ability to plan and execute something like this means he can think in a problem-solving, logical, step-by-step process. But I’m sorry, to plan and follow-through on such an attack, the guy is crazy. And let’s not even get into the fact that most others in his situation commit suicide at the end to avoid dealing with the outcome of his selfish, illegal act. Instead, Holmes was taken peacefully into custody, and even warned officers about his booby-trapped apartment. So, yes, he’s thinking “logically” (as far as knowing how to do things, what to do, and what the consequences are), but he’s not thinking logically in terms of whatever is making him do these things, and be the way he’s become. Are the parents to blame? That’s hard to say. The shooting in Arizona brought to light a shooter who I believe has been diagnosed schizophrenic. And prior to that diagnosis, many doctors spoke about how schizophrenia and other mental illnesses show up in the late teens and early twenties. There was also talk of bipolar disorder showing up during the same timeframe. And I’ve seen people on speed, which has been used to describe how a person in the manic state of bipolar feels. If that’s the case, Holmes could have spent his manic time keenly focused on one goal. Either of these diseases is terrifying. And sadly, both are mocked as “crazy” by the general public. The symptoms shamed and frightening. If Holmes was experiencing either of these mental illnesses, it’s likely he would realize his mind was changing enough to isolate himself. Only to eventually have no line between reality and illness-related delusions or experiences. Now, like I said, I’m not making excuses. I’m only observing how these mental illnesses could still allow Holmes to logically plan an execute such a crime, but not be “pure evil” as many are labeling him. Is what he did evil? Yes. Could mental illness be the cause? Yes, it’s possible. To me, there seems to be no other explanation. Peers who knew him when he was younger said he displayed no sociopath tendencies. I know a sociopath, the tendencies are ingrained and while they fool some people, most people can see through them and realize there’s something off. In the case of Holmes, no one has said he had such tendencies. So MY logical process circles me back to some type of mental illness. And I know my early twenties were traumatic enough without adding in the confusion of mania and depression or voices in my head. And while this will not be a popular stance, I truly do feel sorry for Holmes. Honestly, regardless of whether he’s affected mental illness, I feel sorry for Holmes. I have never been so letdown, frustrated, overwhelmed, or angry with the world to even consider executing a plan such as his. I wish no one in the world would feel the way he must have felt prior to entering that theatre Thursday night. What a lonely, desolate feeling. I have been lonely, and it sucks. But to feel so isolated to carry somethign like this out without having anyone you feel close enough to to say, “Hey, my life is sucking right now” is truly sad. I do feel sorry for Holmes. And even if this was nothing but malicious evil, at the fault of no one but his selfishness, I still feel bad for him. Maybe not more bad than for the victims and families and friends of the victims, of course. But for anyone in this world to feel so desperate breaks a piece of my heart. And besides, even if he is found clinically insane, he might have a better chance of being institutionalized longer than the justice system will hold him. I’ve never heard of a person who has committed such acts, even if found clinically insane, to be set free quickly (or at all).
Third, I don’t know that his state of intelligence has much bearing on anything. As smart as Holmes might be, I assume there are tests that are smarter. If he’s faking, professionals will know. He wasn’t smart enough to carry this out without being caught. He wasn’t smart enough to escape prison. He wasn’t smart enough to do a lot of things. So while he might be intelligent, I am fairly certain there are far more experienced, intelligent people out there.
Fourth, I think it’s fantastic that Christian Bale took time as a person (not acting on behalf of any company, or being paid to make an appearance) to visit the victims and memorial in Colorado. I think that’s a classy move. But I don’t think this makes him a hero. The true heroes are those who threw themselves in front of a bullet. Those who responded to the scene, and cared for the victims in the hospital. Those who sit by the sides of the victims, helping them recover, or worse, planning funerals. These are the real heroes. Bale, while certainly taking time to be selfless, and humbled, is just an actor. One who has a proven track record of being a selfish, angry, unreasonable jerk on other occasions. I think raising people to such high hero-worship status is a big problem in America. Yes, let’s all be thankful Bale is a kind enough person to respond to fans who asked him to visit victims. Who knows? Maybe he would have done it anyway. But he’s not a hero. He’s someone who has been thrust into fame through the use of his talents. And he’s not perfect. He’s not a hero. He’s not better than anyone. And believing someone is a hero only creates an entitlement attitude, which is likely why Bale acts the way he does toward those he views as inferior to him.
Just as Holmes is not entirely imperfect, the vision of “true evil,” or worse than the entire world.
Everyone falls somewhere in the middle. We all have our demons we are dealing with. Holmes with whatever caused him to do the things he’s chosen to do, both in that ill-fated theatre and in earlier parts of his life. And Bale with not only in Colorado this week, but also when he was lashing out at a lighting guy on set.
None of us are perfect. No one should be held to standards of perfection. There might be nothing worse in this world than to expect perfection.
And I’d like to put a footnote on this post. Regardless of mental illness, what Holmes has done has proven he is a safety risk in society. So whether he ends up in prison for life or in a mental institution, I do not think he should be set free. But I do think we should be as empathetic toward his family and friends. Assuming there was no abuse, they are likely as much victims in this crime as anyone. They have lost a son, brother, or friend. And the guilt of knowing you missed the signs or couldn’t do anything to help, or thinking you have helped, is probably as gut-wrenching as anything out there.