July 24, 2012
Little Boy Lost
I’ve been sickened over the last few days hearing people call for the death penalty in the case of James Holmes, the alleged gunman in last Friday’s shooting spree at an Aurora, CO screening of The Dark Knight Rises. The preposterous assertion that human life is so precious that the only way we reconcile its loss is to causes someone else's death is not only hypocritical but utterly savage. There's no question that the death of twelve potentially innocent people in that theater is absolutely tragic. To call it a random act of violence perpetrated by a homicidal kook, however, shows a lack of compassion for Mr. Holmes that perhaps rivals the actual shooting in its inhumanity.
Yes, we could put Mr. Holmes to death and we will have one less murderer. But will that really solve anything? There are likely plenty more desperate souls like him lurking around, their violent impulses lying dormant until someone or something inevitably pushes them over the edge. And then tragedy will strike - maybe at your local supermarket while you are doing your grocery shopping; maybe on the 5:15 while you’re heading home from a long day at work; or maybe even at church Sunday morning during prayer services. If we are to have a world where we can truly feel safe, our focus needs to be on treating the underlying problem, not on killing the victims of its symptoms.
James Holmes did not shoot those people for the hell of it. He did it because desperate people do desperate things when they are pushed into desperate circumstances. And Mr. Holmes circumstances were indeed desperate. He was a brilliant student of neuroscience who suddenly found himself unable to endure the academic rigors of his Ph.D. program. He was unable to procure gainful employment and was facing imminent eviction from his apartment. He seemed thoroughly unable to establish meaningful relationships with other human beings and he was consistently rejected by the ladies. Yes, according to reports, he was indeed an “odd ball” but surely his eccentricities could have been overlooked by anyone caring enough to reach out to him. Perhaps such a person could have found him/herself a friend for life. Perhaps an employer, not so obsessed with charisma and poise, could have gained himself a highly valuable employee that could have been a real asset to his firm. And perhaps a woman of grace, able to look past social awkwardness and fanatical love of superhero comics, could have found herself a soul-mate. Sadly, not a single person was willing to cast his/her prejudices aside.
We failed you James Holmes. You did not kill those people. We did – our society as a whole. Words cannot express how truly sorry I am that you have to pay the price for our collective negligence.