Colorado is still burning, but not in a way anyone would have dared to predict a couple of weeks ago. An eye-watering panorama of flames that recently scorched the earth and destroyed hundreds of homes has morphed into a massive wall of tears as everyone in our state, and the nation for that matter, feels the bitter sting of pain associated with innocent lives taken.
Like many others, I spent days after the Aurora shootings trying to figure out why. How could a person become so disenfranchised and detached from all the beauty in life that he would commit such an unspeakable crime? For me, the answer is both too difficult to fully define and too simple to ignore.
First the hard part. The complexities in this horrific situation are daunting, and involve a multitude of issues including gun control, mental illness, technology, and the misapplication of free will; turning the protective cloak of rights our country was founded under inside-out. Every entity is a sum of its parts, yet solving the mathematical equation that led to the death of twelve innocent people and injury of fifty-eight more is almost impossible. There’s no way to recreate and dissect the combination of variables, representative pieces, and tipping point that led to such an unimaginable outcome unless James Holmes decides to throw light into the cellar of his damaged mind and let us in. Right now he’s not talking.
But with precarious factors resting on an active fault line and an outcome that doesn’t make any sense, there’s another option to consider. The simple answer to such a difficult problem would be to say that James Holmes is crazy. Issue identified, problem solved, and all in just enough time to move forward with life and get back to your regularly scheduled programming.
The paradox within this solution, however, is that crazy doesn’t happen overnight. Even though it’s a slow-growing virus that squares itself and multiplies in seclusion, it isn’t nocturnal. Crazy shines in the light, and like gazing at the sun, instinct tells you to look away because too much exposure could be harmful to your heath.
As much as James Holmes has failed humanity, we, as a society, must have somehow failed him. Nobody seems to know who he is, so in trying to connect the dots of a cratered mind that has collapsed and fallen in on itself, is it possible to figure out who he once was? Could he have been that 5th grade boy bullied in the back of the bus while the other kids around him looked away in fear and shame? Was he the awkward new kid at school, a volatile teenager trying to fit in, who somehow said the wrong thing at the worst possible time while his peers shrugged their shoulders and kept their distance? Was he that grad student who lived down the hall, the one you ran into occasionally doing laundry but avoided making eye contact with because he never really had anything to say? Is he that guy who operated on some type of spectrum no one else tried to understand? Quiet? Thoughtful? Brilliant? Nuts?
James Holmes is the latest poster child for everything wrong with our society. There were others before him, and if we continue, as a human race, to ignore what we don’t want to see, there will be more who follow. Somehow, he slipped through the conscience of our collective societal cracks, and fell so far down that, armed with a critically damaged psyche and a bunker’s worth of ammunition, he actually thought it was O.K. to walk into a movie theater, play out his demented version of natural selection, and commit one of the most atrocious mass murders in the history of our nation.
It wasn’t O.K. The victims aren’t O.K. Their families aren’t O.K. Their friends aren’t O.K. If you know someone, like James Holmes, who isn’t O.K.? Help him.