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What Does James Holmes Say About All of Us?

Updated on March 12, 2013
Suspect James Holmes in his first public appearance since the Friday Dark Knight Rises murders.
Suspect James Holmes in his first public appearance since the Friday Dark Knight Rises murders.

James Holmes is now at the same societal low with Timothy McVeigh, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris. The one thing most unclear about him is the one thing that was clearest with the others: a motive. Timothy McVeigh wanted a new system of government, his schizoid delusions elaborate, while the Columbine shooters (whose location in Colorado only started its violent reputation at this point) desired revenge against their bullies and the popular students who labeled them as outcasts.

The kind of person Holmes is can't be explained yet; he's apparently not a careful and calculating sociopath, judging by his appearance in court this past weekend, and yet I'm not entirely convinced he's insane, either. When I first heard of the shootings on Friday morning, I was both stunned and prepared for some of the most disturbing news, and when I read the details of Holmes's riot helmet and bulletproof vest, as well as the specs of his shotgun, assault rifle, tear gas canisters and Glocks, I still wasn't entirely prepared. The fact that he surrendered so easily only leaves more questions: was he entirely aware he'd get caught and spend the rest of his moments in prison, or was he simply satisfied with the outcome of his actions up to that point, deciding he'd had enough?

Inevitably, he wound up in a detention center, but not before warning inexplicably that he had explosive devices wired in his apartment for law enforcement officials to attempt to dismantle. This only leaves more questions, like why, if you want to cause the most mayhem possible, warn anyone of anything? It's as if he fully expected to get caught and go through the ridiculously long and painful process of getting killed in prison, which according to one article other prisoners were all conspiring to assist with (an article whose spoken quotes, it should be noted, were not sourced). If he does wind up in prison, if he's not isolated, I can see the angry faces of his inmates, all of them like a group of agitated apes searching for an excuse to kill someone after years of unfulfilled blood lust, and being faced with this meek, dazed and unpredictable mass murderer, believing they've found their true calling in life. It's likely they'll butcher him in fear of what will happen to them if they don't.

While watching news footage on Youtube of James in the court hearing, seeing his clownish and strange red afro with long sideburns as well as his washed-out face, I wondered if he was really as crazy as he looked, though the amount of medication they gave him in solitary could have induced his gestures: the way his head hung and rose, his eyes going from shut to wide in a second, eyebrows at times reflecting a tragic sadness, confusion and loss and then slipping into a burst of shock or surprise of some kind. It was as if he was putting on a show. “Let me see how sick they think I am.” When asked if he understood his rights, the tepid defense lawyer, whose face was filled with appropriately desperate concern at times, responded for him. The comments the ABC news anchors made over the footage mentioned that he was speaking to his lawyers, even if he spoke to no one else.

At the same time, while watching this footage in my apartment's computer lab, I noticed two girls behind me at another computer spending half an hour ogling men's pictures on Facebook, either grimacing at the ugly ones or drooling over the others. As I listened, it occurred to me that these kinds of people can be part of the explanation for why someone like Holmes can snap, a malice within that wants to shout at the banality of an average society, clouded by added anger and a nihilistic lack of sentiment for human life. Perhaps these were the very girls he envisioned pulling the trigger for, burning their shallow eyes with explosions of tear gas, ending what he perceived to be a vapid insanity of their own. I of course in no way condone Holmes's actions, as anybody who comes to that conclusion missed where I used the word “disturbing” as a descriptor earlier here, but I think I can begin to see where someone like him might be coming from. The fact that he was into the most ironic of studies, studying neuroscience of all areas, only solidifies in my opinion his own self-consciousness about his delusions. Maybe he knows full well he's no Joker, playing it on for the media and the craze following it. For someone supposedly so intelligent before all this happened, to claim to be the Joker (who isn't even a villain in The Dark Knight Rises) and dye your hair the wrong color (the Joker's is green) screams a different set of motivations for his actions.

I don't buy the paranoid conservative bullshit about the FBI trying to push gun control laws by brainwashing this man and getting him to kill twelve of his fellow Americans, but maybe it's part of some radical sociological study Holmes is conducting in his mind. That thought had occurred to me while watching him in court. Could he be testing the judicial process in Colorado, curious to know if someone like him will wind up slapped with the death penalty, a punishment the state has only issued four times since its reintroduction in 1977?

The question remains, because of the hearing, will Holmes be capable of standing trial, or will he wind up locked up, isolated, medicated and drooling for the rest of his days? Maybe he did all this for a free lifelong tranquilizer fix once he realized his days as a scholarly college student weren't paying off, the exaggerated example of madness my generation suffers after frustration from work force rejection; blowing random people away, saving the poor kids and their parents money that will be poorly spent on tuition while condemning yourself to confinement where you'll live in the Land of Eternal Dreams. Suddenly, the Alan Parsons Project's “To One In Paradise” plays in my mind on an endless loop. At just two years older than me, I see Holmes as a stark representation of my generation's state of mind.

And still, for so many, they want to see Holmes tortured and suffering for the rest of his life, and for it to end before he finds peace. It's people like these who display the complete lack of empathy that disturbs me often more than the ones who commit these crimes; without looking at the killer as a victim of sorts—a product of society or bad parenting—the average public tries to appear self-righteous and conscientious by dismissing him or her as a monster, an inhuman swine incapable of love and humanity while putting on the very same face. These are people who don't understand the perils of intense loneliness or mental illness. Instead, they choose to focus on what the people they see for the first time have become, rather than taking into account the events resulting in the outcome. Then they want to impose the archaic and extraordinarily expensive death penalty on this guy, “an eye for twelve eyes.” Sure, why not add one more senseless death to more, make the Dark Knight Rises deaths add up to an odd, superstitious number? It seems American society hasn't quite realized that violence doesn't end itself, and I'm not talking about changing gun control laws.


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    • eHealer profile image


      6 years ago from Las Vegas

      Very interesting. I don't think he's insane, which is knowing the difference between right and wrong, he knew he was committing a crime. But I do think he's delusional, and may believe that he had the right, or was chosen, or whatever higher purpose entitled him to murder people. Great hub and very well written. I need to read more of your writing to improve my own. Excellent and Write On!

    • ptosis profile image


      6 years ago from Arizona

      Or maybe he was a lab rat in the neuroscience program. Because he gave up so easily perhaps he thought that he was playing a virtual reality game in a computer-simulated environment? Like in that movie the Lawnmower Man - except the VR was real-life?

      Won't know for years what was he thinking but yes forever infamous.

    • SallyTX profile image

      Sally Branche 

      6 years ago from Only In Texas!

      This was such a tragedy. The first thing I thought when I read about it was that this young man had never faced the kind of challenge he faced in the neuroscience program and that he had never failed at anything before. I really think that (in addition to having serious mental issues) he may have just been crushed with disappointment and seen his failure on a major test as being unfair somehow. I think he decided to pursue a life of infamy instead of fame. He will probably end up in isolation for the rest of his life like Charles Manson and be equally as infamous, if not more so. I think that's what he wanted and why he protected his life and didn't try to escape. Maybe he had a change of heart when he saw the real results of his actions, and that prompted him to warn the police of the bombs in his apartment.

    • ptosis profile image


      6 years ago from Arizona

      Can't explain insanity? - I beg to differ, Anders Behring Brevik, Norway mass murderer had a manifesto online. To him it made 'sense'.

      I just don't believe in the lone gunman theory on the Batman shooter. There was a second man. Just like JFK, this is no lone nut job. State of Emergency Hegelian Dialectic is my view on this.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      So glad to hear others in our society feel this way. Very well written. As the saying goes, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

    • Ben Graves profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Graves 

      6 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Thanks for all the comments, guys.

      To Diana, thanks for enjoying the article, and the compliments, and I hope this article does just that for people.

      bobbseycat, thanks for reading and the compliments, and while I don't necessarily believe in God as his savior of sorts, I hope this guy finally realizes the gravity of what he's done, which is what leads me to you, amaeve, as I do want him to receive a life sentence, that much I do believe should be done, but I see no point in the death penalty, as it's really just killing with a cost that makes no sense. If people are willing to do these kinds of things despite the existence of a death penalty, then what's its purpose? Thanks for reading, though.

      luxvoyager, thanks for appreciating this, as I really feel that more people need to open their eyes to the ways in which they contradict themselves.

    • luxvoyager profile image


      6 years ago

      thank you for writing this. i have had a lot of mixed feelings watching this unfold, and your last paragraph especially rang true to my feelings about the way people react to these sort of things.

    • amaeve profile image


      6 years ago

      I agree with you how petty our society can be and how shallow, and I too want answers on why this man did this extremely horrible crime. However, whatever his reasons were for killing people and injuring them, and heck lets add emotionally scaring them for life; I believe he deserves the maxim sentence and if that is the death sentence then so be it. I know that sounds harsh but what he did was extremely harsh. I'm not saying you have to agree with me though everyone's opinion is their own after all

    • bobbseycat profile image


      6 years ago

      Thot' these same thots on mum had a saying: two wrongs don't make a right--I worked as supervisor in charge of a carehome for mentally ill folks-- most were Schizophrenic--even if mr. holme's is " putting on" an act according to his haters--That still points to a person who is most likely mentally ill--because normal mentally healthy people ( who probably would've given thought to the possibility of spending the rest of one's entire life in prison) would not commit such a crime. So haters who hate indiscrimately--this man--would definitely not understand ( and perhaps not have any compassion for) the perils of mental illness or--as you termed it--intense loneliness - if such is the case here. May God help this man as only He can...he certainly needs it! Well written and sensitive are the words for your impressive writing!

    • Diana Grant profile image

      Diana Grant 

      6 years ago from London

      I've been thinking along the same lines as you, but somewhat in a vacuum, and you have supplied the detail I lacked. I feel that your well-written and sensitive article will help a lot of people to understanding. Your writing is impressive.


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