US mourns victims of Colorado shooting – 20 July 2012
Today, I join the families in Colorado and other US states who mourn the loss of their loved ones, snatched from them by the gunman, James Eagen Holmes. It is a tragic reminder of the fragility of our lives.
As I gleaned from media reports, James Holmes had everything in his favor for a successful life. The 24-year-old was a tall, white male from a middle-class American family, and a brilliant scholar with an honors neuroscience degree from the University of California Riverside and working towards his doctorate at the University of Colorado Denver. People who knew him described him as studious, shy, and a loner: Not unusual for highly intellectual individuals. Like millions of young people graduating from college, James struggled to find work after graduating in 2010. Presumably, he too has massive student loans to repay.
Before Thursday midnight, heralding July 20, James had never committed any criminal offence. Something went terribly wrong in James’ mind to turn him into a cold-blooded killer. Dressed head-to-toe in black riot gear like a SWAT officer, he gunned down seventy people in a dark theater in Aurora, Colorado, while they watched the special midnight showing of the Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises. Of the seventy people shot, ten died on the spot, two died shortly afterward, and a number of others remain in critical condition.
As a mother of two young men, I am shaken by James’ sociopathic behavior. Such rage builds up over years, caused by any number of factors such as neglect, indifference, abuse, alienation, and loss of control over one’s life. Like most parents, we do our best, within our financial constraints, to raise our children along the path of acceptable behavior for living and succeeding in our society.
But we do not raise our children in a vacuum. They grow up in communities of other individuals: neighborhood, church, sports club, school, and others. They are exposed to other societal influences through the media, pop culture, and the ubiquitous Internet. Then there is the violence.
Violence surrounds us. We are a nation at war overseas and at war at home with the protestors of the Occupy Movement. The excessive violence used to dispel peaceful protestors is disconcerting. What does the behavior of adult authority at the highest levels teach mentally troubled young men like James Holmes?
Our electronic games and movies have become darker and more violent. Our fairy tales and comic book stories of our favorite superheroes have become violent films with dark themes. In the dark cinema, James Holmes emerged as the Dark Knight fighting crime in the world he lived in.
James Holmes is a reminder of the malleability of the human mind and the danger of making guns easily available to all.