Many are already doing a good job of rehashing the obvious that the James E Holmes (JH) Aurora incident is tragic. Sadly, the eventual number of casualties may exceed Columbine's, though, I very much hope not. Now, for purposes of minimizing the prospect of these kinds of events occurring with this much striking regularity, we need to turn deserved attention to possible causative factors and what to do about them.
There is no rationale for excusing or tolerating JH's seeming outrage, but I am strongly convinced that JH's action is at odds with his track record. To me, likely predisposing events might reside at the University of Colorado where JH was said to have withdrawn from a PhD program in Neuroscience. The timeline between his withdrawal and the onset of these tragic events suggested enough maturation for JH to manifest aggressive tendencies of this dimension. I am not a psychiatrist or abnormal and clinical psychologist, but have enough academic training and life exposure to support my hunches. With deep probing, professional examination, and the injection of a seasoned defense attorney, JH stands a good chance of succeeding with plea of insanity. Even then, JH may live a long time or the rest of his life mentally institutionalized. Whatever fate finally befalls JH, society loses.
We must begin to pay greater and more serious attention to causative than punitive dimensions of crime and criminality. As tragic and deplorable as JH's action strikes every 'normal' person, a 24-year old who never had a record in his life is unlikely to develop the mens rea (animus) for a mass murderer without some precipitants, however irrational and indefensible. The police referred to one case of traffic ticket for speeding. Two quick points about that: that is not felonious, talk less of being a violent felony. Besides, the speeding-ticket episode falls squarely within the critical one-year timeline of JH's withdrawal from his Neuroscience PhD in Colorado. To my mind, much of the unraveling of the mysteries of a "quiet and easy-going" young man with a promising future going berserk rests on triggering events at the Colorado medical school where JH was enrolled in a PhD Neuroscience program.
On James E Holmes' tragic meltdown, answers may lie in events at the Colorado Medical School. Investigators should look closely there and find corroboration from JH's family, friends and school colleagues. To mitigate these events, timely and proactive action should be taken as opposed to shedding (crocodile) tears after-the-fact. A stitch in time, they say, saves nine. That is my piece. Peace to the souls of the departed and succor to bereaved families and friends of the dead and injured.
JH's Colorado Theater Shooting: Matters Arising.
The tragedy of JH's action is not minimized. The recurring nature of the ogre of violence is sickening and calls for approaches different from the routinized. Insanity is doing the same thing the same way over and over again and expecting different results. Some social misfits unleash terror on innocent citizens with heart-rending casualties. We are angry, we are sad and confused. If suspects are caught, we seek retribution; understandably, heads need to roll.
Years of litigation follow. Some convicts end up on death row; others are confined as "lifers" and yet others in mental institutions. As usual, we move on and resume our routines; until the next round of shootings when the ritual is repeated. How about we invest more energy, citizen resolve and state resource in identifying remote and immediate causes of these horrific crimes and seeking solutions! Let us stop acting fatalistic, throwing up our hands in surrender to simplistic notions of good and evil. How do we, wittingly or unwittingly, by omission or commission, aid the crystallizing of good and evil? How?
The job connection
JH graduates with a BS in Neuroscience "top of the top" per his UCR chancellor. In a country that professes to be keen on more manpower in the "hard" sciences and seeks to out-educate and out-compete other nations, we produce a first-class brain who ends up with only a prospect of flipping burgers at McDonald's. JH's parents are well educated and belong in above-average socioeconomic class. They are snow-white; so the race hurdle is off. Yet, their outstanding brain of a son could only work in a restaurant. He does not even get to teach Mathematics or Physics.
The Corruption Factor
The politically well-connected get multiple posh jobs dropped on their children's laps even if the latter are near dimwits. Now, JH faces the prospect of a hangman's noose, life in jail or life in a sanatorium. What a sad commentary! We ALL lose, don't we?
Prevention is often easier and cheaper than cure
Probably still frustrated and angry, JH decides maybe a PhD in his Neuroscience would cut it. Certain variables again surface at the Colorado Medical School and JH winds up withdrawing from his Neuroscience program. Those who are supposed to follow up with unfolding events with JH are probably too busy with their daily routine of simply working the motion until something as serious as this falls through the cracks. If you have encountered bureaucrats who actively listen and act, you must belong in the lucky few. Those in Colorado Medical School might have done their bit; we would not know until investigators finish their work. Hopefully, they truly leave no stone unturned this time around.
Stop the rolling mill of disaster or we ALL keep losing
We have a duty to SNAP this rolling mill of disaster and needless deaths, especially those of the youths that are the future of this great country. Whatever fate ultimately befalls JH, we ALL lose because, individually and collectively, we have been focusing more vexatiously on an eye for an eye instead of probing for the "whys and the hows" of our social predicaments and forging solutions. We put a man on the moon, but we cannot answer simple questions on an ideal social organization -- the very foundation of advancing civilization. Think about these things.
No excuse for violence
Again, I make no excuse for murderous violence. But individually and collectively, are we making needed contribution to proactively finding causes and solutions to these challenges? Are we ready to shift greater resources to preventing or at least mitigating crimes than simply punishing criminals? Why would a well-placed white-collar criminal be treated any differently from a bank robber or mass murderer? Think about these things and more and resolve to join hands with others in finding workable solutions.
Think about these things; you do not have to wait until the tragedy strikes closer home. The victims, dead and maimed, do not have to be direct members of your family before you get the wake-up call. They do not have to be YOUR family; they are already OUR family. Think and act now. Peace.
By now, it is common knowledge that much of what pushed JH over the edge lay at the University of Colorado Medical School. In my prior post, I said these variables were worth checking. I also alluded to JH being likely frustrated, enraged and disenchanted at the ignoble prospect of a first-class neuroscience UCR graduate flipping burgers in McDonald's, when less endowed wards of the politically connected got four to five job options they hardly merited. Can we honestly claim that we are doing enough to stop this cycle of morbid injustices?
I suggested that society's focus needed to shift from obsession with punitive measures to causative dimensions of crime and criminality; otherwise, these shootings and needless killings might continue unabated. Bureaucrats are not known to solve problems proactively; mostly, they react and work the motion after-the-fact.
Adducing the inevitable existence of 'good and evil' regardless of what we do or fail to do is a lazy and beggarly approach to solving social problems. We have options. One of such options is studying to understand the root causes of crime and criminality and acting to prevent or at least mitigate their occurrence and resulting negativity.
Now, another interlude is over and one more shooting has occurred; this time in the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek neighborhood of Wisconsin. Seven lives, including the gun man's, are lost. The shooter in an earlier Arizona killing appears to have successfully negotiated life in prison instead of keeping a date with a hangman. Whichever way that turns out, his life is practically over. The question is "how has the Arizona tragedy helped to prevent the Colorado and Wisconsin shootings? When are we going to start paying attention and stopping the insanity encore? Today, it is the Sikh Temple, where next? Think about it.