In the wake of Friday’s horrific massacre in Aurora, CO, survivors and citizens are left with so many unanswered questions. What could provoke someone to commit such unspeakable evil against his fellow man? Why? Could this tragedy have been prevented? How is it possible that no one knew what kind of monster lurked within this seemingly bright, quiet young man?
We know very little of James Holmes’ background or family life. His only brush with the law appears to be a single traffic violation. He doesn’t seem to have had any close friends and his family has been understandably silent.
Perhaps his family was unaware of his sliding into darkness. Perhaps they simply gave up and callously washed their hands of him. Or perhaps they caught glimpses of a depraved mind but could not reconcile that reality with the memories of the baby they rocked to sleep or the small boy they read bed time stories to and so they simply dismissed it. After all, they might have reassured themselves, he’s a good student and he’s never been in trouble.
But perhaps those closest to him were all too aware that something wasn’t right with James Holmes. Maybe they watched helplessly as he slipped into a world they couldn’t comprehend. Did they beg him to get professional help only to be rebuffed by the young man who was convinced in his own mind that he was okay? Did they beg authorities to intervene only to be told that he hadn’t committed any crime yet? Did they plead with psychiatrists for help only to be told that HIPAA privacy laws prevented them from discussing his mental status, a frustrating situation all too familiar to his mother, a nurse? Did they beg James to give them medical power of attorney so they could get him treatment only to be refused by the adult young man who foolishly believed he was in control of his own mind? Did they beg attorneys to help them have James declared mentally incompetent to care for himself only to be told that he didn’t meet the legal definition of ‘incompetent’? Were the Holmes’ family’s efforts to stop James’ decline into madness thwarted at every turn by a broken mental health system?
We may never know the answer to any of these questions. And like the rest of the world, I don’t sympathize with James Holmes on any level. And like the rest of the world, I grieve for the lives of his victims needlessly taken way too soon. But I also grieve for James’ family whose lives too have been permanently altered by the crazed acts of a madman—a madman they call ‘son’ and ‘brother’.