A portrait of James Holmes is beginning to reveal itself. Personally, I feel what has been revealed about his life should make people more worried. At least with the Tucson murders we could comfort ourselves with the fact that Jared Loughner was clearly a crazed lunatic and his background revealed multiple signs that he would eventually do something crazy. We could blame the system, his parents, drugs, or mental illness. It made us feel safer to rationalize the behavior of a lunatic. But this time something is different.
This kid was brought up in a normal household in San Diego with what appear to be normal parents. He was an athlete who played on the football and soccer teams in high school. He was on the quiet side, but had friends. He worked as a counselor for underpriveleged kids. He liked video games. He was very smart. He graduated from college at the top of his class with a degree in neuroscience, not some worthless liberal arts degree that we like to scorn. But he couldn’t find a job after college. He was forced to work at a McDonalds. Then he tried to hide out in Grad School in Denver, far away from his family and friends.
Now this is why you should be worried. How many young people fit this description? My guess is hundreds of thousands. They did everything right. They listened to their parents. They didn’t get into trouble. They did well in school. They had pretty high self esteem. Then they graduated from college and the real world beckoned. But the country has been gutted by the warfare, welfare, Wall Street policies over the last three decades. There are few if any decent jobs for even the brightest young people. Over the last two years this kid has been holed up in his tiny apartment, accumulating more student loan debt, and getting progressively more depressed and bitter at the world. He’s done everything he thought he needed to do to become successful, but he’s a failure. He keeps asking himself why, but there is no logical answer. The anger against society builds until his mind is overwhelmed with thoughts of revenge against somebody and everybody. Something snapped after months of depression, anger and disillusionment with our unfair system.
There are reports that he was dressed like the Joker. The Dark Knight series of movies are particularly bleak, dark, violent, and not particularly optimistic about our future. People are desperately seeking some sort of logical motive for this mass murder. They will not find one. There is a scene in the first Dark Knight movie that captures the essence of what James Holmes did. This quote from Alfred says it all:
“Some men just want to watch the world burn.”
No comfort can be gained by categorizing James Holmes as a lunatic. He wasn’t a lunatic for the first 22 years of his life. Did our warped society create the lunatic? Did our economic system that rewards financial criminals, corrupt politicians, and mega-corporations create the lunatic? Did our suburban sprawl, faceless, nameless, materialistic, greedy society create the lunatic? Admit it. The biography of this kid matches many 24 year olds that you know. It might even match the biography of your own son. That is why you should worry. It seems the discussion is already centered around gun control and whether someone with a gun could have prevented this tragedy. I’m not surprised. These are things that we have control over. No one wants to talk about why a seemingly normal young person could snap. We better get a handle on that question, because there are hundreds of thousands of men like James Holmes out there facing the exact same circumstances.
Colorado shooting suspect: “Everything came easy for him,” friend says
The suspect in the shooting during a “Dark Knight” screening at a Colorado movie theater Friday showed no signs of violence or anger, friends and classmates said.
James Holmes, 24, was a honors student, enjoyed video games and movies and was a strong athlete, they said. The friends knew Holmes during his high school and college years in San Diego and Riverside.
Ritchie Duong, a 24-year-old student at UC Riverside, went to middle school and high school with Holmes in San Diego and to college with him at UC Riverside. Duong said he last saw Holmes in December in downtown Los Angeles when the two joined some other friends to have dinner and see the new “Mission Impossible” movie.
“He didn’t seem to change very much from high school,” Duong said. “We knew him as the same guy. We would call him ‘Jimmy James.’ We would laugh all the time about it.”
“Everything came easy for him,” Duong said by phone Saturday. “I had one college class with him, and he didn’t even have to take notes or anything. He would just show up to class, sit there, and around test time he would always get an A.”
Duong said that he did not believe Holmes was on prescription medication. In fact, he called Holmes a “pretty athletic kid” who frequented the gym. Duong said Holmes had numerous friends and that he had no apparent problem with women.
“He did see girls,” Duong said, adding that Holmes had never introduced him to a girlfriend.
Duong had not heard from Holmes since their last meeting.
When he heard about the shootings, Duong said he read reports online and, at first, he misunderstood. He thought his friend had been shot. Then he read more closely and “it turned out” his friend was the shooter.
In a resume posted on Monster.com, Holmes listed himself as an “aspiring scientist” and said he was looking for a job as a laboratory technician, the Associated Press reported.
The resume described how Holmes worked as a summer intern at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla in 2006 and mapped the neurons of Zebra finches and studied the flight muscles of hummingbirds while he was an undergraduate at UC Riverside.
He also worked one summer as a counselor at a camp for underprivileged children. The chief executive at Camp Max Straus said Holmes worked there in 2008 and “had no incidents or disciplinary concerns.”
In a statement to The Times, Randy Schwab, chief executive of Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles and director of Camp Max Straus, wrote that Holmes was responsible for “the care and guidance of a group of approximately 10 children” at the camp, in the hills above Glendale.
“His role was to ensure that these children had a wonderful camp experience by helping them learn confidence, self-esteem and how to work in small teams to effect positive outcomes,” he said. In a later e-mail, he added: “That summer provided the kids a wonderful camp experience without incident.”