Losing James Holmes

'James Holmes may be responsible for these losses but we are responsible for losing him', writes Lisa Buscani.

August 2, 2012

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After the recent shootings in Aurora, Colorado, few felt bad for alleged shooter James Holmes, who has since been charged with 24 counts of murder. WBEZ's own Al Gini wrote that he wasn't sure that our society could ever really forgive people like Holmes, or former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky. "Given the immensity of their actions, I think forgiveness is asking too much," he wrote.

But writer and performer Lisa Buscani feels that, since Holmes is just the latest of "many disenfranchised gunman", there might be more there that we're missing. Read an excerpt of her thoughts below or listen above:

You knew him. He was the kid who got good grades without even trying, but blinked and swallowed constantly during show and tell, when he tried to talk about the time his parents, "Um took him, uh, to the like Epcot Center," and no one wanted to hear it because he was a stupid, boring geek. The restlessness spread through the class like thin kindling on fire, as the kids giggled and imitated him until he cut his story short.

Maybe he was the kid who brought up the rear of your pack, the one who, to your everlasting credit, you took the time to find out what he thought and discovered he was funny and sarcastic and smart. His advice, when you asked him for it, saved you work and pain. You even encouraged him to step away from the wall that always had his back; you threw the spotlight to him once when he said something funny that everyone missed and you made them stop and listen and he said it and everyone laughed. He looked like a guy who’d spent three weeks in the Mojave who just got his hands on a Snapple.

But when he tried to do it himself, tried to take center stage with his contribution, primarily because you had said he could, you had shown him how it felt to be heard finally, and he stepped out into the light only to fight that same enemy in his audience’s restlessness, only to have his brilliance caught and carried away in a stiff wind, only to see eyes glaze over as points and friends and potential were lost. Only to start him on the road you wouldn’t follow, to become the person you didn’t recognize.

In the mass murderer story arc, James Holmes, the latest alleged lone gunman, is an unabashed cliché, the quiet young man who never caused trouble but who no one ever knew, who brought home the grades and played soccer like all the rest of the white suburban kids but failed to walk at commencement. He went from doing honors work in undergrad to working at a dead-end job at McDonald’s to entering a prestigious UC Denver neuroscience doctoral program to withdrawing from that future.

You’ve known guys like James Holmes. What you don’t know are the details of the spin out. I mean, think about it. What it’s like to be that smart and yet unable to share; to be of the world and never in it. It’s like the dreamer who pushes through race walls for a third or fourth wind and crosses through tape to a roar of adulation only to wake to a brace and a walker. It’s a high-flying mind dragged down and buried under a suffocating wet blanket of a personality that offers no impact. It’s madness. It’s a slow death.

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