In the summer, a young man's fancy turns to guns and death. There is no excuse for the rain of bullets and terror unleashed in Aurora, Colorado, early Friday morning by a man the media has already named "The Batman Psycho" — aka James Holmes.
The families of those who died and the survivors of the attack will take years to recover. Gun control advocates and gun rights stalwarts have another brutal Colorado attack to argue over for years to come. Michael Moore has material for new agitprop, as the internet business who sold Holmes his assault equipment has already said they shipped $300 worth of tactical gear to Colorado worn during the attack.
News reports have identified Holmes, 24, as a top undergraduate student at UC Riverside, and up until recently, a student in the demanding graduate neuroscience program at the University of Colorado in Denver.
TMZ located an "AdultFriendFinder" profile of a red-haired man whose appearance and profile greatly resembles Holmes. The man was advertising for the type of action nearly every 24 year-old guy would seek on the adult "dating" site — except he asked if dates would "visit him in prison." Since it's TMZ, they're speculating about the profile's description of the aspiring swinger's man-parts: Small/Average.
Former neighbors reported that Holmes was unemployed and struggling to find work since his graduation from UC Riverside in 2010. "No one knew him,” said others from his Colorado neighborhood. UC officials described Holmes as a top student, even "the best of the best." Neuroscience is no major for dummies.
Nearly 50 years ago, after murdering his mother and wife, 25 year-old Charles Whitman climbed the tower at the University of Texas, Austin, and initiated a shooting spree that killed 16 people and wounded 32 others — ultimately losing his own life at the hands of Austin police. Whitman's journal and suicide notes indicated that he knew in advance something was horribly wrong and expressed regret. His autopsy found a huge brain tumor that was theorized to be at fault of his violent attack.
Unless James Holmes is found to have a huge brain tumor, it's unlikely that — although he joins Whitman in the annals of ultra violent American mass murderers — his killing spree will be able to be tied to a physical cause. Unlike the married Whitman who lived with both his wife and mother, Holmes has already been tagged as a loner. A neighbor he shared beers with last week said he walked with a "swagger," and the two men talked only about football.
The attack was planned and coordinated for weeks to coincide with the release of the film The Dark Knight Rises. This film doesn't feature villain The Joker (played so unforgettably by the late Heath Ledger). It features some other guy in an ugly mask named Bane. James Holmes seems to have decided to show up as The Joker in full assault gear to share the Joker's nihilistic devastation with a real-life Colorado audience.
How could a top student, cross-country runner almost universally described as "quiet" and "nice" --- by former classmates and neighbors -- turn into the choreographer of mass murder at a crowded theater, raining automatic weapon fire on the helpless crowd? Pundits are already speculating on the precise form of Holmes' mental illness. There's no question that he "snapped."
Another question to ask is, why have more young men not snapped? Because James Holmes isn't the only young, capable man who can't even get a job or a date. We have a whole generation "on hold." 50% of students graduating from college in 2010 are either unemployed or under-employed. Those enrolled in graduate school, as Holmes was until June, are accruing mountains of debt they understandably fear may never be paid off.
The TMZ dating site profile thread features dozens of comments to the effect that "girls won't even look at an average guy unless he has money." Well, James Holmes was drawing unemployment and had struggled to find work for two years. By all reports, he didn't just perform well as an undergraduate; he was at the top of his class. In the world he grew up in, he would have had every expectation that as long as he did his part, by 24, he'd be finishing graduate school with a good job, and might be looking to get married and start a family.
Instead, he ended up on unemployment with dyed red hair, looking for female company on an adult "dating" site that's a portal for "friends" who work on an hourly or piece-rate basis, and has now achieved success as one of the worst, if not the worst, mass murderers in U.S. history. In one devastating burst of fire, he has ruined movie going for an entire generation. He has associated one of the most popular superheroes with the darkest side of human nature.
The joke is that, unless Holmes is found to have a brain tumor like Charles Whitman causing his violence, he is someone who possessed all the normal drives for what our society has called "success," and for the most part, he had all the right moves. An excellent student, athlete, quiet but "easy-going" according to his rental application, in a demanding medical field.
Reports are that he planned this attack for weeks, if not months. He carefully assembled all his weapons and gear — legally. After surrendering to police and telling them he was "The Joker," Holmes then warned that his apartment was booby-trapped. Upon arriving at the still-evacuated apartment building, police heard loud "techno" music that had been on a timer, set to start after Holmes launched his attack on the theater.
It's hard to say what this music was or is, as almost two days later, authorities still have not entered the apartment for fear of setting off an explosive device. I'm willing to bet, it may have been Killing Joke. People will talk about the movie, the band, Heath Ledger, assault weapons, sales of tactical gear over the internet, and they are already arguing about Mr. Holmes' political sentiments.
He wanted what every young man wants. To be a success, to make his mark, to move forward with his life. He wanted a woman. Under other circumstances, James Holmes may never have hurt another soul. He might have even saved lives through neuroscience. But now, he has made his mark. And that is the ultimate killing joke.