Tag Archive for: #aurora

Shooter to be Drugged for Interview

That was the headline in yesterday’s NPR feed that jerked my eyes back up, even as my fingers continued scrolling down.

In their attempt to decide how James Holmes, the man who shot moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado at the movie premiere of The Dark Knight Rises, ought to be tried, it seems prosecutors are getting impatient.  While his defense team tries to figure out whether or not he should plead insanity, the prosecutors allege that they have “waited long enough.”  The judge decreed that, should Holmes choose to plead not guilty by reason of insanity, he may well be forced to undergo an interview to determine his fitness to stand trial under the influence of “medically appropriate” drugs administered by the court.

Civil rights notwithstanding (I suspect the ACLU would have something to say about this course of action), what exactly is it that they are hoping to accomplish?  Does anyone really believe that James Holmes could have entered a public place armed to the teeth with weapons and start shooting if he were “sane?”  Does anyone do that?

He may have preplanned the assault (indeed, he had to in order to collect the weapons and ammunition and obtain the gas mask and bullet proof vest he wore during the attack).  But does that mean he was sane when he did it?  He may have thought about ways to exit the theater without getting caught, but does that necessarily mean he was in his “right mind?”  I know that there is a narrow legal definition of insanity that we use in our court system and I realize that it hinges on premeditation and whether or not the actor fully comprehended the consequences of their actions. I know that, legally, someone has to know the difference between Right and Wrong. But aren’t we missing the point here?

Say Holmes is given a “truth serum” for his interview (something like sodium pentothol or sodium amytal which are designed to lower inhibitions and elicit more honest answers).  If his mind is capable of confusing a violent act such as the one he committed with something that will ultimately make anyone’s life better, is him telling the “truth” about it going to clear things up?  Or is it likely that what will emerge is simply a magnified version of Holmes himself, presumably muddled and angry?

And while the employees of the legal system run around trying to determine competence and legal definitions of insanity in some effort to dispense “justice,” what is really happening?  The victims of the shooting are mourning – some of them mourning the loss of loved ones and others mourning the loss of their own physical health.  Many are struggling to come to terms with the trauma they experienced and working to build lives where they feel safe and secure again.  They are desperate to find ways to pay for the expensive medical care and rehabilitation they received as a result of Holmes’ attack, and whether or not he is found guilty, whether he is considered insane or not makes not one bit of tangible difference.

What if our limited resources were utilized to help everyone in this case in ways that will actually make their lives better?  I can’t know what it will take to help any one of them in their own lives, but I bet they do.  Working to come to terms with what has happened to them as well as finding ways to facilitate their physical and, in some cases, financial recovery would seem a much more humane, more just purpose than a prolonged series of trial motions and interviews and legal wrangling.

As I wrote in this post on restorative justice, I do believe that Holmes (and anyone who commits a crime) needs to be held accountable for his actions, experience consequences accordant with his acts.  At this point, though, I question whether that is even possible.  Wouldn’t it make more sense to acknowledge his suffering (I don’t care that I haven’t met him or read accounts of his ‘mental state,’ anyone who and mows down their fellow human beings with assault weapons is suffering) and work with him to increase his mental functioning? Not simply so that he can be tried, but so that he can have some shot at truly understanding his crime?  Wouldn’t it be more satisfying to know that he could comprehend the effects of his shooting rampage and begin to atone for it? Wouldn’t it be more humane to give him a chance to spend his life doing something productive instead of leaving him trapped in a tormented brain and a prison cell for the rest of his life?  And wouldn’t it be more humane and productive for us to direct some of those resources that might go into a trial toward the victims’ rebuilding of their own lives?  Restorative justice.  Restoration. Putting things back as best we can.

I don’t see how the continued debate over whether Holmes was “sane” or not is helping anyone to move forward or heal from the horrific events of last July.  We can dissect this man’s likely thoughts or motives or brain patterns for months to come and still not achieve anything that resembles healing for this community.  By the time a trial is concluded, if it can be, we will have only succeeded in keeping that wound open and raw for longer than it deserved to be.  Our focus must be on assessing the needs of the entire community and addressing them, Holmes included.

All too often I forget the lesson I’ve learned that where I choose to put my energies matters.  I have this ingrained neural highway in my brain that started in childhood – cry about something and get attention. Whine or complain and someone will come ask, “What’s wrong? How can I help?”  Of course, get to a certain age and that becomes untrue – people don’t respond to adolescent whining with much more than annoyance or judgment, but because those nerve connections were forged over and over again pre-language, my brain still insists on traveling down that particular road more often than not.

And so, since the horrific shooting in Aurora, Colorado, I have spent a lot of time and energy railing against what I feel is the ridiculous lack of gun laws in the United States – drawing comparisons that I feel will illustrate my point (well, mostly pointing out comparisons that others have come up with and shared on Facebooks).  The act of ranting about an issue that is important to me, that inspires passion, feels good for a while and then falls flat.  Unfortunately, when it falls flat, it also reminds me of the other times I’ve felt the same way – impotent in the face of hatred and inequality for homosexuals, the lack of an adequate healthcare system that will provide care for each and every person who needs it, corporate interests trumping human and environmental concerns like clean drinking water and a safe food system, you know, the regular stuff.  And then I get depressed. Because this particular “Route 66” is barren of color and softness – it is simply pavement that enables me to speed from anger or fear or frustration to more of the same.

Fortunately, from time to time I get bored with the monotony of this concrete path and look to one side or the other, realizing there’s a much less used deer path that goes off in another direction.

That deer path, bravely forged from time to time in my consciousness, is a much more attractive alternative that I rarely slow down enough to use.  That deer path represents the power of positive energy. It is the place where, instead of ranting and banging my forehead and fists against the brick wall I see in front of me, I choose to step back and see what is going on in the vicinity. Focus on other things.  And generally, what I find is heartening.

I find other bloggers like Elizabeth who feel the same way I do about a variety of subjects and continues to highlight innovative ideas and point out absurdities to ponder and share lovely poetry in the spaces inbetween.  I discover this from Jason Alexander of Seinfeld fame – an eloquent and impassioned essay about the tragic shooting incident in Colorado.  I see threads of conversation on Facebook and Twitter concerning the Boy Scouts’ recent ruling on excluding homosexuals or denying Sally Ride’s domestic partner of 27 years survivor benefits simply because she was female and they weren’t allowed to marry.  I see momentum. I see rational discussion. (I also see ranting and hatred and de-friending behavior, but that’s par for the course).  I see people who care about others and who feel that it is important to share their thoughts on difficult subjects.  I feel empowered because I truly, honestly believe that this kind of discourse can only produce action. That putting energy in to compassionate thought and support for all of humanity will result in its growth and development.  It is a reminder to me that putting my energy into fighting against something, while it feels justified and powerful initially, only feeds that thing.  Instead, today, I am choosing to direct my thoughts toward what I do want to see. Manifesting the outcome I hope for with every cell in my body.


As I stood in the shower this morning feeling somewhat defeated and sad I took a second to begin listing the things for which I am grateful.  I recalled a quote I saw once that says that, “Gratitude is a way of returning energy for energy received.”

Generally, when I begin this exercise I feel a little like I’m just going through the motions. And I get a little cynical with myself, noting that I list the same things every time – my kids, my husband, my friends, access to healthy food and clean water, the grace and beauty of nature.  And somewhere along the way I begin laughing at myself because who gets cynical and snotty about those things? How long can you say, “Yeah, yeah, so I live in a beautiful part of the world with a healthy family and I get to breathe clean air. So what?”  It doesn’t ring true.

So excuse me for being a Polyanna, but when I step off of that fast-moving highway of scorn and whining and put my bare feet squarely in to the soft grass of acknowledgment and gratitude, the shift that comes about is profound.  I begin to realize that this is how things change.  People who care enough about something to speak up do so and others realize they aren’t alone.  More join them in their quest for compassion, equality, humanity, and the tide begins to turn.  And I honestly believe that is what is happening right now.  It will certainly not happen overnight, but if those who care continue to put positive energy toward the outcome they desire, it can’t fail.