EVIL James Holmes killed 12 people and injured around 70 others when he walked through an emergency exit into a crowded movie theater and opened fire on July 20, 2012 in Aurora, Colo.

An age of evil

By Paul Moomjean 08/02/2012

Less than an hour into July 20, a young man named James Holmes walked through an emergency exit at the Century 16 Theater in Aurora, Colo., and began shooting at hundreds of people, killing 12 and injuring around 70. Some of his victims were small children, teenagers, and many were adults. Upon capture, the 24-year-old gunman told authorities he was The Joker. Yes. That Joker. The one from the Batman movies. It’s as if he were planning his insanity defense already. He spit on guards. He casually inquired about the ending of the movie he barged in on, as if he were sitting in a Starbucks. His actions are indefensible. His intentions incomprehensible. The only word to use: Evil.

Evil is an underused word. It strikes some people the wrong way. They don’t want to believe in it because, if they do, then they won’t be able to use social factors to explain away the actions.

Holmes was a lucky man who was raised by decent people in an affluent area of San Diego, went to good schools, attended a Lutheran church, attended prestigious science camps, and received $26,000 in grant money. All the contributing factors we throw on evil people, like poverty and environment, get tossed out when trying to explain Holmes’ massacre. Holmes had no reason to be angry and want to take it out on a large undeserving crowd, unless you believe in true, unexplainable evil. It’s the kind of evil that, ironically, The Dark Knight dissected through the character of The Joker. While Bruce Wayne/Batman was trying to understand his new nemesis, The Joker, Alfred had this advice to give the Caped Crusader.

Bruce Wayne: Criminals aren’t complicated, Alfred. Just have to figure out what he’s after.

Alfred: With respect, Master Wayne, perhaps this is a man that you don’t fully understand either. ... Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

James Holmes doesn’t “fit” with any of the societal ills to which we attribute such outbursts. Instead, he has defied political logic. We like to think money and education will “fix” people, but deep down we know they won’t. Rich people still steal, and many poor people are saints. The difference between Bernie Madoff and a street thug is that one uses his brain and the other a gun. Educated people do acts of evil, and the uneducated raise fine families in suburban neighborhoods.

We live in an age of evil. We always have and we always will. There are evil governments now (North Korea, Iran, etc.) and there were evil ones before (Nero’s Rome, ancient pagan cultures, etc). Evil has been with us as well. You can’t explain evil away. We cannot wipe evil off the planet through a social program or finances. We must fight evil with goodness, justice and, most importantly — punishment.

Sadly, Holmes’ act of depravity has created the wrong kind of conversation. People are calling for more gun laws and lawsuits. Cable news politicized the story before anything was said. Words like Tea Party were thrown out by ABC News anchor Brian Ross before substantial evidence could stabilize the story. There is already a lawsuit against Warner Brothers by a Century 16 Theater patron/survivor for just making the movie. In his lawyer’s words, “Somebody has to be responsible for the rampant violence that is shown today.” Yes, sir — the killer, not the entertainers.

We are terrified of dealing with evil, and instead choose to blame everything else but the evil person who acted.

The conversation has become one about the cause of actions and not the punishment. What we should be discussing is, how can we show our values through punishment? If the death penalty was ever needed to display our disgust in the actions of one, this would be it. If the state refuses to use the death penalty on Holmes, then it should just be taken off the list of potential punishments.

Holmes is not a man with a sickness to treat or eliminate. It’s more like the world has a sickness to eliminate, and it’s James Holmes.

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I find this article quite ignorant on dealing with the nature of evil. James Holmes had no motive or grand plot. He's clearly mentally ill. To me, evil involves sane brutality with an objective - Saddam Hussein gasing his people in order to retain power and to continue to syphon millions of dollars into hidden accounts - this would be evil. And also, how is this event creating the wrong kind of conversation relating to examining our lack of control legislation? Would this be the perfect time to do so?

posted by bcsalzer on 8/05/12 @ 02:48 p.m.

I accept the supposition that evil exists. And I accept that punishment (of given acts in a given fashion) is one of the ways a society expresses its value system. Unfortunately, it is this evil that makes me oppose the death penalty that Moomjeam supports. Evil exists not only in lone killers, but in institutions, including law enforcement. This evil encourages police officers to arrest innocent people, lab technicians to fake test results, prosecutors to withhold exculpatory evidence. While not representative of all law enforcement, the percentage of cases overturned based on perjury and withheld evidence is too high to allow the possibility of innocent people being executed. Surely the sentence of life without parole would serve equally well, removing perps from society without the risk of an irreversible punishment.

posted by Phocas on 8/06/12 @ 01:18 a.m.

Can you please give me a definition of mental illness? Do you mean he actually has something organic wrong? What exactly is that? Or are you diagnosing something that doesn't actually exist? What does truly exist is evil. Let's call his actions what they really were. Evil. Not some chemical imbalance, or some hocus pocus made up by the psychological industry to blame shift. Let's face it, the truth is that he didn't do this because he had a bad upbringing. He didn't do this because his environment around him was poor. He did this because in him is an evil that exists in all of us. He, unlike most of us failed to restrain it. Therefore, his actions were immoral and evil. He should be treated as such.

posted by mrmike1986 on 8/07/12 @ 11:59 a.m.

Ignorance is the only evil I see here. I agree with bcsalzar. He is mentally ill. Mental illness is something that needs to be discussed, treated and studied. This isn't a gun issue, and it is not an issue of evil. This man was/is delusional and obviously had a psychotic breakdown. He thinks he is The Joker. Murdering innocent people in a movie theater is something The Joker would do. To simplify this situation by calling it an act of evil only adds to the tragedy. mrmike1986, you wrote: "He, unlike most of us failed to restrain it." Does that mean you have a desire to kill people and have to force yourself not to act on those desires? Please let us know so we can stage an intervention for you before it is too late.

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