Albany Journal – 7/22/12

A fellow of the New Surrealist Institute, Lee is his name, lives in the Denver area and is deeply affected by the shooting that took place at a movie theater in Aurora.  While he mentioned that no one near or dear to him was in the movie theater at the time, I do recall him mentioning on the NSI website that friends of friends were affected by the tragedy, and so for him the tragedy really hit home.  Lee is definitely shaken by the event, and as of this moment, the network news is now descending upon that movie theater in Aurora and showing clips of the violent episode that took place there – just before the midnight showing of a new Batman movie, the Dark Knight.  While I’m satisfied enough that the news is constantly providing coverage of the massacre, I just can’t get over how terrible this all is.  It is clear to me that we live in an America where the war is actually being brought home – or so it seems – and this would be equally as tragic, because many people would much rather be rid of a foreign war that only gives rise to an encroaching domestic unease and unrest.  It seems that we are constantly at war with ourselves, albeit gradually and subtly, but the anger is all there.

In the higher realms of government, every issue seems to be one of contention with the other side – yes, Republicans versus Democrats, as one says ‘Yes,’ while the other one says ‘No.’  One side saying ‘No,” while the other side says ‘Yes.’  Back when the founding fathers gathered in the same hallowed halls of Washington D.C., surely they fought physically at times and had duels and such, but this is nowhere near to being as dangerous as are these conflicting systems of ideology, general ‘way of life’ issues, and what else but the economy and earning money – which tends to be something that we all want to have.  I will still, however, echo the same words of once-candidate John Edwards when he declared that we are indeed living in two Americas, because right now the news channels are gearing up to discuss the turbulent issue of gun control, as only a national tragedy such as this would clear the way for such politics to be discussed.  Interestingly enough, one side says that if anyone were packing heat at that theater, then the gunman could have been shot on the spot, while the other side says that the proliferation of guns on the streets only adds to more and more bloodshed, because many of these weapons are either illegally sold or aren’t regulated enough.  I would have to say that there is a huge ideological gulf that we are facing, and now that the armed forces are slowly making their way home, they have fought the great fight, but the country, I believe, both is and will be so foreign to them that it doesn’t really surprise me that one soldier a day commits suicide because of the inability to cope in this new hotbed of an environment.  It’s actually really bad how members of our armed forces are suffering right now, and this only adds to the sweltering stew of domestic or internal conflict, rather than keeping conflicts where they can belong – which is outside of our homeland.

I was actually very concerned when I saw the cover of Time Magazine this week, as it focuses on how members of the armed forces are killing themselves in droves, and how the trend is no where near to stopping anytime soon.  And so I am left confused and left utterly baffled at what this country is coming to – especially in Congress where we have full-time gridlock and nothing can get done due to ideological disagreements and the same old arguments both for and against.  What also interests me, however, deals with the type of people as of late that have spun a web of destruction, even though these people would be considered some of Americas most brilliant minds that are slowly taken over by some higher voice that eggs them on to committing great violence.  In other words, I believe it is high time that we connected the dots among killers who have had mental issues to deal with instead of seeing each case as an isolated case of bloodshed.

The first of one such killing involved the murderer who was a scientist for NASA and dressed up in a disguise to kill a boyfriend that she couldn’t have.  This was the tale of a bereft ex-lover named Lisa Nowak, (and please correct me if I’m wrong on any of these facts).  Even before this, there was the Unabomber – Terry Kaczynski – a brilliant mathematician and professor at Berkeley – who killed many intellectuals with bombs in their mailboxes.  There is also the sad tale of Amy Bishop, who was a well-regarded faculty member of biology at the University of Alabama.  Sure, she certainly had her ups and downs as far as her career went, but was this enough to push her over the edge and kill three widely-known professors there?  Then take the recent tragedy in Aurora carried out by James Holmes, who is yet another brilliant young researcher in neurobiology at the University of Colorado.  Or how about the gifted Army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan who went on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas?  If we factor in the soldiers who are committing suicide at a rate of one per day, then what we have here is the connection between mental illness and an attempt to find respect and recognition for the hard work that any one of them does.  What I’m saying here is that all of these murderers mentioned above were highly gifted, ambitiously driven, and most likely, mentally ill in some way.  I would also add that these murders all took place in the South or the West – Colorado where the Columbine massacre took place, and now again in Colorado where John Holmes rifled down the many who were there to see a movie that might have played games and tricks in his mind.  There is a connection, though, as this is my hypothesis, but as of this point I am unable to connect the dots in any meaningful way.  A news agency would have to research it more, and so should the US Armed Forces, NASA, and the universities.

No, I don’t believe in any vague apocalypse that will happen in the here and near, but I do stress that we must try to prevent these mental illnesses that seem to bleed into our reality amongst those whom we would never think of being capable of harming anyone, just as we try to prevent the many diseases that we can avoid by taking better care of ourselves before a disease takes root.  The tragedy, after all, also lies in our inability to prevent these mass murders from happening.

Harvey Havel is the author of five novels. This past spring, Stories from the Fall of the Empire, his sixth book and his first collection of short stories, was recently released by Publish America. Later this summer, Two Tickets to Memphis, his sixth novel, is forthcoming from Publish America as well. Havel has previously taught Writing at Bergen Community College in Paramus, New Jersey and also at SUNY Albany and the College of St. Rose, both in Albany, New York. Born in Lahore, Pakistan in 1971, Havel now resides full time in Albany, New York.