We are still reeling from the shock of events last weekend at a Colorado movie theater, where 12 people were shot down in cold blood and almost 60 others wounded by an insane monster who surely premeditated this attack for months prior to executing it.

From news reports of suspect James Holmes’s first day in court this past Monday, it seems that many of his teachers at the various educational institutions he attended said he was an honors student. Many of his peers as well could not get over the idea that he would commit such a heinous act, as he was a rather quiet child in school and for the most part minded his own business.

While pointing fingers does not help this situation, it could succeed in stemming further such attacks and therefore must be done. In this instance, it seems that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has been right, with his accusations against elected officials and their views on the Second Amendment right to bear arms. In an interview on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight, Mayor Bloomberg said, “I don’t understand why the police officers across this country don’t stand up collectively and say, ‘We’re going to go on strike. We’re not going to protect you unless you, the public, through your legislature, do what’s required to keep us safe.’”

In the aftermath of this shooting rampage, reports indicate that Mr. Holmes had received over 50 packages to his door in the last couple of months. He had gone on a shopping spree at various websites and ordered protective shields and helmets, and was bulletproofed head to toe. He had gas masks and thousands of rounds of ammunition and three or four guns. In addition, he booby-trapped his room, potentially causing many more casualties in the event authorities attempted to enter it.

It is clear that adjustments will have to be made to ensure freedom for the common man, woman, and child walking the street. In an age when you can’t place online orders without entering numerous safety passwords and passing through other security measures, somebody should have been alarmed by the trend of his orders and attempts should have been made to stop him, as has been done in the past by anti-terror police.

But it seems that the aspect of Mr. Holmes that presents the most difficulty with revealing his intent behind this massacre is the fact that he was an overall studious child who received honors in academic institutions. (However, one of the questions surrounding his pursuit of a career was the fact that he recently opted out of a master’s program at the University of Colorado, which seems like an important part of this puzzle.)

While studiousness is a virtue, it does not preclude anyone from committing criminal activity. Certainly in a search to discover criminals or foul play, forensic experts will look first in the direction of those who have no order, ideals, or goals in life, people who spend their every waking moment on the streets, in clubs, or as part of a criminal gang. But the fact that Mr. Holmes did well in school says nothing about his morals, ethics, or any inner turmoil he may have been experiencing. To the contrary, the fact that he had more of a reserved personality says that if he did have any inner struggles, he just suffered in silence instead of trying to deal with it with professional intervention.

There is an anecdote about Aristotle, when he was caught acting in a degenerate manner and was taken to task by those who witnessed his conduct for not acting as the role model that he ought to be. Aristotle brushed off the criticism, replying that in the study halls he is the theologian and philosopher, but on the street he is no different from the common man. There is nothing virtuous or respectable about that.

The Gemara says, “Talmid chacham she’ein lo daas, neveilah tova heimenu.” We don’t respect people on their Torah knowledge alone. Many great academics throughout the ages have been completely irreligious. Torah is meant to teach us a path in life. Torah is meant for us to learn from, internalize, and teach others, bringing perfection to ourselves and the world around us. But it is important to be wary of people who portray a scholarly or innocent image but who in reality do not represent the ideals that they preach.

If we are to succeed in protecting ourselves and our children from dangerous people, it’s important to distinguish between sincere and insincere people. There are those who couldn’t care less about their public image, and it’s easy for us to avoid them. But those who present a facade of innocence, studiousness, and righteousness yet don’t represent those ideals in their hearts–they pose the greatest risk to society. In the current system of stereotyping, those people will easily slip under the radar.

For now, let justice be served and closure given to the sorry victims of the Colorado murderer’s duplicity.

Comments for Yochanan Gordon are welcome at ygordon@5tjt.com.


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