"Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." ― Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love
Dear Mr and Mrs Holmes,
As we hold everyone involved in the horrific tragedy in Aurora in our thoughts, I wanted to take a moment to share a snapshot of the moments of my shock and horror when the news broke about the verdict in your son's case.
One of the board members of my mental health non-profit sent me the news and I gasped. The pain in my heart was so intense as the flurry of texts and emails came to my in-box. My compatriot in mental health advocacy, Liza Long, was surprised at my strong reaction given how the trial had progressed. But..... I was in denial, disbelief that, given all we know about brain disorders, this could be the outcome. The staggering questions of how we could have ever gotten this result when your son had been in treatment, diagnosed and his threat of danger was reported to the authorities is unfathomable to me.
As soon as I read the breaking news and responded to people asking me to share my thoughts, I googled your son's name with mine to count the pieces that I have written since that tragic day in July of 2012. I was reminded of the blogs I wrote calling for understanding and action -- including a piece published this past Tuesday about the serious consequences of missing the red flags of mental illness. As a nation, through our "othering" and disenfranchisement of those with brain based disorders, we all failed your son and, as a result, everyone affected by the nightmare in Aurora.
I write to you today to express my sorrow and support. I have been holding you and your son in my heart for these three arduous years and continue to pray for you during this very dark moment.
I also write to apologize on behalf of this nation that refuses to do what it takes to invest in prevention, treatment and brain research and advocate for people with mental illness in the judicial system. It is very painful for me to even write this, but the most important apology that needs to be made is for the inhumane, discriminatory hatred that has been focused towards you and your son. The letter that you published in December 2014 pleading against the prosecution's pursuit of the death penalty was an act of profound love and courage and one of the most unthinkable things that any parent could ever imagine. We share your understanding that your son is not a "monster" but a human being and your belief that the death penalty is morally wrong especially for someone with a serious brain disorder.
"We do not know how many victims of the theater shooting would like to see our son killed. But we are aware of people's sentiments. We have read postings on the Internet that have likened him to a monster. He is not a monster. He is a human being gripped by a severe mental illness... We believe that the death penalty is morally wrong, especially when the condemned is mentally ill."
If it offers any solace I share what I wrote in an open letter to Peter Lanza, the father of Adam Lanza:
"It is clear that your family is an example of the failure of a medical and educational system that does not yet know how to treat and educate people like your son. You, your ex-wife and your son are not to blame. The time has come for us to do some collective soul searching and ask how we can unite to create caring communities and a society that supports brain research, education and most importantly promotes inclusion for all."
Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Holmes, instead of blame, the time has come for us to do some collective soul searching and take action to choose love, forgiveness and compassion which is the only way for us to pave a meaningful path to progress. We continue to mourn the senseless, preventable loss of so many lives, while knowing how immoral it would be to intentionally lose one more.
In Flawless Light,