OP-ED: Notes on insanity


Nusaybah Smith

Teen shares insightful opinions on life versus death.

The trash tossed away unwanted, to fester in a junk-pile for the rest of eternity, cries for a savior. Yearning, it sits solemnly. Sobbing, it blasphemies a God. Dreaming, it accepts fate. Slowly, it succumbs to the infinitely heavy, Atlas-like guilt that presses on its soul. It is engulfed in darkness, and darkness rules in the absence of light. In the absence of love, hate emerges ,and hate is a taxing burden. A burden where given the choice, one will relinquish the metaphorical chains of hate—and be happy and free. Only, what if one has no choice? We have all hated. Whether it was a thing, person, or place, we have despised something so intensely that we couldn’t sleep, eat , or think until two things happened. We either made the choice to quell our dark desire or it consumed us. In the latter situation, we lacked control. We lost the function to act or think rationally. We lost our sanity.

Yet, we are still considered “normal”. Because we are “normal” human beings, we experience complex emotions created by both our nature and nurture that determine our actions; we must accept responsibility for our actions caused by these emotions; we understand what we did wrong…but what if we are ab-normal? What if we were not sane, but in-sane? If the faculties that restrain a “normal” human being from exhibiting extreme behavior occasionally fail , then how would an in-sane person react to this cruel, cold world. We all have experienced the viciousness that exists on every street corner, barbarity in every schoolyard. The world is unforgiving, unmerciful, and unsympathetic. But we continue to trudge on through the dirt and slime that we call society, where in every moment inhumanity presides.

Yet, we are sane.

We can handle the world at its ugliest and smile and keep walking. When we receive bad news at work, or at home, or at school, we breathe it into our beating hearts where it settles arbitrarily in a thick cloud. Then we recognize that this is life and its realities and smile and keep walking. Holmes is different from you and me, so much so that unfortunately, Holmes has “lost touch with reality” (Holmes). Therefore, he cannot smile and keep walking like me and you. James Holmes is a man and a human being, but he is insane. Unlike us, he cannot choose the former situation and swallow his hate. Unlike us, he cannot think or act rationally. Unlike us, he cannot blissfully be unaffected by this angry world, and unlike us he cannot accept responsibility for his actions caused by these emotions. He does not need the death penalty; he needs help. In “On Compassion” , Barbara Ascher writes “And yet, it may be that these are the conditions that finally give birth to empathy, the mother of compassion. We cannot deny the existence of the helpless.” (48) James Holmes needs our compassion, not our hatred. James Holmes needs our pity, not our animosity. We cannot deny him. We cannot attempt to understand his situation, as sane persons, but can always empathize. In pertinent brevity, James Baldwin qualifies the disparity between what is perceived and what is reality in his essay, “Notes of a Native Son” : “Thou knowest this man’s fall; but thou knowest not his wrassling”(65) . We do not know how or what caused him to commit his crime; we only know his crime.

We must believe in men’s mistakes and faults and imperfections , yet understand that one should be held accountable, if one is deemed responsible. If… if one is deemed responsible, then one should be held accountable, but if they are not. If they are not, then as a men ourselves, we must look deep within, reach into our warm souls and find the compassion that lies there slumbering…because we are sane.


  • “Holmes Trial: Batman Cinema Gunman Guilty of Murder.” BBC 16 July 2015: Web. 17 July 15.
  • Ascher, Barbara L. “On Compassion.” 50 Essays: A Portable Anthology. Ed. Samuel
    Cohen.Boston: Bedford/St.Martin’s, 2014. 46-49. Print.
  • Baldwin, James. “Notes of a Native Son.” 50 Essays: A Portable Anthology. Ed.
    Samuel Cohen.Boston: Bedford/St.Martin’s, 2014. 46-49. Print.