While watering the lawn, those are the words I heard shouted from a neighborhood kid playing with friends. It’s an obvious reference to the Al Pacino classic Scarface, a movie about an enterprising Cuban immigrant making his way in Miami in the ’80’s by delving into political corruption, drug trafficking and murder. The quote comes at the end of the movie during a cataclysmic scene in which Pacino’s character, Tony Montana, armed with a M16-A1 assault rifle, his “little friend”, is indiscriminately shooting anything that moves.
Any other day, overhearing such a quote might sound harmless while soliciting a chuckle. But not today. Today we find ourselves, as a nation, once again, caught up in the bloody blur of fantasy and reality combined. James Holmes, this year’s Jared Lee Loughner (aka former U.S. Senator Gabrielle Gifford’s attempted assassin and murderer of six bystanders), has taken his place in the history books, filled with youthful homicidal maniacs, by going on a killing spree during an opening late-night screening of the latest Batman installment in Aurora, Colorado. I’ve yet to see the film, but the formula is, no doubt, that of the usual fare. Evil tries to take control of everything and, in so doing, kills innocent people while good plays its part in attempting to minimize collateral damage while more innocent people are killed. All the while, impressionable children are allowed to exercise their freewill to decide what is best for their personal viewing. After all, what harm is there in that?
Not every child falls under the trance of no-pain-plenty-gain that can be ascribed to violent movies and video games. Still there are those that have fallen into a dark hole of escapism and are willing to cross over to the dark side, viewing all others as either ants or non-entities. The rub is that few are interested in paying the ultimate sacrifice for their transgressions, i.e., going out in a blaze of glory like Tony Montana. Psychotics like James Holmes and Jared Lee Loughner appear more inclined to hang around, after the fact, to evidently bathe in the glow of their newfound notoriety.
In the early morning hours of August 7, 1974, French high-wire artist Philippe Petit did the unimaginable by attempting what is known as “the artistic crime of the century”. After six years of planning, he crossed the World Trade Center on a cable stretched between the two towers. Although he insured an increase in security at WTC, he also made history and, by doing so, risking his own life rather than taking the lives of others.
Petit’s feat is that rarity where we find ourselves in awe. Yes, we also share his fear from afar. But we do so knowing that he alone is taking the risk, all of it, upon his shoulders. Guys like Holmes and Loughner imagine themselves as the Red Dragon from a Thomas Harris novel, desperately dreaming of a very twisted state of awe from the rest of us. To their cell-confined-for-life lives I say, dream on. And say ‘Hello’ to your little friend.