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Published:December 2nd, 2011 08:18 EST
What Actually Happens when John Hinckley Jr. Visits a Barnes and Noble?

What Actually Happens when John Hinckley Jr. Visits a Barnes and Noble?

By John G. Kays

How many times have you seen Taxi Driver? Is there more meaning in the film than meets the eye? John Hinckley Jr, 56, is said to have watched the Martin Scorsese classic 15 times in a row on a continuous loop. Now, after more than 30 years since he attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagan (he thought it might get Jodie Foster`s attention), Hinckley seeks more freedom from a mental hospital (St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington DC), where he`s been institutionalized since 1981.

As I read the many articles on these recent court proceedings, I needed to rewind the tape and review some of those dramatic events, dating from March 30, 1981. Memories flooded back in my head, as I recalled how I had recently moved to Houston (in the spring of 1981), started a new job, rented a new apartment, and tensely listened to the news of the shooting on my Ford Fiesta car radio, while stuck on a freeway in a 24/7 Houston traffic jam-up.

Quite a large chunk of data to review, as I remember thinking how it was possible for Hinckley to have arrived at the psychological state he assumed that spring, back in 1981. John became Travis Bickle. The movie completely consumed him and he lost his own identity. Why? I assume this is the exact question psychiatrists have been sorting through constantly for the past three decades.

But is John Hinckley Jr cured now? The government lawyers, who would like to keep him institutionalized, have been citing John`s now infamous visit to Barnes and Noble, on July 24, 2011. Okay, so he ducked out of a Captain America movie and browsed a bookstore instead. But did he actually look at Reagan assassination literature, or did he merely walk past the monographs? Different sources give different versions of the story.

If John merely walked past an aisle without opening these suggestive books (which might cause him to relapse), then that`s one thing, mainly benign. If, on the other hand, he looked at pictures of his own handy work and dwelled on some text, reading a narrative of Reagan exiting a Washington hotel (the Hilton), after speaking to the AFL-CIO, then this is quite a bit more nefarious and narcissistic.

Much more, actually. An even greater problem, is whether we are getting a correct account from Secret Service agents (who were watching him carefully) when on a friendly afternoon excursion to the movies. Was Hinckley really looking at these books or not? It makes a big difference. One version suggests high levels of narcissism still present, the other version suggests he is able to shelf these impulses, and put the past to rest.

I can`t entirely forget those days. One thing, that`s still somewhat embarrassing, is that Hinckley had lived in Dallas and went to Highland Park High School. A dearly departed old friend of mine, use to yank out JH`s high school yearbook and he even had some audio tapes of the would be assassin. I don`t recall anymore what was on them. This is simply another black spot that Dallas just as soon forget, but probably won`t be able to.

I doubt if Hinckley still poses a sizable threat to society anymore, but the importance we attach to an assassination attempt will probably overshadow the possibility that we can ever set him free. Moreover, when we review how Travis Bickle emerges smelling like a rose, we need to pause for a minute and wonder. JHJ also thought he`d be placed on a pedestal, and he`d win his woman as well.