Six people were killed and eight wounded during a killing spree committed in Isla Vista, California, by the late Elliot Rodger on Friday night. Rodger killed three with a knife and three others with a gun before turning his gun on himself in an act of suicide.
Such killing sprees are, sadly, not uncommon. In recent years, the American public has witnessed the tragedies of murders like the 2011 shootings of Tuscon, Arizona and Aurora, Colorado, the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, and, most recently, the 2014 shootings at Fort Hood and the Overland Park Jewish Community Center in Kansas. But this one, while it hasn’t resulted in as many deaths as some of the aforementioned murders, is just as important as them — if not more so — because of the ideas which inspired it.
Elliot Rodgers is, at heart, himself a victim of the Mens’ Right Movement. In a 141-page document in which he describes the “twisted world” he felt he lived in, he details his difficulties in what essentially amounts to finding a “hot blonde girl” to have sex with and the torment this apparently caused him. In an attempt to improve his chances (in his eyes) of finding just such a girl, he took up bodybuilding, bought a black BMW which was apparently “nicer than 90% of the students in [his] college,” and bought lottery tickets in the hopes of getting rich quick. Because what is love, if not a lottery?
Yet alas! The valiant white knight’s shallow search for sex was fruitless! And yet Rodger was apparently unable to improve himself beyond his appearance, as his document frequently blames others for his own shortcomings regarding attraction. For example, he bought books by pick-up artists, hoping to learn the apparent “art” of seduction, and when their tactics didn’t work (And why would they?), he grew incredibly angry at the girls who he felt had slighted him, splashing them with Starbucks lattes and spraying them with super-soakers filled with orange juice before planning his self-dubbed “Day of Retribution,” in which he would, in his eyes, get his revenge on them for simply not being attracted to him. Instead of learning about himself to understand what he could improve on, instead of actually trying to act on his desires instead of just thinking of acting on them (His document frequently discusses his tendency to “wish he could” talk to x girl, instead of actually talking to her), he ensconced himself in his idealism and visited websites for mens’-rights activists. Such activists generally focus on badmouthing and subjugating women to traditional gender roles and stereotypes because, although they initially treat women with the politeness and respect any normal human being would give them, they refuse to have sex with them based solely on these qualities. Rodger’s “Day of Retribution” was inspired by the Men’s Rights Movement, as he desired to “wage war against women and all of humanity” because women wouldn’t have sex with him for his treating them with what he felt was respect (which they deserved, and deserve, regardless).
While it does play a major role in Rodger’s murders, however, misogyny is not the only contributing factor to them; his intense idealism and narcissism were also instrumental to his murders. Instead of trying to change himself for the better permanently — which may have helped him get what he wanted — he used quick fixes, bodybuilding, the lottery, to try and make himself look better out of impatience, foolishly believing a few changes to his appearance and image would change his life. His belief that he was a “living god” certainly didn’t help, nor did his visceral reactions to rejection, as detailed in his document.
It is also easy to tell that Rodger had serious mental health problems, which should have been treated appropriately, with the care they so required. Yet despite his parents’ ability to do so, despite sending him to various therapists for assistance, no noticeable, positive effect was made. Whether they were simply unaware of the extent of his mental state, or uncertain as to what more they could do to help him become more mentally stable, his parents are, in part, at fault.
Of course, his ability to acquire multiple guns despite having clear mental health trouble is perhaps the most distressing issue here. His murders and their aftermaths are the most glaring evidence yet that extensive background checks need to be conducted on anyone who wishes to buy a gun. Any sane state government would institute such changes as soon as possible to prevent such shootings from occurring in future, and yet so few will use this chance to improve the country in this regard. Mass murder is becoming increasingly commonplace in America as a result, and that’s exactly the opposite of what should be happening.
There are many lessons for all of us to learn from Rodger’s actions: We must temper our ideal perceptions of our futures, as difficult as it is to do so, with realism and pragmatism. We must treat all people’s mental health issues with the care they deserve instead of stigmatizing them or ignoring them. We must conduct background checks on all Americans who wish to purchase guns to prevent such tragedies as this. And we must be willing to make mistakes, and more importantly, to learn from them.