Op-Ed: Elliot Rodger Kills 7 in Isla Vista Shooting Rampage

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.

The 22-year-old shooter, Elliot Rodger, wrote a 141-page manifesto and a YouTube video titled "Retribution."

The 22-year-old shooter, Elliot Rodger.

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).

Veronika Weiss, right, one of the seven people slain not far from the University of California Santa Barbara campus on Friday.

Veronika Weiss, one of the seven people slain not far from university’s campus on Friday.

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.

Richard Martinez (left), the father of mass shooting victim Christopher Martinez, expresses his anger and sorrow as he speaks to the media with his brother, Alain (second left) by his side outside the Santa Barbara County Sheriffs headquarters in Goleta, California.

Richard Martinez (left), the father of mass shooting victim Christopher Martinez, speaks to the media.

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.

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  • I’d like to talk a little about the topic of mental health. I don’t believe it’s far off-topic for this post.

    The link I’ve entered into this comment form is for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline site. I am not affiliated with that organization, nor do they endorse anything I have to say. 😉

    I have first-hand experience with this issue on more than one level.

    I’ll point out first, I am not professionally trained to give advice. I don’t work in the health care field. I am not a doctor or therapist.

    My first brush with mental health issues was when I was eight years old, in 1981. My father, who loved his wife, me, and his other children had a moment of hopelessness and despair and chose to take his own life. What goes through the mind of a suicide victim is virtually impossible to know.

    There is always more than one reason someone feels so depressed and hopeless that they choose to end their own life. In my father’s case, he didn’t leave a note. Though often even suicide notes do not convey the extent to which a person is suffering, nor the depth and scope of the victim’s pain.

    Many people who have never contemplated suicide cannot even comprehend how much pain a person must be in to commit suicide. It’s extremely difficult to imagine, almost impossible to “empathize.” Some people even say that people with depression are merely feeling sorry for themselves, or wallowing in self-pity. Some say suicide is an act of cowardice. Well, I certainly don’t think it’s an act of bravery, but I do think it’s one of the most—if not the most—preventable deaths caused by a disease.

    Seeking treatment can be difficult. And sometimes even once getting help is attempted, it can take a long time to recover. Or the help one gets is not as effective as it could be, and one might have to resort to getting help from another source. Some people might feel that if they seek help they will have to go on medication, and they worry about side effects of medication. There is much information about this on the Internet, so it seems clear that yes, side effects can sometimes be a problem, or too hard to manage. I really don’t want to blow smoke up anyone’s bum. In fact, I’ve been on many different psychiatric since 1992, and can’t claim an effective success rate. However, other people will tell you that medication has proved very effective and will swear that getting treatment was the best thing they ever did.

    So yes, I have been treated for mental illness, depression, and suicidal thoughts. I still struggle but I’m doing better and have learned many things from therapists over the years that I still practice and apply today. For me, I found what works best for me to feel better is knowing my family understands, and the best times I have are when I get to spend time with them. It’s harder for some teenagers I think. I remember I didn’t get along with my mother hardly at all between the ages of 15-17.

    By other people I’ve been told things like “I should stop feeling sorry for myself” and “depression, or self-pity?”. I believe sometimes an effect of depression is seeming like one is feeling sorry for himself; however, I most certainly do not believe that self-pity is the root cause of most cases of depression.

    As for medication, it’s hard for me to be fair on that issue, but there are many ways to get different viewpoints on it, and there are other forms of treatment that don’t require medication. In some cases, lifestyle changes help, although it can be very difficult, extremely difficult to change habits or other factors that contribute to depression or other forms of mental illness. But some research shows that simple behavioral changes can help more than using psychoactive drugs. But ultimately mental illness is widely believed to be a disease, and therefore, like cancer, not the fault of the victim who is suffering from it.

    Other forms of mental illness are more severe. Some people hear voices or have visual hallucinations. I don’t have experience with that but I’d encourage anyone who feels alone, as if they can’t cope with their problems, to seek help. Many people care, even professionals you don’t know, have an ability to be caring and compassionate. Many people you might sit next to in class or see on the street would be perfectly understanding. Some people still have a negative view, so I totally understand when people are afraid to talk about it, but starting with a family member or crisis line might be a good place to start.

    I do hope other people will add comments about this. I feel it can be a very polarizing issue, and there is so much disinformation and confusion about issues surrounding mental health that the more viewpoints the better, so people can make informed decisions about their own health.

    They even have a chat button, which I think is pretty cool. I used chat on Bulletin Board systems over dial-up in the early-nineties, and the chat software we use now is so much better!

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