I’m sure you’ve all heard now about the tragic shootings in Santa Barbara. 7 people dead, shot by a young man who shot himself in the seconds before the police got to his car.
It’s terrible. Truly awful.
What is really different about this case is the fact that this young man, Elliot Rodger, left behind a deep, horrifying blueprint all over the internet. Comments on forums, an enormous (over 100,000 word) manifesto of his “retribution,” and YouTube videos that outline his disturbing views on, in particular, women. One video is titled “Why do girls hate me so much?”
I’m not sure what my feeling about the whole thing is, beyond the most basic sadness and horror and disturbance.
But watching his videos, in particular the one he posted hours before the attack (now taken off YouTube, but of course accessible elsewhere), makes me feel such incredible sadness. Not for him– although it’s hard for me to not feel sad because he was so lost– but because I am honestly unsure what could have prevented this.
People did call the police on him. He was questioned. They didn’t find the gun in his bedroom.
His parents were clearly not the best parents (not that I blame them) but they also made an effort, at least when he was a kid, and he was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. He was incredibly wealthy– mental health care was accessible to him.
Gun control would have helped. Perhaps if he hadn’t been able to buy a semi-automatic weapon.
There will be the assholes who blame women (like he did) for not giving him a chance. “That was all he wanted!” they’ll say, “He’s not unattractive, why won’t you feminists just fuck him?”
And of course, that’s one of the real tragic parts of the whole thing, and what disturbs me so much. We always search for reasons for acts like this– Elliot Rodger gives us one. “If I can’t have you, girls, I will destroy you.” Obviously there are societal issues in place that allow this opinion (and those who defend it) to profligate. Again, you can’t hang his actions on society. But I think this brings up an important conversation.
I’m not sure I’ve ever written about my one experience of harrassment (mild, but it happened). This is also brought to the fore in my mind because I’m working on a short film about relational abuse. I spent a summer at a theatre festival, which has a program that admits two apprentices per summer that have some kind of special need (things like blindness, asperger’s, amputees, etc). There was one young man who had Asperger’s. I was kind and friendly, of course, as always, and we ended up in a lot of the same groups. Fairly quickly I realized that he was attracted to me. This happens, and I gave off the signals that normally do the trick. That didn’t work here, which makes sense, considering his diagnosis. So I became more clear. But he continued to approach me, to touch me, to engage me, and also to hug me– hugs which went too long, and, more than once, devolved into his thrusting his pelvis on me. I was incredibly uncomfortable with this, but didn’t know what more I could do beyond what I’d already done. I had told him to leave me be, that I wasn’t interested in him like that. So eventually I approached the program director and asked if we could possibly stop being put in groups together, or at least LESS (it was every day now) and explained how I felt very uncomfortable. In no uncertain terms, I was told to “get over it” and just be nice to him. “He just wants to be your friend,” and “You have to be clear with him.” Completely unhelpful. Eventually, the flirtation took a turn, and he started making comments about how “nobody likes him” and “girls never want to date me because they have something against people with asperger’s.” It was a very sophisticated guilt trip and made me feel terrible. That little voice was always saying “there’s something wrong with YOU that this is happening, YOU must be a bad person, YOU must be doing somehting wrong, YOU are hurting this person.”
So reading about Elliot Rodger, I think I become extra uncomfortable because I’ve heard that rhetoric before about “girls don’t like me” because “girls are bad.” Obviously there was other stuff going on, both in my personal experience and with Rodger, but the repetition of it strikes me as problematic. No one “deserves” a woman’s body. No woman is “required” to date or sleep with a man just because he’s attractive.
Anyway. Long story short… This is a sad day, and I don’t recommend the internet wormhole I just fell into.