what it is with young, middle-class boys going on killing sprees? i bet you just conjured up a whole list of names and faces of young killers in the u.s. in the last decade or so at the mention of that.
there is actually a wikipedia page that lists rampage killers in countries around the world with the date, number of dead and what happened to the killer. well if that isn’t a sad commentary…
i know a lot of people become angry that “the press” seems to focus on the killer rather than the victims of these tragedies, but looking at the killer is a way to understand what happened and maybe prevent the next tragedy.
to me, it’s not helpful to have ideological and judgmental debates about gun control or violent video games or divorce or absentee parents or spoiled kids or fill in the blank. what seems clear to me is that there is a great need to find a better way to cope with and offer proper help to individuals with mental health issues.
in the wake of elliot rodger’s rampage, his video and written manifesto appeared on line. i tried to watch some of the video, but it was too disturbing to witness a person so casually talking about what he was about to do even though the video surfaced after he had already done it. but i did read his manifesto.
with apologies to sylvia plath, an accomplished writer, reading elliot rodger’s manifesto reminded me of the bell jar. i remember being assigned to read the bell jar in high school and wondering why the hell we were being forced to read something so very depressing. at the time, i was the only one of four children still living at home, trying to deal with my father’s death and my mother’s depression and anxiety in the wake of that. the book was just too close to home. i often thought about resorting to the author’s solution of suicide to get away from the sadness, loneliness and mess around me. i was a teenager, a time when you don’t necessarily have the capacity to think beyond your own small set of circumstances.
it was clear that from a young age elliot rodger had some significant social issues, but as he recounted the story of his life, he continued to descend into some kind of serious mental illness. he was locked inside of his own mind, unable to see the world around him clearly, unable to see himself clearly, unable to express empathy, unable to make connections, unable to function in all the little ways that most of us take for granted as part of our daily lives. his parents tried very hard to get him treatment and find ways to cope with his issues but he was persistent in his rejection of help.
the manifesto is an interesting document in so far as it’s a glimpse into a broken mind. his obsessions, his skewed point-of-view and his narcissism were all evident. and yet, he was not ranting or muddled and so it was easy to get drawn into his world.
“it has none of the raving quality that you see in the writing of people with psychosis,” such as jared l. loughner, who opened fire on representative gabrielle giffords in arizona in 2011, said dr. michael stone, a new york forensic psychiatrist who looked at the manuscript but has no connection to the family.
and when you’re engrossed in a world like that it’s difficult to pull away. elliot rodger started to make sense to me and i felt his anxieties and his struggles. i had to pull myself away from the text and physically get away from it. i went to the farmer’s market and forced myself to smile and engage in conversation with people to shake off the world of elliot rodger. the space inside his mind was a constant agony.
unfortunately, rodger took out his agony on other innocent people and created a much larger wave of agony for the families of his victims. i can only imagine the pain and sadness felt by the parents who lost children in rodger’s mad rage. but i can also imagine the agony of rodger’s parents who were both on their way to santa barbara as soon as they saw his video and manifesto. on the way there they heard about the rampage, the details of which confirmed to them that their own son was the murderer.
how do you ever apologize enough for what your child has done?
we are left with dead children and the writings of a mad man and what we do with that is what’s going to matter.