Another mass killing.
Another troubled young man (it’s a male 98% of the time) destroying the lives of innocent bystanders.
Everyone’s quick to find blame.
And who can say they’re wrong?
It’s so easy to point out contributing factors when something like this happens.
We want to understand it.
We want to feel secure one of our loved ones would never do such a thing.
We want to believe no one in our family will ever die in such a terrible way.
What do we know about Elliot Rodger?
• He was “troubled” his entire life. (Apparently he saw his first therapist at the age of 8.) How young is too young to be diagnosed with serious mental illness?
• He could not connect socially with others.
• He grew up in a privileged family.
• He was a misogynist.
• He had a victim mentality.
• He was a racist – although, he himself was of mixed race.
• He was a classist.
• He had a lot of rage.
• He had a sense of entitlement.
• He had a contradicting combination of low self esteem and an over-inflated sense of himself.
• He had numerous unsuccessful attempts at education and at some point (after continuation school for high school and multiple failed attempts at college), his parents decided sending him to live in Santa Barbara would be a good idea.
Now, let’s see who might have contributed to the disaster Elliot Rodger became.
• First, there are his parents. I’m sure his parents loved him. They obviously attempted to do the right thing by getting him therapy beginning at a young age. Their hearts are no doubt aching with the loss of their son and the guilt of knowing he took innocent lives. I have friends with mentally ill kids. I’ve seen them struggle with doing the “right” thing. I know it isn’t easy and second guessing IS. Still, I question their decision to send him to Santa Barbara City College after two failed attempts at college. Did they just want him *away*? Why didn’t they know he wasn’t attending classes? They were paying all his bills. He may have been of legal age, but if he was dependent on them financially they certainly had a right to know if he was attending classes and/or how well he was doing in them. If they knew he wasn’t going to classes, why did they continue to send him money? (Money that he bought three guns with.) They were fully funding a college drop out and giving him gifts like a BMW and Gucci sunglasses. (The same BMW he used as a weapon, by the way.) Why would any parent provide funds to a mentally troubled son to live in a college town if he wasn’t, in fact, a “real” student?
• In April, when his mother became aware of Elliot’s suicide threats the police were called and requested to do a welfare check on him. His parents lived less than two hours away. If my child mentioned suicide and/or possibly harming others I might call the police too. I would also be with my kid as fast as I could drive to him. I would take my son home for immediate around the clock therapy. If there’s a threat to self or others you CAN get an involuntary psyche hold. Why didn’t Elliot’s parents do that? Were they in denial? Maybe they didn’t want to be bothered? I don’t know – but I do know my reaction would have been very, very, different.
• Next, there is his therapist. Or multiple therapists? Who knows? Someone suggested Elliot might have been diagnosed at a young age as a sociopath if his family wasn’t wealthy. Do Beverly Hills psychiatrists ever tell wealthy families their kid is broken beyond repair? Or do they sugar-coat the diagnosis into less offensive terms – such as saying Elliot was “on the austism spectrum”? And if a psychiatrist is good at his/her job, how could they have NOT known this guy was a ticking time bomb? Yes, psychiatrists ARE required to report it to the police if a patient is considered a threat. I watched Elliot Rodger’s “Retribution” video and everything about it screamed “sociopath” to me. How could a therapist not see that too?
• The SB Police. They did a welfare check in April at the request of Elliot Rodger’s mother. Could they have done more? Elliot convinced the police he was having a misunderstanding with his parents. He was polite and believable. Did they have grounds to search his home? I’m not a lawyer, but I would guess not. I have no doubt the situation will be looked at closely to determine whether they could have (legally) done more. I know Elliot’s parents seem to be pointing the blame at the police. “But we called you a month ago!” they said. In turn, I ask – why didn’t they drive the hour or two to Santa Barbara themselves? Where were THEY this last month?
• Guns. Of course, this incident has set off The Ongoing Gun Debate (once again) in our country. I have no desire to get in a political argument over gun rights today. Elliot killed three people with a knife and four with a gun. His plan was to “slaughter” many more with the three guns he legally purchased. Since Sandy Hook, there have been approximately 35,000 gun-related deaths in the United States. Whether you are pro-gun or anti-gun, any logical person can see we have a serious problem. The rest of the world mocks the United States and our inability to get a handle on this situation …. we are the ONLY country seeing death counts like this. What is the solution? I don’t know. Do we need a solution? Yes, we most definitely do. And please don’t leave a comment telling me every college student should be carrying their own gun to deter violence. I can’t imagine a worse idea than giving guns to drunk college students who are filled with raging hormones and a good dose of leftover teenage angst.
• Mental Illness. Our mental health care system is very broken. In fact, I wonder if we can even say we have a mental health care system? I’ve had friends desperately try to get help for their kids to no avail. Most people don’t have the funds to hire ongoing private psychiatric care like Elliot Rodger had. (Not that it did him much good?!) How do you get care if you can’t afford it? How do you make a noncompliant patient take medication? What happens when there’s no place to put those who desperately need in-house mental health care? What happens to the mentally ill child when he becomes a non-functioning mentally ill adult? I have a friend in the criminal justice system who tells me there is simply “no place” to put the mentally ill – with only rare exceptions.
It’s easy to jump on a band wagon and say the Isla Vista killings happened because Elliot Rodgers was a misogynist.
It’s easy to blame his parents.
It’s easy to blame guns.
It’s easy to blame our failed mental health care system.
It’s easy to blame our society in general.
In reality, all of these factors (and many more) were contributing factors.
It seems overwhelming to us as individuals.
How can we “fix” 35,000 gun deaths?
How can we fix the lack of mental health care?
How do we fix a misogynist society?
Why do we have to tell our kids what to do if they’re present during a mass shooting?
How do we go about fixing things without dividing ourselves into groups of pro-guns vs anti guns?
Can’t we all just form one big group of being anti-mass killing?
There is so much broken.
The question is, how do we repair it?
Even if we, as individuals, have to make attempts at change in the smallest of steps –
Where do we begin?
** I also wrote: Isla Vista Shooting, Part I.