Isla Vista Shooting, Part II – The Blame Game

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.

14 Responses to “Isla Vista Shooting, Part II – The Blame Game”

  1. Jan's Sushai Bar

    Haven’t you heard? It’s all Seth Rogan’s fault for being successful. (No, I’m not making this up – someone idiot of a woman has actually said that.)

  2. Missy Stalcup

    I really thought after Sandy Hook that gun laws might tighten. I was so naive…..

    • Suzanne

      Everyone thought *something* would have to change after Sandy Hook.

  3. Kathy

    Sometimes satire says it best: http://www.theonion.com/articles/no-way-to-prevent-this-says-only-nation-where-this,36131/

    Michael Moore said (and I’m paraphrasing because I can’t find the quote) as long as we have angry (and disturbed. He forgot that part) young men and guns (and cutlery. And cars. And other implements of destruction) this is going to happen. When I read that I realized it was true. And my heart sunk.

    But, as one friend (an open carry fan) said, the odds of this happening to you or your family is very small. Until it does happen.

    I can’t begins to express how much this situation bothers me. I don’t know what to do so I’m burying my head in the sand. I’m going to make a concerted effort to not read these stories. Lousy solution but that’s all I got.

    • Suzanne

      I think it bothers everyone.
      And if it doesn’t?
      Well … that’s even more bothersome.
      Our country is broken.

  4. Jane

    Where WERE his parents? Yes, it becomes exhausting dealing with a mentally child who is also an adult as far as age is concerned. But if my adult child (??) vocalized suicide, I’d be there in a heartbeat and would break down doors if necessary to get him care.

  5. Jack

    Seven years ago a good friend of mine stopped taking his meds and began to unravel. He did a good job of hiding it at first, he is very smart and charismatic so we all bought into his excuses.

    Since none of us knew he had any mental health issues we had no idea that his behavior could be connected to that, so when he started acting out we shrugged our shoulders and figured it was a blip.

    When I got a telephone call from a mutual friend asking for my help I was in shock. Our buddy jumped on top of a table at a restaurant and started yelling at people. When they tried to get him to leave he started talking to someone who wasn’t there and threatened the wait staff.

    Eventually he climbed off of the table and left. He did it on his own and the police weren’t involved but when I got the call I was told his landlord was afraid.

    So I drove over and found him raving in his apartment. He was hostile to everyone but me and I can’t tell you why. But we ended up having to call the police and he was committed for 3 days.

    They stuck him in a county facility that looked and felt like something out of a movie. It was awful. He didn’t get any help in there, but we didn’t worry about him hurting anyone.

    Eventually his family flew into town and helped arrange a stay at a different facility. That worked for a while and he got out and stopped taking his meds again because he felt fine.

    There is more to the story than what I shared here but I think about him often. We lost touch a while back and I wonder how he is doing.

    From what I could see it felt like he never got the help he really needed and that money was a big part of why, it just cost too damn much.

    What happened with Elliot Rodgers was certainly a combination of factors but until we find a way to do more to help those who are mentally ill we are going to continue to see issues. I am not ignoring the gun component here or saying we shouldn’t talk about it, but the mentally ill side is something I think about.

    The parents/family who lost loved ones because they were stabbed or run over hurt just as much as those who were shot.

    • Suzanne

      I agree.
      A mentally healthy individual doesn’t kill people.
      Guns make killing a lot of people in a short amount of time easier.
      Non-compliant patients and the cost of mental health care are huge factors.
      There are a lot of contributing factors … which is why it seems so overwhelming to “fix” the problem we have in our country.

  6. Kelly B

    You are the only person to call out the funding and enabling issue in Isla Vista.
    I wrote this to the LA times but I think the media want this to play as a gun control issue. :

    I feel tremendous sadness for the families of students that died or were injured in Isla Vista on Friday.

    The media doesn’t want to talk about it, but Elliot Rodgers parents are not alone in bankrolling a problem in Isla Vista. They continued to fund a son who was not attending classes at the local community college. They agreed to host him there, in some minimal student and participate in some type of college experience.

    What about responsibility and parental courage? These parents produced a very privileged son who was 22 years of age, over indulged and would likely never be financially independent.  A troubled son, who was entitled, off his meds and miserable driving around in a $60,000. BMW. He had a cell phone, a designer wardrobe, therapists, community college tuition plenty of financial support and enough money to buy $5000.00 worth of guns and
    ammo. He was not interested in an education. He was interested in attaching himself to a fantasy college lifestyle that he believed he deserved.

    These values grew from mental illness paired with a family culture centered around priorities that had their son believing he was some misplaced movie star. It was a system of entitled opulence that fueled a bizarre red carpet fantasy, that he could purchase social access and popularity via the right “bling”. This son demanded sexual access to “the prettiest girls at UCSB “even though he didn’t have the capacity to attend classes there. He showed no interest in making friends and had no objective other than to have random sex like a character he saw the “Alpha Male” movie. So, without any evidence that he was interested in college at all , his parents agreed to support this. “college experience”. So they bought a lifestyle to appease their spoiled brat. They installed him in the midst of an accomplished and happy UCSB student population who earned the right to be there. Perhaps it was about creating a perception of normal. Something they could tell themselves this was progress and mention at any cocktail party “my son is attending college in Santa Barbara”.

    So, when it was clear he was sliding deeper into mental illness these parents asked the local police department to check after their son.   Why didn’t they get in a car and drive 70 miles up from Calabasas and check on him themselves ?” How about, after seeing his blog posts, disturbing videos and monitoring his credit card activity they cut his cash flow? Perhaps even take a fatherly stance and look around inside his shared apartment?  It seems their son financed an entire project of hate for a year courtesy of Dad’s bank account.   His parents continued to finance this charade in Isla Vista. Elliot was at that point , a misogynistic vampire hoping to prey on girls using a show of money. He was disaster waiting to happen.  Maybe his parents should have called the police after checking out their son’s computer, cell phone and collecting his BMW car keys. They could have removed him from the apartment that they pay for., ” Reel him in” like a family is supposed to do.  Instead, they delegated this distasteful tasks, using a persistent Hollywood mindset that anyone and everyone is ultimately some form of personal assistant. All the ugly business of “knowing ” was handed off to therapists and police departments. All the while, they paid to keep Elliot away from their home life. They paid to have his sickness be a long-distance problem.  Maybe they worried about Elliot from their LA sanctuary as they witnessed his downward spiral in frightening video and blog posts, but they never stopped funding his set up. His disturbing orbit was exactly far enough away. His parents were in total denial or they were scared of him and they pretended it wasn’t that bad.

    Lets all acknowledge, this is part of a serious pattern of enabling and parental denial that makes Isla Vista uniquely dangerous and dysfunctionally toxic in its student population. Too many “ problem” children grow up and convince weak parents that they should be allowed to live there in Aplha Male style regardless of achievement or any evidence that they have the slightest sincerity for education. This is the ever-present party animal population who persuade parents to pay for a class or two at community college. Using that mechanism, they “Craigslist” into an apartment in Ithe midst of UCSB life and the student charade is ON. They choose to live an inconvenient distance from SBCC hoping to enter house parties at UCSB and everyone calls this “a college experience” Parents finance the whole nonsense and sell it back home like some junior college track. For some kids it is a track but for many others It is the primary source of party school episodes that drag down a world class UC reputation. Last April, 10,000 of these non-students showed up to grope women, rage and riot their way through a student street festival weekend. For a lot of SBCC kids , the beer pong years drag on as they are unable to matriculate and stay only to party. Many very seriously academic UCSB students have to tolerate this parent supported blight knowing it spoils their UC reputation. They live in Isla Vista because they have no choice. Elliot Rodgers, was yet another college campus wannabe, hoping to slide into some hot-tub stream of fun. It was the single most difficult place for him to fit iin. This fueld his anger. He refused his meds all the while deciding that every person there deserved to die.

    Why do parents keep funding zero achievement or propping up children who are not functioning in a responsible way? That is the main reason Isla Vista has become as a place of mayhem, violence, riots and alcohol poisoning. Rent there is expensive and no one can afford to exist there working at Starbucks.
    Elliot’s parents also never drove to his apartment. They never instructed him to pack up his shit saying ” We are defunding you because you are not enrolled in college classes here. You can stay and live on the sidewalk OR you can come home with us and get beyond this setback with some family support.  We are not financing a lifestyle here while you refuse to follow your medical treatment” 

    Entertainment people especially understand the power and control through the flow of money. Without which, no one works in Hollywood., Yet these parents could not apply this simple concept to a mentally ill and non- stable college age dependent. That would have required a lot of COURAGE from Peter Rodgers. It requires a lot of courage from every parent who has to say “NO”. Elliot Rodgers parents could have intervened by closing a wallet, opening their eyes and growing a pair.

  7. Suzanne

    You made a lot of very good points.
    It’s clear you have an understanding of Isla Vista, UCSB, and many of the “hangers on” who try to attach themselves to the campus.

  8. Nan

    This country is broken, terribly. I don’t have the answer. I don’t think tighter gun control is the answer. I know it’s cliche but people kill people. A responsible gun owner would not be likely to react like this. I think there is a mental health crisis in the country. A pill can’t fix everything and people must take responsibility for their actions. Though, that will never happen. Parents can’t coddle and protect their children from everything, they need to learn problem solving.
    My prayers are with the families, friends, and community.

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