Twenty-two-year-old Elliot Rodger, who apparently slaughtered six college students and injured 13 other people near Santa Barbara before he shot himself dead in the head a few days ago, eerily reminds me of the titular character of the 2011 film “We Need to Talk About Kevin.” Not only is there at least a passing physical resemblance — here is an image of Rodger sporting a Wolverine-like ’do from Facebook:
and here is an image of the 21-year-old actor Ezra Miller as the character of Kevin:
— but the fictional Kevin’s and the real-life Elliot’s biographies seem at least somewhat similar, both with parents concerned about their son’s mental health and then the inevitable (?) massacre of the young man’s peers. (The fictional Kevin uses arrows; Elliot Rodgers apparently used a knife to kill three young men at his apartment and then bullets to kill two young women and another young man near the University of California at Santa Barbara campus.)
Rodger’s selfie-video complaint seems pathetic, probably, to most (so-called) adults. It is stilted and awkward — written and rehearsed, probably, and reportedly Rodger was somewhere on the autistic spectrum, which, if true, might explain that in part or in whole — and Rodgers’ central complaint does indeed seem to boil down to his claim that he was a 22-year-old virgin. His video begins:
Hi. Elliot Rodger here.
Well, this is my last video, it has all had to come to this. Tomorrow is the day of retribution, the day in which I will have my revenge against humanity, against all of you. For the last eight years of my life, ever since I hit puberty, I’ve been forced to endure an existence of loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desires all because girls have never been attracted to me. Girls gave their affection, and sex and love to other men but never to me.
I’m 22 years old and I’m still a virgin. I’ve never even kissed a girl. I’ve been through college for two and a half years, more than that actually, and I’m still a virgin. It has been very torturous. College is the time when everyone experiences those things such as sex and fun and pleasure. Within those years, I’ve had to rot in loneliness. It’s not fair.
You girls have never been attracted to me. I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it. It’s an injustice, a crime, because … I don’t know what you don’t see in me. I’m the perfect guy and yet you throw yourselves at these obnoxious men instead of me, the supreme gentleman. …
Supreme gentlemen probably don’t commit massacres, but we’re not exactly ladies and gentlemen, either.
If history is any guide — and history always is a reliable guide — we Americans won’t learn from this latest massacre, but we will put all of the blame on Rodger and go on with business as usual.
Rodger has been called all kinds of things, including “psycho virgin,” and, of course, “fag.”
And maybe he was gay. It’s certainly possible. It’s not awful to suggest that, unless by doing so you are implying (or even flat-out stating) other things, such as that the villain always, or at least almost always, is an evil gay person. (Which certainly isn’t true, of course; the clear majority of those who have gone on murderous rampages in the United States have been heterosexual males.)
Rodger was not physically unattractive, so, it seems to me, if none of his female cohorts had interest in him, possible reasons for that might have included that he was socially awkward (which, judging by his infamous YouTube video, anyway, he apparently was) and/or that they sensed that he was gay, if he was. (I wouldn’t blame a heterosexual woman for rejecting, as a sexual partner, a male who struck her as probably gay.)
Whatever Rodger’s sexual orientation was, it seems insane to most of us adults/“adults” that a 22-year-old would find his persistent virginity to be cause to go on a murderous rampage, but one, I’m sure that there was a lot more than just Rodger’s virginity that was a problem for him, and two, we adults/“adults” forget (or perhaps we’ve never known) how much high levels of the reproductive hormone in the bloodstream of the young person, coupled with youth and inexperience, affect his or her moods, thoughts and behaviors.
And we adults/“adults” forget how strong can be a young person’s desire to couple — and how strong the social/peer pressure for a young person to couple can be — and how a breakup can make a still-quite-young person feel that his or her life is over.
Added to this mix is an overpopulated society in which for the most part, under the god of capitalism, it’s every individual out for him- or herself, in which human relationships are much more like business transactions than they are anything like actual human relationships, and under the god of war, weapons* are seen as the solution (perhaps the ultimate solution), to our conflicts and our problems. Might makes right — right?
The only way to prevent another Elliot Rodger from doing what Elliot Rodger did is to try on another Elliot Rodger’s shoes, and try to understand, instead of to judge. (And to try to understand is not necessarily to agree with or to condone.)
Indeed, the common reaction to Rodger in the aftermath of Rodger’s massacre only demonstrates the mean-spirited environment in which he was immersed that very apparently pushed him over the edge. Rodger killed because he felt no love. He felt no love because in the United States of America, for the most part, there is no love anywhere to be had.
Perhaps especially if you are somewhere on the autistic spectrum and/or have some type of mental illness to some degree, and/or if you are not heterosexual or if, regardless of your sexual orientation you come off to heterosexuals as perhaps not being heterosexual — if you are different or even just perceived as different — you most likely will not feel the warmth of the love that the majority of Americans steadfastly claim is there, despite the mountains of evidence to the contrary.
*The father of one of Rodger’s victims, 20-year-old Christopher Michael-Martinez, whom Rodger apparently shot to death, according to Reuters “said his son died because Congress had failed to act after a mentally ill gunman killed 26 people in December 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.”
Reuters quotes Michael-Martinez’s father, Richard Martinez, as having stated on CNN, “We’re all proud to be Americans. But what kind of message does it send to the world when we have such a rudderless bunch of idiots in government?”
Reuters notes that “[Federal legislation] after Sandy Hook to extend background checks for gun sales, ban assault weapons and limit magazines’ capacities failed to clear the [U.S.] Senate in April 2013. Gun-rights advocates strongly opposed the measures.”
Reuters further quotes Richard Martinez as having said, “These people are getting rich sitting in Congress. And what do they do? They don’t take care of our kids.”
That’s absolutely true — that we need stricter gun control and that the U.S. Congress has not been representative of us, the majority of the American people, for a long, long time now — but these things are only pieces of the larger puzzle.
Our larger, overarching national problems are our lovelessness, our selfishness, and our moral, ethical and intellectual laziness that allow such things as grotesque socioeconomic inequality, an unrepresentative federal government (including, of course, not just the worthless U.S. Congress but also the do-nothing, hopey-changey Barack Obama), and our national fetishization of weapons and of the military (I will note on this Memorial Day) to flourish at our own mass peril.