As sad as it is to say, the shootings that occurred on Friday May 23rd aren’t a startling thing anymore, at least not in America. People going on a rampage has just become another thing that happens down there. But I’m not going to talk about the state of mental illness, the fear and paranoia that drives people to solve problems with gun in America, or the NRA’s complete apathy towards everyone beyond their ideology.
I want to talk about Elliot Rodger, and more specifically, how at one point in my life, I could have been like him.
I was never a popular kid. I was short, fat, and constantly picked on. When I got to high school, I wasn’t picked on too much, but I became a non-person. I was painfully shy and I don’t think I ever went on a date during my high school years. My days consisted of going to school, being ignored, eating my lunch, going to the library to read my book, being ignored some more, go home, go up to my room and retreat into my own world. By the time I got to high school, my older siblings were well into their teenaged years, where they were self-involved and never around. I didn’t get along with my Dad, which only got worse as I myself became a self-involved teen. There were only a handful of people in my life that didn’t ignore me, but over the years, they came and went.
Just because I didn’t date doesn’t mean I didn’t have crushes or fall for someone as only pre-teens/ teenagers can do. Each time, I either never had the courage to approach them, or they spurned me. Thanks to hindsight, the one girl I was crazy about wasn’t crazy about me. But she was very manipulative, which was her defense mechanism against the world. She didn’t help things. She had me wrapped around her little finger.
High school was the worst for me. Being alone, ignored, falling for a girl I couldn’t get, yet who enjoyed working me up and confusing my immature emotions. I was very depressed.
Some of those feelings and emotions, especially related to women, carried over to my college years. In my second year, I met and fell for another girl, who had a lot of her own issues that she was working through. My inexperience in relationships didn’t help, yet I couldn’t see it. In high school, I was depressed. In college, I was frustrated and angry.
I tried to write a journal of my feelings as a way to get them out. But after a week or so, I stopped because life eventually moved on.
That is what life is about, moving on.
That was the lesson hinted at when I graduated high school and started college. Life is about moving on. The past stays in the past, as it should. That was the reason why, as annoying as that one year of college was with that girl, the rest of my college career was quite enjoyable. I moved on when I realized there was nothing there. My life got better because of it.
But, when I read parts of Elliot Rodger’s manifesto, I saw a few things that made me realize that one significant incident could have pushed me in a different direction.
There were times when I was angry at people, angry at popular people, at girls who didn’t like me. I often questioned why I was me. Why was I such a loser? Why did people ignore me? Why was I always alone? Why couldn’t she see potential in me?
Maybe, if I had been a teenager six years ago, when Elliot Rodgers was sixteen, maybe my path would have been closer to his than the one it took. If I had been a teenager in 2008, would I have sought vengeance on all those that I perceived as against me? Any violent tendencies I had as a teen were taken out on inanimate objects (IE: my brother’s toolbox, a piece of plywood, or a wall). But if I were a teenager now, how would I have handled things?
Thankfully, the big difference between Elliot Rodgers and my younger self was that I wasn’t mentally unstable. I was just depressed, frustrated and angry. I wasn’t a self-absorbed, egomanical Bond villain who would write a 140-page manifesto detailing the wrongs done to me throughout my life. Hell, I’ma writer and I couldn’t dream of writing 140-pages about me if tried!
One thing we do share was that we were ignored. But unlike him, I found the beginnings of my individuality through solitude. I sought an outlet through which my time alone could be enjoyable and valuable. I also found others who shared similar traits. Elliot didn’t find that, or didn’t want to find that. In my worst days, I felt self-loathing, wondering why I was so alone, was I destined to always be alone, etc. etc., blah blah blah. It seems that Elliot took that self-loathing to new heights.
In the end, I feel sorry for Elliot Rodgers. I can understand some of his sadness and misery he felt, because to some degree, I felt the same things.
But that is where my sympathy for him ends.
Elliot was severely messed up. He blamed all the injustices done to him on others, when the true villain here was him. He didn’t have to go down that path. He could have found something to redirect his negativity, to lessen it. But it seems he chose to embrace it. He seemed to relish it, thinking it was the only solution. Punish women, the popular, the pretty people, all of whom ruined his life.
He then went out and ruined the lives of so many others, including his own family.
Elliot may also be a disturbing example of how invisible and ignored many people are, and how they wish to seek vengeance on those they think have wronged them, specifically, sadly, women. How many others out there are ready to do what he did? How many think doing the same thing he did will ease their own pain and perceived injustice? What’s worse, how many other people out there will just continue to suffer alone.
Elliot had friends and family who knew he had troubles. He saw multiple therapists, social workers, etc. Yet no one seemed to bother checking his online presence to see if that could give a clue to his mental state. Of course, that might violate his rights… disregarding the rights of others to live.
Everything about this event disturbs me. The YouTube rants, the manifesto, the missed chances at getting him help, and especially, the loss of six lives that knew nothing of Elliot’s dementia. Six lives, and their families must now suffer because of one person’s delusional perspective.
I wish I could say that the people of America will rise up and say “No More!”. That those in power will set aside their differences and do something productive from this tragedy. But as someone reminded me, if the deaths of 20 school children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School didn’t change anything, then neither will this.