It’s beyond difficult for me to write about the tragedy at UC Santa Barbara and that is why I’ve avoided it for so long. My mother, on the other hand, could not stop talking about it. When I first heard about it, I am ashamed to admit I was rather . Considering that there’s a school shooting in this godforsaken country an average of twice a year, and after the immeasurable tragedy at Sandy Hook in December of 2012, I thought, along with many others that it could not possibly get any worse. In fact, I was at a point of giving up on society, and not in a superficial pseudo-philosophical Dostoyevsky kind of way, in a profound way that blackened my heart. I was too young to fully understand the gravity of 9/11 even though I completely absorbed the ramifications and the profound changes it had on our nation as a whole, but when I was 28 and was sitting in my cubicle with a co-worker running towards me asking me to tune the TV in the lobby to CNN because of a school shooting, and then watching as our entire office of over 200 people crowded around it, listening to sniffles and cries from the girls, and exclamations of disbelief from the men, I was changed forever.
What kind of world are we actually living in when something like this happens? I don’t want to compare it to something like shellshock after two of the greatest wars in human history that both took place in the 20th century, but I felt like a soldier who had spent years in the trenches and upon being furloughed had no idea how to assimilate back into culture once again because to me, there was nothing left of value and goodness to care about or fight for. We could march in the streets protesting the 2nd amendment, ring our fists in the air and demand change from the administration and then go home and eat our dinner with our family. And that’s the true horror of it all. We bare witness to atrocities everyday in our lives. Atrocities that could have been prevented. And we say ‘oh how horrible!’ and then go on about our day, thinking that one day there will be change, one day we’ll hit our bottom, but after Sandy Hook I realized there is no bottom. It’s an endless spiral into the abyss to where we as a species have no means of rescuing ourselves from apathy, selfishness, and discontentment.
So when Elliot Rodger rampaged through the dorms, sorority houses, and campuses of UC Santa Barbara, I had almost expected it, but what I didn’t realize was the absolute abhorrent nature of his act. There are certain atrocities we as reasonable people will never fully understand, but Rodger made sure that he gave us a play-by-play account of exactly why he was going to do what he did, like it even mattered. In his tapes, he actually feels that he is not only justified but a martyr for his cause. It took me right back to an incendiary incident that captivated the heart of the nation back in the 1920’s that most of us never lived through but we had definitely heard of.
In 1923 two young and rich lovers, Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb in Chicago kidnapped the son of a family friend and brutally murdered him after luring him into a park. They did so for no other reason than they thought they could. They, like Rodger believed themselves to be the reincarnations of the Nietzschean Superman, in which laws, morals, and ethical codes no longer apply. The superman lives by only his own rules because he is an ‘enlightened’ being, a being of absolute power who exists on a plain above the rest of humanity. If they were indeed Supermen then the notion of being caught for this senseless crime never entered their minds. The crime was in itself a means of proving to themselves and each other that they were indeed what they claimed to be. Alas, they were not. Both were arrested and sentenced to death. The trial is infamous in that the best defense attorney in America at the time, Clarence Darrow (who famously defended John Scopes during the ‘Scopes Monkey Trial’ and won) decided to defend Leopold and Loeb pro-bono and rather than enter a plea of not-guilty for which they would have definitely been hanged, he submitted pleas of no contest, not even by reason of insanity, instead arguing that capital punishment in this case was unconstitutional and won. Loeb was killed in prison, and Leopold died after being paroled in the 70’s.
But unlike Leopold and Loeb, had Rodger survived his murderous rampage, no attorney would take his case for a billion dollars. With his half-baked manifestos and Youtube rants, he proved to be nothing more than a deranged lunatic with delusions of grandeur, and a deeply dangerous inferiority complex, not to mention the worst manifestation of sexual frustration.
The question becomes not that which we keep asking ourselves; which is ‘how do we prevent this from happening?’ because it will continue to happen. I’m sorry to say that, but we fight and fight for change and yet nothing really changes. As evolved as we think we are, nothing really changes. In truth, as John Locke or Emanuel Kant would have put it, and to a greater extent Machiavelli; is that we as human beings are born with a darkness in our soul. We are conditioned to put ourselves first, to thrive in our selfishness, and drunk with the idea of being better than the person next to us. It is very likely that Rodger took that idea of being ‘supreme’ just like Nietzsche hypothesized and took it to atrocious and unimaginable conclusions. What is supremacy anyway, and what is entitlement? Entitlement, like respect is earned. And therein lies the sexual divide.
He skewed his entitlement towards a particular psychosexual conceptualization that Freud would have a field day with. As a woman, it’s hard not to be completely sickened by the rants and raves of such a subhuman mass-murderer believing that his actions are to be blamed on women at large considering the few he came in contact with never paid attention to him like it’s our fault as a species. What we have to remember is that there is no one to blame but the perpetrator. Another paramount thing to remember is that when a cataclysmic event that changes and reshapes our culture as we know it forever, the way towards ramification and rectification of it is not to superficially find superficial things here and there that we think we can fix, because there will always be people like Elliot Rodger. There will always be those who’s mentality is so perverted and skewed that are capable of afflicting the worst atrocities on the human race. What we can do is take a long hard look at the progress or lack-there-of that we’ve made because as much as we say ‘never again’ there will be an again, it will just be under different circumstances. If history has taught us anything it’s that. Every murderer, subhuman monster, and deranged lunatic will always affect our culture, and we as victims will try our best to cope with the damage done. We need no longer to be victims. All that can really be done individually is to take responsibility for our actions and hope that we set an example for the next generation based on empathy, brotherhood, and affection so that future generations learn from that and hopefully utilize those aspects that make us actual supreme beings in our ability to give love rather than inflict hate.