Looking in the wrong places to explain another mass murder

Once again America is looking for someone to blame for a rampage killing.

Last Friday, Elliot Rodger, a 22-year-old student, ran amok, stabbing two roommates and a visitor to death, before he went to a sorority at the University of California, Santa Barbara and shot three young women, killing two of them. Jumping into a black BMW, he went to a delicatessen and shot dead a male student. Jumping back in he began shooting randomly as he drove. After injuring several people, he crashed the car and committed suicide.

The tally: seven dead and 13 injured.

The father of one of the victims, Christopher Martinez, blamed “craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA [National Rifle Association]." "They talk about gun rights," he said. "What about Chris’s right to live? When will this insanity stop?” His anguish is understandable, but half of the victims in this latest atrocity were stabbed to death.

A new suspect is “toxic masculinity”. Rodger left behind a 140-page manifesto full of hatred for women who ignored him. "My orchestration of the Day of Retribution is my attempt to do everything, in my power, to destroy everything I cannot have,” he wrote. "All of those beautiful girls I've desired so much in my life, but can never have because they despise and loathe me, I will destroy." He also vowed to kill men who attracted women. "I will kill them all and make them suffer, just as they have made me suffer. It is only fair."

He also posted a YouTube video (which has been taken down). It spews adolescent sexual frustration and hatred.

“You are animals and I will slaughter you like animals. And I will be a god. Exacting my retribution on all those who deserve it. You do deserve it. Just for the crime of living a better life than me. All you popular kids, you've never accepted me, and now you will all pay for it. And girls, all I ever wanted was to love you, and to be loved by you. I've wanted a girlfriend, I've wanted sex, I've wanted love, affection, adoration. You think I'm unworthy of it. That's a crime that can never be forgiven.”

An editor at Salon interpreted this obscene drivel as symptomatic of a culture which devalues, denigrates and despises women. “I can’t help but be reminded of all of the women who have been victimized by a culture and a system that denies their humanity,” wrote Katie McDonough.

But that’s not all that Rodgers had to say. In his manifesto, he also said he had been traumatized by his first encounter with pornography at the age of 11. A couple of years later, he was shaken when he saw another teenager watching pornography in an internet café. "The sight was shocking, traumatizing, and arousing. All of these feelings mixed together took a great toll on me. I walked home and cried by myself for a bit. I felt too guilty about what I saw to talk to my parents about it."

No wonder he couldn’t talk to his parents about it. They had been divorced when he was seven – a moment which he fingered as the beginning of his inner torment. But his father – who worked in Hollywood films – quickly found another girlfriend. This seems to have warped Rodgers’ view of women, sexuality and relationships. "Males who can easily find female mates garner more respect from their fellow men, even children," he wrote. "How ironic is it that my father, one of those men who could easily find a girlfriend, has a son who would struggle all his life to find a girlfriend."

Behind the deluded self-pity, it seems clear that Elliot Rodger was a lonely youngster starved for a father and shaken to the core by his parents’ divorce. A curious boy who had no one to talk to about the facts of life. A sick teenager who had no one to guide him through adolescent temptations.

It’s a familiar story. Most of the men on the never-ending list of rampage killers in the Unites States came from homes where the parents were divorced or separated. Predictably, their own relationships were fraught as well. Here are a few of the latest tragedies:

John Zawahiri, 23, killed five people in Santa Monica in 2013 near and on the campus of a state college. His parents had been separated for years.

In December 2012, Adam Lanza, 20, killed his mother, six staff at a Connecticut primary school, and 20 school children before shooting himself. His parents were divorced.

Also in December 2012, 22-year-old Jacob Roberts ran amok in a Portland, Oregon, shopping mall. He killed two people with an automatic rifle before committing suicide. He had never known his mother and was raised by a divorced aunt and her husband who shared custody of him.

Wade Page was a white supremacist who shot six Sikhs dead in Milwaukee before being killed by a police officer earlier in August 2012. His parents were divorced.

In October 2011 a California man, 41-year-old Scott Evans Dekraai walked into his ex-wife’s hair salon and shot her and seven other people dead. His parents were divorced.

Gun control is opposed by many Americans because gun-toting is said to be a fundamental freedom. But what about the fundamental freedom of quick-and-easy no-fault divorce? Marriage breakdown is one of the most serious problems faced by the US – and every other Western society. It destroys lives. And, as the latest rampage killing demonstrates, not just the lives of the kids of the divorced couple. Perhaps they wouldn’t need more gun control if they had better divorce control.

Michael Cook is editor of Mercator. 


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