The Lost Souls of America

Barb Wire

In a matter of weeks, Isla Vista , CA- the student community of UC Santa Barbara- was transfigured from riotous revelry in the form of Deltopia (a giant party that involved upwards of 20,000 revelers and resulted in a riot) to a somber candlelight procession honoring the memory of beautiful young lives cut short in a senseless act of random violence. They were murdered by a psychotic young man who resented the fact that he was never invited to what the party, the community and today’s culture represented to him. What does it all mean?

One of my favorite cartoons is “Mallard Fillmore” by Bruce Tinsley. Tinsley published a cartoon that featured Mallard (a reporter) asking the question of a young lady, “How would you respond to those who say yours is the most narcisstic generation?” To which, the woman replied, “Wait, let me get a selfie of me answering that.” He published this cartoon on the same day that Elliot Rodger committed mass murder in Isla Vista.

That weekend we were all shaken to the core as we watched the video of Rodger’s planned day of retribution on humanity for the suffering he had endured as a lonely individual wallowing in self-pity who nonetheless described himself as “magnificent.” Elliot Rodger, it turns out, was intent on destroying that which he also worshiped- namely beautiful young women whom he believed could fulfill his desire to experience a hedonistic lifestyle he hoped would bring meaning to his life. In the days of old, it would have been said he lifted up his soul to women and ended up losing it in the process.

There are people who question why I sometimes write and talk about values, mores, character and religion. I often reply that there is no understanding commerce, politics and society in general in a vacuum of these principles and concepts. Neither is there any answer to why so many young people died in Isla Vista last Friday night apart from a discussion of the soul.

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Local authors Martin and Deidre Bobgan wrote a very important book a few years back titled “Psycho Heresy.” The book, written from the perspective of a professional (Martin holds four university degrees, including a doctorate in educational psychology), illustrates in great detail that America has undergone a transition and transformation having to do with a shift from traditional religion to a new religion. This new religion is psychotherapy. Bobgan cites one famous academic after another, including some of the biggest names in the field of psychoanalysis, as confirming that this so-called field of science actually is a form of religion which has usurped family, community and personal responsibility in dealing with life’s problems.

Our community grieves over the senseless loss of life that occurred on the streets of Isla Vista the evening of May 23 . So many young people murdered by a deranged young man who was hell-bent to exact retribution because he had, in his own words, been “forced” to endure an existence of loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled sexual desires. This young man, Elliot Rodger, considered himself the victim of crime and injustice. Again in his own words, “I will be your God, exacting retribution on all who deserve it…just for the crime of living a better life than me”.

Ironically, while Elliot Rodger was spending much of his post-pubescent life playing violent video games in seclusion from the rest of the world, eventually going to counseling and getting prescription meds to make it all better, his father was globetrotting around the world for years, including a three year film-making stint which tried to address the question, “who is god?” Meanwhile, his son came up with the wrong answer and it cost six innocent people their lives.

After I got over the initial wave of shock and anger, I couldn’t help thinking back to David Attias. Attias was the young man who in 2001 also committed murder on the streets of Isla Vista albeit he used a car instead of a gun.

In the case of Attias, it was reported by the Associated Press that his father, David Attias, testified that he took measures to ensure that no paper trail would exist of diagnoses from doctors who said his son had attention deficit disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and that he could be bipolar. The father did not want to accept repeated diagnoses that his son was mentally ill – not wanting his son to be “stigmatized” by the diagnosis. But, just a few months before Attias used his car to run down innocents on the streets of IV, his father witnessed an outburst he himself was forced to describe as “full-blown megalomania.” Attias’s mother, not to mince words, described her own son as a weirdo noting her concern once he started attending UCSB, stopped going to therapy, quit taking his medication and started experimenting with drugs.

Attias is basically now a free man! He was, after all, declared NOT GUILTY, by reason of insanity and now he is no longer considered insane!

Fast forward to Elliot Rodger. This is what he posted on Youtube just three weeks before he posted his retribution day video: “I temporarily took all of my Vlog’s down due to the alarm it caused with some people in my family. I will post more updates in the future.”

Rodger convinced himself that it was a crime for both men and women to live a better life than he lived. This despite the fact that he described portions of his life as being superior to that of the average college dolt he despised subsequently bragging about his world travels, his BMW which was superior to 90% of the cars driven by his peers, and his $300 sunglasses. Yet, for all that, he was consumed with self-pity, envy, jealousy, rage and loneliness.

Both of these young men were the sons of successful Hollywood directors and both of their families were forewarned that their sons were troubled. But what difference does it make? After all, it is not a crime in America to be mentally ill and no family, or civil authority for that matter, can force treatment on an adult until after a crime has been committed unless it can be proved they pose an immediate danger.

In the aftermath of Elliot Rodgers’ massacre, let’s discuss the temptation to resort to one of the most common forms of personal and societal self-defense and that is blame-shifting. We all do it more often than we care to admit, despite the fact that blame-shifting does not help us get to the root of our problems.

In this day and age, the first temptation is to blame the loss of life on the fact that Elliot was able to purchase the guns he used to commit these horrific crimes. In other words, our 2nd Amendment rights are to blame. Accordingly, you can bet that the town of Isla Vista will be added to that of Newtown and Aurora to record this protest against gun rights.

However, I believe gun rights are not to blame here, but rather the rights of the mentally ill to determine their own fate and destiny as that is the one major factor in common among today’s mass murderers. Think about it! By definition, what sane person commits mass murder of innocents?

In the meantime, we wait for these ticking time bombs to go off. This is the best we can do?

First Published in the Santa Barbara News Press

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

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