I feel bad for Richard Martinez. I really do. Anyone who loses a child in as senseless an act of violence as Martinez lost his son, Christopher, is wholly deserving of our sympathy. Christopher Martinez was only 20 years old, a student at the University of California at Santa Barbara. He was one of seven killed in Santa Barbara this past Friday evening by Elliot Rodger, a 22-year-old fellow student at the university.
I also feel bad for Richard Martinez for a different reason, though. In an emotionally charged speech this past Saturday, Richard placed blame for the incident squarely on “craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA.” He went on to use words like “insanity” and “madness” to describe his frustration with current gun laws in the United States. His rage was palpable, and his words spread over the internet almost instantly.
I’m sad for Richard Martinez because he totally missed the point.
I’ve been trying ever since I first read about this tragic story on Friday to muster up some sort of sympathy for Rodger. He obviously had some sort of mental issues going on, but since I’m not a therapist I couldn’t tell you what they were exactly. All the news reports I’ve read described him as very shy, a withdrawn soul who had extreme difficulty in social situations. I read in one article that his parents suspected he might have had Asperger’s Syndrome, which proves how out of touch the media can be with mental illness, since Asperger’s was removed from DSM-5 last year.
As hard as I’ve tried, though, I’m still having difficulty finding much of anything about this man who killed seven people before eventually taking his own life as well to feel for. There’s an old episode of The Simpsons I think of sometimes where Bart wins an elephant he names “Stampy” in a local radio station contest. The episode ends with Stampy being taken to a wildlife reserve, where he begins ramming his head into the other elephants, prompting the reserve manager to tell Bart, “Animals are a lot like people, Mr. Simpson: Some of them act badly because they’ve had a hard life or have been mistreated. But, like people, some of them are just jerks.” And as much as I try to understand this man, everything I read about him just makes me dislike him even more.
Best I can tell, Rodger’s “manifesto” he had written and the videos he posted on YouTube prior to going on his rampage essentially boiled down to two overall points: He didn’t like his roommates, and he couldn’t get laid. Maybe I’m over-simplifying, but the majority of his rambling manifesto I read screamed “victim mentality” at every turn. He wasn’t a cool kid in school; he had never seen an adult woman naked; video games ruined his social life; no one helped him get used to his new high school; and on and on and on…
All of which brings me back to Richard Martinez. Yes, a gun was used to kill his son, but it was a legally purchased gun. Considering some of the other issues at play here, gun control is almost on the periphery. Rodger’s parents divorced, which he described as a traumatic event in his life. His sexual education came not from a parent, but from pornographic movies. He drank alcohol irresponsibly. He tapped into the new culture of narcissism that allows anyone and everyone to call attention to themselves on the internet. He had an unhealthy obsession with having a relationship with a woman and was a bitter, frustrated young man.
The gun was just the vehicle here. Rodger’s road had been paved for years by an existence marked by self-centeredness, lack of attention and love, and no moral compass to set him straight. It would be blasphemy for the media today to mention that maybe, just maybe the lack of God in a killer’s life might have been beneficial. Of course, that’s no guarantee; Christians do crazy stuff all the time. Shouldn’t we at least consider, however, pointing those with issues like Rodger’s in the direction of a God who promises to never leave nor forsake him?
I had one steady girlfriend my entire time in high school. I was skinny, had a mop of curly hair I didn’t know what to do with, and never became the athlete I wanted to be. I remember being so lonely and miserable in my early 20s that I contemplated walking away from God altogether. He was punishing me, my victim mentality told me. He didn’t like me. For reasons I still can’t explain, though, I stuck with Him. I’ll have been married 16 years this July.
Maybe I feel bad for Elliot Rodger after all. In many ways, he was just like me. I never killed anyone, though. Richard Martinez is right to be angry. I just wish he would be angry about the things that mattered.