Monday, June 30, 2014

The Hard Questions (My thoughts on the father of Elliot Rogers--the Santa Barbara shooter--being interviewed on TV)

On Friday night, 20/20 with Barbara Walters had Peter Rogers, the father of Elliot Rogers, the kid who went on a shooting rampage in Isla Vista/Santa Barbara. I decided to watch the show because I was curious about whether or not Barbara Walters would put this father through the wringer. I wanted to watch it too, as a mother of a mentally ill young man, to see what it would feel like to be a parent of a child that committed a crime. I was curious if I could survive that same microscope. I wrote down some of the questions that Peter Rogers was asked:

What went through your mind when you saw the YouTube video?

What were your fears for him?

(When the news was reporting that a shooting was going on) Did you know that your son was the shooter?

How are you?

When you wake up in the morning, what do you think?

She asked a couple of other tough questions that I didn't get a chance to write down but this gives you an idea of what it would be like to be questioned as a parent of someone who committed such a terrible, heinous act.

In my opinion, Mr. Rogers was a brave father to go on this show and put himself out there for the world to either sympathize with or criticize. I'm not entirely sure I could have done that myself. Already he has faced so much criticism and I think it took real strength to do what he did.

The million dollar question, though, was, "Did you see this coming?"

Mr. Rogers gave a detailed account of Elliot's childhood and young adult life and apart from his child being an introvert and socially awkward, there wasn't much to indicate that there was anything wrong. To help his son combat the inability to find a place in the social world, he moved his son from school to school hoping to find him a place to fit in. Finally he did and not a whole lot changed. Elliot was bullied, he was an introvert and he became lost in World of Warcraft and other online activities. He didn't relate to kids his own age and became both obsessed with and repelled by girls and sex. This obsession/repulsion came to a head when at a party he tried to push some girls off of a balcony.

Elliot was a young man, in my opinion, hyper-focused on one thing (girls/sex) and it ran his life. Soon it became his reason to plan his "Day of Retribution" and carry it out eventually.

Now, I wrote about this today because I am a mother of a son with a mental illness, more specifically schizophrenia. I began watching the show to see if I could hold up under the questions. I walked away from the show, though, feeling fairly confident that this kid, Elliot, was not a kid with schizophrenia. Not even close. While I really hate armchair psychiatrists, I can't help but happily say that I am fairly confident that this kid was more sociopath than schizophrenic. Happily say....only because I didn't want yet another violent act pinned on schizophrenia. We have enough on our plates already without having to add yet another violent act to our growing negative stereotype.

I also can speak to what I think was wrong with Elliot based on everything his father said because I have known people like this kid and their ONLY sickness is that they are dangerous, obsessed, dark, sociopaths who have little to no regard for human life.

I will, however, leave room for the fact that I may be completely wrong and we will never really know since he died in the end, taking his darkest self with him. Obsession though is a strong trait. It feeds on itself, strengthening if it's unchecked and ultimately ends in something bad, maybe not murder, but something bad.

So, for me, after watching the interview, after placing myself in Mr. Rogers position as a parent, I think I would have taken the route that Elliot's mother took and that is to release a statement that in part said something about her staying out of the spotlight because she felt the bigger story was all of the innocent people who lost their lives.

God forbid this ever happens to my family and God forbid it ever happens to any of yours, but I am curious, would you go on TV and do an interview like Peter Rogers did?

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