Yesterday, an antisocial and maladjusted young man named Elliot Rodger, conforming to one of the current homicidal contagions, carried out a longstanding secret plan and killed six innocent young people and himself in Isla Vista, California.
His parents had apparently done everything they could to prevent just such a disaster from happening, making sure Elliott was in therapy, sending the police to his residence on April 30th (where his plot came agonizingly close to being uncovered), and racing to try to stop him at the end.
Unfortunately the twisted young man is related to the wider "family" of photographers. His father is Peter Rodger, who was the second-unit director of The Hunger Games, and he was the grandson of photojournalist George Rodger, one of the founding members of Magnum, a portrait of whom I've published here in the past.
George Rodger was one of the first photojournalists allowed into the concentration camps after the fall of Nazi Germany, and in his later years said he was haunted by the fact that when confronted with the overpowering atrocities, he was preoccupied with finding good photographic compositions. I've always thought that was perfectly understandable, because who wouldn't need to create some sort of pyschological buffer when confronted with such a thing? George Rodger's photographic records turn out to have been very important to history.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department identified all six of Elliott Rodgers' immediate victims. Veronika Weiss, 19, and her sorority sister Katherine Breann Cooper, 22, of Chino Hills, were shot in the grass in front of a UCSB sorority. Christopher Michaels-Martinez, 20, of San Luis Obispo, was killed nearby at a deli. Three other victims, Weihan Wang, 20, of Fremont, and Cheng Yuan Hong, 20, and George Chen, 19, both of San Jose, were stabbed to death in the suspect's apartment.
All were students at the University of California Santa Barbara.
All crimes like this have many secondary victims, whose lives will be irreparably changed forever. Including, in this case, Peter and Chin Rodgers.
Our sincere condolences to all of those affected.
(Thanks to Jim Hughes, and Felix)
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Featured Comments from:
Geoff Goldberg: "All parents are blessed with their children, and worry about keeping them safe. What is in the background is a deeper concern, the joy of having 'gotten a good one' or unhappily, maybe one that turns out bad. In some cases, there is little a parent can do in the face of such difficulties, and the tragedy that has unsued here leaves the parents wondering 'what did I do wrong?' and 'what should we have done?' For every lucky parent, perhaps there is an unlucky one. Those who have been fortunate know the line is very thin, and one could be on the other side of fortune. Our hearts go out to them, and to the families who lost their children in this horror."
Mike replies: Amen. And sometimes the lucky and unlucky parents can be the same people! I had a barber for years whose two sons were opposites. One was very accomplished and well adjusted and high acheiving, the other was a drug addict who caused them constant worry and trouble, was in and out of prison and rehab, who stole from them and sometimes jeopardized them by bringing her and her husband into harrowing contact with dangerous lowlifes. She claimed that she and her husband had done nothing differently with either of the boys. And according to her stories, they had done everything they could think of to try to deal with the "bad" son. First to help him, then to keep him at bay and prevent him from ruining their own lives. Finally the "good" son moved to the Carolinas for a job on a NASCAR pit crew, and the "bad" son had to stay here for parole reasons. So the parents moved to the Carolinas. She said she knew people would judge them for "abandoning" their troubled son, and her bitter comment was "walk a mile in our shoes first and then see how you feel."
A reader who wishes to remain anonymous added the following response to this story: "My wife and I have three children, two girls and a boy. I should say two women and a man, because the youngest, my son, is now nearly 25. He had a troubled childhood, and began using drugs at an early age. He forged thousands of dollars of checks on our checking accounts. He used every known drug, and a year ago was seemingly hopelessly addicted to heroin. He had been in and out of jail more than once. My wife and I had resigned ourselves to losing him, and the best we could do was to try to prepare emotionally for his early death, because the drugs were certainly taking him that way.
"However, and this is why I'm writing, in the last nine months he's completely turned around. He finally agreed to go to rehab at a local facility, because the alternative was another stretch in jail. The stats on recovery from rehab aren't great. But he's made it, at least this far. He's stayed clean, is holding down a good job, and is planning a real future. He's turned into the son we always wanted and thought we'd never have. We know that his recovery is still fragile, but right now all the signs are good.
"If any of your readers are in a similar situation, don't give up hope. It can turn around, and sometimes does."