A Letter to Elliott Rodgers

Dear Elliott:

I’m sorry you’re not alive to read this. I’m sorry your life was so filled with pain that you had to resort to a something so obscene and hurtful that nobody could stop your death spiral. And I’m sorry beyond sorry that you felt compelled to take other people with you.

You’ve hit deep inside me. All we know about you now is that you had become a coldly rational maniac who’d entered a calm center of murder and suicide. I doubt you intended to leave the scene of your crime alive. You appeared to have surrendered your will to live or do anything except wreak your version of revenge on the world of women–and also of men–you thought had slighted you in favor of men who, to your way of thinking, were far less deserving than you of love, sex, and adoration. Your final video is one of the most frightening recitations of paranoia, resentment, and sardonic humor I’ve ever seen. What’s most disturbing are the moments of laughter. They’re all false; they were all forced cackles coming from deep inside a soul that has been feasting on its own misery for so long it hardly knew any other way to face the world. Humor that is not humor, humor that is purely anger driven so deep it simply cannot find a way out. I spent so many years being a phony that I can spot one coming from a mile down the street.

As mad at you as I’ve been, as upset as you’ve made me, you’re sort of pathetic.

Elliott, we had a lot in common. No kidding, we truly did. Would you like to know how long it took me to “lose my cherry”? It was Christmas night, 1966. Like you, I was also 22 years old. I didn’t turn 23 until the following February. That was actually with a woman, fella. And I thought I loved her. I was clumsy. Eventually it worked out nicely, but to this day–and this might surprise you–I sometimes think I should have stayed a virgin. Sex got me into miseries I never dreamed of until I got there. Maybe if I’d been a Catholic at the time I might have been a good priest. Except I didn’t have a vocation and I was a walking pillar of lust.

That is not a good indication of a real calling.

I was convinced that I was a piece of shit but that I wanted women to love me, love me, love me. I wanted them to see beneath the misery and drag me into them, body and spirit. That’s not how it works. You didn’t stick around long enough to figure that out. You didn’t understand that they weren’t put off by your looks–you actually were a good-looking young man–or your likely fear you didn’t have a 9-inch dick or bag of money. They were put off by your hunger, as some women were put off by mine. They were put off by your hunger, your clutchiness, by your sense that they owed you something. They were supposed to give it up to you–whether or not they’d been laid before–just because you were there. A lot of that was the story of my life, too, El.

But there’s a difference. I may not have liked women a great deal, but I didn’t kill anyone because I’d been spurned. I had to go home and jerk off because I, and not them, didn’t know how to make the move happen. I wasn’t seductive and I wasn’t clever. Like I said, I learned but I sometimes wish I hadn’t.

I used to say that I was a PV…just like you. PV means Professional Virgin. I know when that went from being shame until it became almost a badge of honor. Sometime in the summer of 1965. It was neither. It wasn’t shame and it certainly was not a mark of pride or honor. I used to say I could not get laid if I walked into a whorehouse with a roll of twenties. I figured I was so ugly and twisted that nobody would want me. I saw myself as Lenny in Of Mice and Men. Yes, I could have gone to a whorehouse. But that wasn’t what I wanted. Like you, I wanted love. But neither of us was prepared to give it, were we? We just wanted to get it. We were selfish idealists. We thought we were sacred monsters. That’s half-right, anyway.

I wish you could read this: nobody owed you a goddamned thing, El. You were just another guy who came to hate women, even if you wanted them to take the edge off your stiffened dick. Thank God I never got that far-gone. It took me years to figure out that I wasn’t put on earth as a fucking machine. Maybe I was there to love someone who happened to have the appropriate plumbing. It took me a long, long time to get that message. Eventually I did, but it cost me a lot along the way.

I’m truly sorry for what happened to you. I’m sorrier still for what happened to the people you killed the other day. They didn’t deserve what happened to them. But to say that you didn’t ignores the fact that your murders brought your demise down on your own head.

I don’t know where God has sent you. I hope Buddhism and Hinduism got it right, and that there really is reincarnation. You might get another shot at life. If so, I hope you manage the next round better than you’ve managed this one.




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