Sometimes, it's just a cigar

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Saved by Grace; Elliot Rodger and disability

Far better minds than mine have written on the Christian doctrine of saved by Grace versus being saved by deeds, but here goes. Saved by Grace is a cornerstone of protestant theology, the idea is that as products of the Fall, and sinners we cannot earn Gods love, we are undeserving of it. However we still get it because of His inherent goodness. We are “justified by Faith” is another way of putting it, by believing we get the keys to the kingdom. This has led to some interesting heresies, such as the Civil War group who decided they would be extra super sinners and break each of the 10 commandments. However it makes more sense than the idea we can be saved by deeds, or earn our place in heaven by being good people. The story of Job tells us what happens when we think being good is enough, and part of the reason Luther indulged in his world shaking DIY in the first place was because of the medieval practice of selling indulgences. Salvation by a toting up sins and hoping the column was not too long condemns us all.

Is there a reason for this rather dense theological ramble? Its Monday I hear you groan, cant you write about watersports or blowjobs! Bear with me though, because this isn’t just an debate for dusty academics. When the news of another mass shooting came out, and the world learned the name of Elliot Rodger for the first time a lot of people were concerned this would lead to mental health being blamed. Given that fact that attacks on the disabled are so common, and people with disabilities are far more likely to be a victim than a perpetrator peoples reaction was justifiable. The discovery of the manifesto meant that the world had an answer that didn’t need to involve disability and tags like #YesAllWomen started a vital conversation about male violence and misogyny.

One thing got lost though, Elliot was disabled, he was ill. he needed help. His parents had tried to have him committed , and he was under the care of a number of therapists, and had been since he was very young. He apparently had Aspergers, and here Gaye Dalton, who is on the spectrum, movingly writes of recognizing herself in his desire to belong, Others have suggested he had the classic traits of NPD, I dont know, we can never know, we do  know though that his family considered him to be a vulnerable individual with complex, multiple needs.

The instant response to cry #NotAllAspies or #NotAllMentallyIll people is perfectly understandable but by erasing Roger’s disability we are saying disabled people can only be “saved by deeds”. People with disabilities do not deserve treatment that fits their needs because they are good, or polite or nice but because they are people, with equal rights to the non disabled. The myth of the deserving disabled person, who is grateful for the scraps of the table is far too pervasive in our society as it is. It feeds into the view of people with disabilities as overgrown children, sexless and happy to be patted on the head and told how brave they are.

California has lost 95% of it public psychiatric beds. This morning the news in the UK is reporting the crisis in NHS mental health care. Both places expect the police to be mental health professionals, able to diagnose and decide treatment on the spot. As this powerful blog makes clear by focusing on the obsession of Rodger, the misogyny, the vital conversation about the chronic underfunding of mental health is not being had. Perhaps as Gaye says this was just Rodger’s way of trying to fit in, perhaps he was a misogynist who hated women. Neither changes the fact he was mentally ill and needed help.Unless you believe only good disabled people deserve treatment we need to start talking about that.



5 comments on “Saved by Grace; Elliot Rodger and disability

  1. Pingback: Why is the media narrative surrounding Elliot Rodger and Isla Vista so narrow? | bottomfacedotcom

  2. aformersexworker
    June 2, 2014

    Oh hang on…I did not say it was Rodger’s way of trying to fit in…nothing could be further from the truth, what I said was (much oversimplified) that, perseverating on “Retribution” was his way of coping with the pain, rage and frustration of the growing realisation that he never would be a full part of the world around him,

    I did not say I recognised myself in his desire to belong either, more that I recognised myself in the pain, rage and frustration that his inability to belong generated.

    I do not remember ever wanting to “belong” just being told there was something wrong with me unless I wanted to belong, and punished because I was unable to.

    Supposing, instead of the platitudes that make the teller (and no-one else) feel better, someone had told myself, and Elliot, the truth? That there is no way we will ever be able to “belong” and a good first step might be asking ourselves whether we really want to belong anyway?

    Would 7 people still be alive today? Or at least 6?

    I think there is a good chance they would be.

    There is nothing more painful frustrating and alienating than being told “there is help” when you have already learned, the hard way, there is nothing of the kind. It makes you feel you have no right to exist at all because your existence does not comply with some arbitrary “rules”.

    Maybe if people had stopped telling Elliot they could help him when he knew they could not, he might have been able to find a little ground to stand on and air to breath for a while longer.

    Incidentally, AFAIK California’s public mental health services are so abysmal you could cut 100% of their funding without much harm. :o(


  3. sula
    June 2, 2014

    At least the post and the reply have loosened up the debate/analysis a bit. I’m afraid the notion of Eliot as chief misogynist, reliably narrating a coherent manifesto that simply means exactly what it says it means and nothing else, has left me dissatisfied and oddly uncomfortable.
    The pressure to ‘comment’ on events as they happen has left some journalists looking idiotic, especially when they claim their own experience of mental health problems such as anxiety gives them an insight into the totally different world of severe psychiatric personality disorder. (yes, Laurie Penny I mean you)
    We’ve yet to read any definitive account (if that can ever even be possible) that sensitively and seriously pulls together all the strands without fear of offending self-described groups but both of the above are a good place to start and I’d also like to recommend the ‘Idiot Joy Showland’ blog for a thought provoking reading of Rodger alongside Wordsworth’s Tintern Abbey and the dissolution of the monasteries. Better than it sounds.


    • jemima2013
      June 5, 2014

      It is so true that the demand for instant responses is so often the bane of understanding events in any kind of depth. Thank you for your comment


  4. Pingback: Attraction and fitting in | Sometimes, it's just a cigar

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