I’ve caught glimpses of it on my daily commute. At first it was empty, save for the flash of patrolling police cruisers. I don’t know if traffic on that stretch of road has resumed now: I admit I’ve stopped looking.
By this point it is fairly common knowledge that Alek Minassian was an incel, that he idolized Ellliot Rodger (the scumbag who killed nine people in California four years ago), and that he was primarily targeting women in his vehicular rampage. It’s easy to get angry about this, to view his massacre as a rampage borne out of a wounded sense of entitlement, out of a misogynistic hatred of women for seemingly conspiring to turn him down. If his Facebook post is anything to go by, he was essentially declaring war on women (and on sexually active men) everywhere, and running people down as a sick emulation of Elliot Rodger.
Anger is easy, understanding is hard. The thing is, a part of me understands this guy’s pain. It wasn’t until my very late twenties that I finally entered into a relationship; before then, I was convinced that I was going to die alone. I know what it’s like to live through that soul-crushing loneliness, to see yourself as inherently inferior and undesirable, and to be painfully aware of the fact (especially in high school) that everyone is getting laid but you. It breeds nothing but frustration, self-loathing, and no small amount of resentment. For a while, I saw myself as doomed. I remain forever thankful that I did meet someone, and that through her I did realize that I am none of those things.
The difference is, even at my worst, I never once fantasized about revenge against everyone who was enjoying a happy relationship but me. I never blamed the entire female sex for my own unhappiness, and I never once decided to hurt other people to mitigate my own pain. And that is why I cannot, try as I might, wrap my head around why Alek Minassian did this. I can understand that he must have been at a low point in his life, and that he was driven to want to end it all, but I cannot understand how it got to the point where he wanted to take a lot of innocent bystanders with him.
Maybe this is something I’ll never get because I’m not part of that culture, just as I cannot understand why many incels, whether out of trollish glee or genuine, twisted delight, are actually cheering at this. My take away is that incels may have started out as a group for lonely, rejected people to share their woes, but like any insular group, quickly devolved into an “us versus them” mentality. I want to believe that misogyny and hatred do not exist in a vacuum, but the extent to which we can blame a society in general for fostering this vicious mentality that “you’re no one if you can’t get laid/women are evil if they reject you” is a question I am not qualified to answer.
Ultimately, as much as I ask “Why,” I know I’m not going to get an answer. There is little solace I can take from this horror show, save that Minassian is alive, and will have to answer for what he has done. Even then, it doesn’t change the fact that something has just been altered forever about my hometown, about my little sphere of existence. I don’t think I will be able to go through that stretch of road again without seeing it as a little more empty.