As a college student I never would have believed that a mass shooting in Isla Vista would prompt me to write this post. Of course, we had no social media back then. UCSB is my alma mater and I lived in Isla Vista, or IV as we called it, for three years as an undergraduate. I have fond memories of living there. When I first learned of the shootings in California in an online article and saw the photo of the familiar brown sign that read “Isla Vista,” my heart sank.
The street, Trigo, where I lived my sophomore year, was a crime scene. My husband’s street of Sabado Tarde, also a crime scene. I haven’t returned to Isla Vista since I graduated decades ago, and perhaps I never will, wanting to preserve my memories and keep them safe.
As a freshman living on campus, I couldn’t wait to live off campus in Isla Vista. It is temporary displaced living to the nth degree. It was not uncommon for people to shuffle around and rearrange themselves each year with new roomies and new living quarters. You may not even know all your roommates. Students are stuffed to the gill into these apartments with little room to breathe. There were 18,000 students living in the square mile of Isla Vista; now it’s 23.000. I can’t imagine where an extra five thousand students live.
My senior year, I lived in party central on Del Playa. I had six roommates and because I wanted my private space, lived in an actual closet, a small closet. It was a “single.” I had a skylight and could climb onto the roof that overlooked the ocean. How many college kids could say they had a skylight that allowed them to sit on their roof with the Pacific ocean before them?
Isla Vista was a unique experience and its own subculture. Students rode bikes or walked everywhere. I didn’t have a car and, when I shopped for groceries at the market, the same one where bullets were fired, I brought all my groceries home on my bike. The student population back then was wealthy and white. I don’t know what it is today. I’m guessing it is similar. Upon arriving on campus my freshman year, I’d never seen so many tan and beautiful people. As I later found out, I grew up poor. My fellow students experienced the luxury of ski trips and a more privileged life.
Yet in Isla Vista we all paid the same exorbitant rents for our beloved squalor, and accepted sticky floors spilled with beer. Isla Vista was the great equalizer. I didn’t realize this at the time, we all just hung out; we didn’t get hung up on what we did or didn’t have, or where we were from. Parties were open to all, and I had a lot of great times. It was reckless abandon and we procrastinated together, probably a little too much.
These were also mixed-up times for me, too. I might be at a party in full swing, and had never felt more lonely and isolated. I remember being rejected, oh many times. I’ll never forget the frat boy, who, after I declined his invitation to sleep with him because I wanted more than a one-night stand, told me, “I’ll see you around campus.” There was no, “I will call you tomorrow.” Rejection can run deep. I remember hoping I would see him, and hoping he would call, even though chances were slim.
The moral code was loose, but nowhere near what it may be now with today’s hook-up culture, where I imagine it is normal to ignore, avoid, or dismiss emotions altogether as they relate to sex. But the physical sex, that, they may be talking about, oversharing about and flaunting. I could see how someone might think everyone is having sex and having so much fun. That it would drive someone to hate with malicious intent to kill is horrifying and sad. I’m not suggesting what happened is as simple as this.
After digesting social media and reading many articles online, I finally braved reading a portion of Elliot Rodger’s manifesto and watching his video. All of it sickened me. Clearly, he was a misogynistic madman, capable of harm, seething with hate and anger. I could feel the hate as I watched. He talked crazy shit, which although warranted a visit by the cops, did not result in a search of his apartment. Elliot Rodger’s intent was to slaughter and kill as many people as he could as an act of revenge. To realize that the whole massacre could have been prevented, there are no words.
It’s also crazy that in these times a man can show up at a park filled with children and wave a gun around, and be protected by law. Does this make sense? To anyone? Once again, as with all shootings, we must think about guns in this country.
To all who have lost a loved one in this tragedy, you have my deepest sympathy. When a person inflicts such a senseless act of violence and then self-destructs, I think we need to look at ourselves as a society. Why does this keep happening? When will it stop? We also need to look inward, and exercise compassion, humility, respect, and civility. I am on the side of the human race, and I still have hope.