Okay so that was partially a rhetorical question. I know many people are frustrated by how Eliot Rodger was portrayed, especially initially. Elliot Rodger was called a “madman” after he allegedly created a hate-filled video rant and murdered six people because he was a 22 year-old who hadn’t had sex. I have seen people try to explain away his words and actions as being related to Asperger Syndrome, people even noted that Asperger’s makes people impulsive. Asperger’s doesn’t make people mass murderers. There are plenty of people with Asperger’s who don’t go around shooting people just because they didn’t get their way. Asperger’s doesn’t inherently make you violent, violence and aggression are not listed on National Institute of Health’s lists of symptoms and signs. Impulse control issues was also not mentioned and wtf, why was impulse control even brought up? Dude went out and bought a gun, made a video about his intentions to kill “sluts” and men who “sluts” had chosen over him and then he acted on these intentions. Nothing about those actions seem impulsive to me. His actions are quite the opposite and seem to me to be premeditated.
And then there’s Donald Sterling. I woke up on Friday and found that the first news article on Google News was about the recent news that Donald Sterling was deemed mentally incompetent because of Alzheimer’s. Now Donald is 86 years old and unfortunately Alzheimer’s does affect a lot of elderly people. And Alzheimer’s is a terrible condition to have and I certainly wouldn’t want to dismiss its role in someone’s life and/or how it changes their behaviors. But. My concern is that his racism and misogyny will then be attributed to his mental health. The focus on his Alzheimer’s diagnosis may detract from that and people could say “Well he’s older and has Alzheimer’s, I mean anyone might act differently with that condition.” And I mean, yeah Alzheimer’s can impact one’s behavior and mood significantly but Donald Sterling has a long history of acting sexist and like a white supremacist. Furthermore, developing Alzheimer’s doesn’t mean you develop racism. And not that anyone’s said that about Donald Sterling. Yet.
So Elliot has Asperger’s and Donald has Alzheimer’s. While this all very well may be true, too much focus on these conditions makes it seem like they are what is responsible for each of these men’s behaviors rather than societal afflictions of deep-seated institutional white supremacy and misogyny. Yes people with mental health conditions may behave differently than if they did not have their mental health diagnosis/es. But bigotry is not a symptom of any mental health illness. Bigoted attitudes and behaviors may be become more pronounced if mental health issues come into play but the mental health issues have never made anyone racist or misogynist. My worry is that if society focuses extensively on the mental health concerns of Donald and Elliot then society may view them as “different” and overlook the root issue and the fact that many people who aren’t mentally ill share similar beliefs with both of these people. We can pour all the money and resources into mental health services (which well we should do anyways but for other reasons) but ultimately mental health treatment is going to treat the mental disorder and not the bigotry.
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