Category Archives: Opinions & Rants

Suicide Is A Sad Choice

aloneI typically avoid reading stories about suicide, especially when the victims are kids, because my anxiety levels start to peak, but the recent, untimely death of Robin Williams has #suicide unavoidably ‘trending’. With our insatiable social media and voyeuristic news industry we now have instant access to everything from personal hardships and societal implosion to global atrocities, accompanied by the proffered musings and ‘insights’ of anyone and everyone compelled to join the cacophony. While I’ve done my best not to indulged my morbid curiosity by scanning the plethora of remembrances of and speculations about Robin Williams and his family, the little bit that has managed to unavoidably filter through, are remarks that Mr Williams and his ilk are selfish cowards. That’s bullshit.

I’d heard about Shepard Smith’s stupid, unfiltered remarks and wasn’t surprised or very concerned. The poor man waxes poetic over White House lunch menus, so his thoughts on suicide are on par with Dora the Explorer’s feelings about immigration reform. However there have been others whose comments have been more pointedly insulting. Take the title of a recent article by blogger Matt Walsh: “Robin Williams didn’t die from a disease, he died from his choice.” My initial reaction was knee-jerk indignation, triggered by his seemingly callous lack of empathy. After reading his thoughts on the subject however, it turns out that I agree with Mr Walsh – on one pedantic point: Suicide is a choice, but it’s a choice made out of a very dark, twisted reality. That’s it. In every other way his view of suicide and the people who make that choice vary widely from mine.

Matt has “seen” depression and suicide but “can’t comprehend it”, believing suicide is “a terrible, monstrous atrocity” although he admits “[w]hen we are depressed, we have trouble seeing joy, or feeling it, or feeling worthy of it. I know that in my worst times, at my lowest points, it’s not that I don’t see the joy in creation, it’s just that I think myself too awful and sinful a man to share in it”. (On a completely different topic, that sort of Christian unworthiness is one of the main reasons I became an atheist. I can feel shitty all by myself, I don’t need a god to tell me if it weren’t for him I’d really be fucked.)

For something he’s seen but can’t comprehend, he has some very stringent ideas about choosing death over life. Suicide is “[t]he complete, total, absolute rejection of life. The final refusal to see the worth in anything, or the beauty, or the reason, or the point, or the hope. The willingness to saddle your family with the pain and misery and anger that will now plague them for the rest of their lives.”

It must be wonderful to have never known depression, to have absolutely no concept of what it’s like to feel that there’s no point to anything in this existence. How easy for that person to pass judgement. Much like the man who will never know what it is to be a single mother to say to a woman, “You got knocked up, deal with it”. For people suffering under the weight and distorted reality of depression, suicide is a choice but it’s a choice made from exhaustion and despair, shrouded by the false belief that your loved ones will be better off without you, that you would be doing them a favor by exiting their lives. Feeling powerless while drowning in a dark abyss of ones own mind is a struggle some people don’t survive. To make simplistic, blanket statements that all suicide is a choice made from weakness or cowardice and “always a bad decision” is an affront. For those suffering from a painful, terminal illness choosing is a different, rational hopelessness, not an selfish indulgence. Suicide is always sad, often tragic, but does not fit into one easily identified, avoidable box.

Those who think that someone like Robin Williams, a man who left his adult children financially secure, was selfish by choosing to die, then someone like my brother would surely offend their sensibilites. In 1999, at the age of 33, my younger brother ended his life. He left behind his estranged wife and unborn son. He left behind his devastated father and nearly-suicidal mother. He left behind his only sibling to deal with them all while her own marriage was in crisis. Self-righteous, heartless people abound so I had to endure cruel comments regarding my brother’s perceived weakness of character and lack of courage. None of those people actually knew him, yet they had very definite opinions about him. I hated them all.

Matt Walsh adds:

Can we tell our friend to step away from the ledge after we just spoke so glowingly of Robin Williams’ newfound “peace” and “freedom”? This is too important a subject to be careless about. We want to say nice things, I realize, but it isn’t nice to lie about suicide.

 

I couldn’t talk to my husband about my pain, much less my parents, so I went to counseling briefly. She asked me if I was angry at my brother. I said no. (I did have one brief moment of irritation with him when it occurred to me that I was stuck to deal with our aging parents on my own, but I got over it.) My counselor was surprised. “Really? When my friend took his life, I went to the cemetery and screamed at his grave, ‘How could you do this?!’ I was furious.” But how could I be angry at my brother for being in such pain? I told her that I would rather deal with my own pain than have him suffer through a life he couldn’t bear.

That is not to say that I comforted myself with the idea that he was no longer suffering the way I did when my sister-in-law died from cancer. I was very, very sorry that life was so painful for him and I wished with all my heart that I could have made it less so.

Matt goes on to explain more of what he doesn’t understand about suicide.

I can understand atheists who insist that depression must only be a disease of the brain, as they believe that our entire being is contained by, and comprised of, our physical bodies. But I don’t understand how theists, who acknowledge the existence of the soul, think they can draw some clear line of distinction between the body and the soul, and declare unequivocally that depression is rooted in one but not the other. This is a radically materialist view now shared by millions of spiritualist people.

 

I don’t have the time nor the energy to pick apart his article bit by bit. Besides, he sums it up nicely: “So this, for me, is always the most essential moral at the end of these kinds of sad, terrible stories: we are all meant for joy. We are all meant for love. We are all meant for life. And as long as we can still draw breath, there is joy and love to be found here. I believe that. If I didn’t, I would have left a long time ago.”

Exactly.


If you are feeling hopeless or that you have nowhere to turn, call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255), 24/7. You can also log onto the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Or go to your local hospital emergency room.

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Fighting Guns With Guns

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According to a CNN, a survey of the nation’s teachers indicates that “nearly three-fourths of the nation’s teachers say they personally would not bring a firearm to their school if allowed, but most educators believe armed guards would improve campus safety.”

If we truly want to keep our children safer while they’re at school, metal detectors and armed security personnel are not the panacea. Our country needs to pull it’s paranoid head out of it’s red, white and blue ass and prove that lives are more important than guns. We wouldn’t need to look to the government for gun reform if people who own guns would treat that “right” as a serious responsibility. It isn’t up to the schools or the government to raise children who are less likely to become violent. It’s up to parents and guardians to show kids what being responsible and respectful mean. Empathy and compassion are learned at home, not in our Lord of the Flies school system.

Our society is failing to address the underlying causes of gun violence — ignorance, poverty, and inadequate mental health care. Forget the Christian Right and their bullshit family values. Stop listening to the inflammatory rhetoric of the fearmongers. We are losing the sense of trust and community that a society needs to flourish.

A better future is something we should all be working toward together if for no other reason than a united and sincere desire to be decent human beings.

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Some People Deserve a Break

Ethan CouchBy now everyone has heard of Ethan Couch, a fatuous, drunk 16-year-old young man who recklessly destroyed the lives of five people and their families.

Outside of Texas this horribly common tragedy would have gone largely unnoticed if it weren’t for the driver’s inexplicably lenient “punishment” for causing the death of four pedestrians and the permanent paralyzation of a passenger who was riding in the bed of the truck: rehab and 10 years probation rather than the 20 years in prison for aggravated vehicular manslaughter.

According to Daily Mail:

The fatal accident occurred around 11:45 pm on June 15, Couch and a group his friends who were all drunk, got into a red Ford F350 pick-up and were speeding 70 mph in a 40 mph zone when the truck left the road.As it careered out of control, it clipped a broken down SUV, throwing the owner and four good Samaritans, who were trying to help, 60 yards in the air. Youth pastor Brian Jennings, mother and daughter Hollie and Shelby Boyles and 24-year-old Breanna Mitchell were all killed on impact.

It was revealed soon after that Couch’s blood-alcohol level was 0.24 – three times the adult limit, though minors aren’t allowed any alcohol in their system – and that he was also on the prescription drug Valium when he started the chain reaction of crashes.

victims
Brian Jennings, Hollie and Shelby Boyles,
and Breanna Mitchell were all killed on impact.
sergio_molina
Sergio Molina, now 16, was thrown from the back of Ethan’s truck.
His family grapples with his permanent paralysis.

The public outrage however isn’t directed at the perpetrator, the person behind the wheel who chose to drink and drive. The anger is aimed at the judicial system which blatantly excused the egregious crime.

Psychologist Dr Gary Miller was brought in for the trial – an “expert” whose testimony Ethan’s parents had the financial resources to secure for their son’s defense. Dr Miller boldly held Ethan’s parents accountable for their child’s unfortunate behavior saying, “The teen never learned to say that you’re sorry if you hurt someone. If you hurt someone, you sent him money.” Obviously this wasn’t the first time Ethan hurt someone, and most definitely not the first (or last) time his parents paid for his privilege. Miller invented a clever and extremely offensive diagnosis which neatly summed up why Ethan should not be held accountable for his unfortunate actions – affluenza.

a·flu·en·za [a-floo-en-zuh]
noun: an acute, endemic disorder caused by an excess of time and financial resources and a complete lack of parental supervision. See: unaccountability.

As offensive as the idea that being a spoiled brat can extenuate a crime, even more appalling is the abject malfeasance of Texas District Judge Jean Boyd who accepted “affluenza” as a justifiable excuse to send the kid to rehab rather than prison.

She told the teen that he is responsible for what happened, but she said she didn’t believe he would receive the therapy he needed in jail. If he violates the terms of his probation, he could be sent to prison for 10 years.Defense attorneys asked that he be sent to a private rehabilitation home near Newport Beach, California, which costs an enormous $450,000 a year. His father said he’d foot the bill.

After a firm finger wag like that, Ethan will most certainly mend his ways.

Ethan’s parents are unquestionably terrible parents and are largely to blame for their son’s criminal lack of empathy, personal responsibility and remorse. If Ethan’s naughtiness is their fault, why aren’t they being sent to prison for creating such a child? Or perhaps society itself is to be blamed as we are complicit with a judicial system that often and blatantly proffers preferential treatment to the white and wealthy.

The point is moot. A person who deserved to be confined for the safety of others has simply learned that money buys freedom. The parents who raised a son to believe that he isn’t responsible for his actions have proven that it’s true. Individuals and families who suffer at the greasy, entitled hands of the wealthy will continue to suffer.

One can only hope that, when Ethan gets behind the wheel of the new truck his wealthy parents will surely give him, he kills only himself.

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Hand Over The Baby

Richard Land is a form of repugnant humanity that makes even Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter seem compassionate. Only a true believer — in the form of a white, overprivileged, outrageously self-righteous, conservative Southern Baptist conservative Christian male — could be so insulated and heartless. His chosen target is an often vilified and incredibly diverse minority: single mothers.

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According to Stephen D. Foster, Jr. at Addicting Info:

In a November 23rd article published on The Christian Post, Land urges single mothers across the nation to stop being selfish and hand their kids over to good Christian parents so they can be raised properly, the way he thinks God intended.“Keeping the baby is almost never preferable to allowing a baby to be adopted into a solid, faithful Christian home,” Land claims. “A single mother who keeps her baby is quite often denying that baby the father that God wants for that baby, and every baby, to have. Furthermore, in most circumstances, keeping the baby circumscribes and forecloses both the mother’s and the baby’s economic futures in tragic and unfortunate ways. If the mother is doing what is best for her baby (one of the defining marks of maternal love), she will part with her baby so that it will have the future God intended for him or her to have… Adoption allows the mother to give her child both a mother and a father who will love and cherish the child.”

I don’t think that every creature of Land’s ilk is intentionally trotted out as a polarizing tool, but I am just cynical enough to believe that, throughout the country, there are many Christians who are in wholehearted agreement with Land. Childless couples, bitter and envious at the thought of a worthless stranger getting knocked up when it is they who truly deserve such a gift from God.

Why is it that no one EVER asks where the guys got off to? Single mothers aren’t all single by choice. “Fathers” bail all the time, but it’s the women who take the brunt of Christian and conservative abuse. It is too much to hope that those people could, for one moment, contemplate what it might be like to be a young woman who, rather than aborting an unwanted pregnancy (because that’s inhuman), chooses to raise her child, with or without the help of the father (or the government). That would require empathy, compassion, and a choice not to judge women they don’t even know – qualities that conservative Christians were, apparently, born without.

So at the very least, rather than encouraging mothers to give up their babies, why doesn’t Richard Land encourage deadbeat dads to man up.

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