Friday, October 09, 2009

The suicide and what was said

I don't want this post to be one more comment on this young man's life, I don't know him personally, but I do want to talk about the way he was treated.

First let me say that his funeral was attended by hundreds of people - I know the subway stop, the church, the camp, the school and many concerned. I am filled with sorrow for the parents, and for this young man.

In spite of the fact that the evidence was concerned with email messages that have not been disclosed, the newspaper reported that this young man was accused of sexual assault. What was said about him is described here. There was, in fact, no question of sexual assault or sexual touching. What we do know for sure is that the day before he took his own life, he was accused in the newspaper of doing something that he did not do.

This should be motivation for everyone to reflect on the seriousness of saying something about someone else's personal life that is not true. What disturbs me is that the bibliosphere has no censure for unjust attacks. For both Rosie DiManno and Jim West, a suicide is a guilty plea, proof of sin. Do they have any idea how helpless one feels when one is the target of a false attack?

If anyone related to this man ever googles his name, then Jim West's inflammatory headline will jump out at them and cause unnecessary pain.


Rod said...

Whatever happened to solidarity and empathy with a victim? Do we have to blame the victim in the name of (evangelical) Christian orthodoxy and original sin each time a tragedy happens?

J. K. Gayle said...

Thank you very much, Sue, for saying what you've said here, with apt compassion.

To go along with your words, here are some from others as well:

"... Victor Frankl [was] an Austrian neurologist and psychologist who in 1942 was deported to Theresienstadt, a Nazi concentration camp that housed Jews in transit to Auschwitz. While in the camp, and later in Auschwitz, Frankl studied and journaled about his and others' conditions of despondency. He was separated from his wife and lost his parents in the ghetto, yet he still worked to prevent suicide among his fellow prisoners among fellow prisoners. Interfering with suicides was prohibited by Nazi guards, but Frankl whispered in people's ears all the same. The essence of his whispers were that life, even amid the absurdity of human suffering, still had meaning. Suffering, as absurd as it seemed, pointed too a greater story in which, if one would only construe himself [or herself] as a character within, [she or] he could find fulfillment in his [or her] tragic role, knowing the plot was headed toward redemption. Such an understanding would take immense humility and immeasurable faith, a perspective perhaps achieved only in the context of near hopelessness.

Frankl's papers, written after surviving the camps, and even after losing his wife to the Nazis, indicated a philosophical conclusion that misery, though seemingly ridiculous, indicates life itself has the potential of meaning, and therefore pain itself must also have meaning. Contrary to Freud's posit that man[kind]'s greatest pursuit is of pleasure.... For the prisoners Frankl helped in the concentration camps, a chance for survival was increased by a person's ability to dwell in a spiritual domain, a place where the SS could not intrude."

--Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, pp 195-96

Jane said...

Suzanne, here in Crete I am on my own but should have been here with a friend who took her own life just a few weeks ago at a time when despair overcame her ... I still grope towards understanding and never fully will.
A friend in the UK has recently lost a good friend to suicide - he had been accused of child abuse, now he's dead he can never clear his name ... but 18 months of investigations just got the better of him. Geneva where I live has one of the highest rates of suicide worldwide and the issue is one of public health.
JK thanks for the splendid quote from Frankl which I was not previously aware of, I shall shamelessly repost it as I have a post in waiting about suicide, good deaths and bad deaths and how they feed out into society ...

Anyway thanks for this and for much else besides.