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Suicide Not a Victimless Crime

jadin-bell

In reaction to the tragic case of Jadin Bell, an Oregon teenager who hanged himself after years of taunting by schoolmates for being gay, author and regular OTB commenter Michael Reynolds posted this at his Facebook page:

I don’t understand why it’s okay to condemn a bully but not condemn a suicide. Both may have gotten where they are as a result of abuse. The bully may have (very likely was) beaten or otherwise abused by his parents. And for him we have nothing but condemnation. You rotten little bastard, how dare you! Expel him! Throw him in jail!

The suicide may have gotten where he is because of abuse, and for him we are all very understanding. Poor kid. Blame the bully. Or assume he had clinical depression. Pretend it’s a victimless crime.

Question for the loved ones of suicides: was it a victimless crime?

This is morally indefensible. You cannot condemn a bully who is a bully because he was victimized, and then treat gently a suicide who killed himself because he was victimized. It is morally inconsistent.

I realize this is a complicated gray area, but if a violent person was the victim of abuse, are they not due some compassion? And if a suicide was a victim of abuse, are they not due some measure of condemnation?

The only rational way that I see to approach this issue is to say this: Whatever your reasons, whatever your pain, you have no right to turn your pain into someone else’s pain. That’s what both bully and suicide do: they make their pain into another person’s pain.

Like many people I was sexually abused as a child. I don’t transfer that pain to someone else. I eat it. I make it stop with me. Katherine grew up as a child of an alcoholic. She ate it. She made it stop with her. I think that’s the only morally defensible position to take: whatever the hell happened, it stops here, with me, I do not take it out on innocents.

But we need to say that. We need to take the position that even if you were beaten on, it doesn’t give you license to beat someone else. And even if your life was made hellish by bullies it does not give you the right to punish everyone else by committing suicide. Otherwise things don’t ever get better.

Intellectually, this is almost certainly right. Everybody’s got a certain amount of baggage; we still judge them for their actions. And, while suicide may relieve the pain of the person committing the act, it’s devastating to those left behind, who have to not only deal with the grief of the loss but often guilt over not having done something to prevent it. Indeed, getting back at those who committed a perceived wrong is often a motivation for suicide.

Why, then, do we think of Jadin Bell so differently than we do the bullies who helped drive him to suicide?

First, and most obviously, Bell is himself a victim. He’s dead. To be sure, it was at his own hand. But we naturally have more compassion for someone driven to take his own life than we do those who intentionally harm others.

Second, we tend not to care about the troubled pasts of those who do evil. Indeed, we have little sympathy for them even if they’re severely mentally ill.

Third, and less obviously, there’s a chilling effect based on perceived standing. We’ve shed a lot of pixels over the years, for example, on the “chickenhawk” meme, the notion that those who have never fought in a war—sometimes, a particular war in question—have no right to argue in favor of war. Similarly, many feminists argue men have no standing to oppose abortion rights, on account of we can’t get pregnant.

In this particular case, those of us lucky enough not to have been victims of sexual abuse or subject to severe bullying are quite reluctant to weigh in on how a 15-year-old boy copes with a horrible situation we can’t really fathom. It’s easy to think, “Suck it up and drive on;” it’s harder to say it.

Relatedly (I’m not sure if this is point 4 or 3B) there’s a taboo against “blaming the victim.” Usually, it’s an argument that the completely actions one takes before someone else takes an illegal action can in no way be said to have facilitated or otherwise mitigate the culpability for the criminal act. More broadly, though, there’s an unease in polite circles about directing any criticism at those who qualify for victim status.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. mantis says:

    Fourth: What’s the point in condemning a person dead of suicide? For one thing, the person is dead, and will feel no shame or remorse. Second, he already hated his life so much he was willing to end it. What’s your condemnation going to do? Make him feel worse?

    Yes, committing suicide is a typically selfish act that hurts others, but condemning suicides will not serve any real purpose other than to make those condemning it feel morally superior.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 1

  2. mantis says:

    @mantis:

    That should be “…is typically a selfish act…” instead of “…is a typically selfish act…”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  3. Alanna says:

    At one time, bullies were the leaders in schools. Often popular students with a mean streak. Luckily the views toward bullying are changing, and it’s no longer “cool” to treat another human poorly. I believe that once the stigma of bullying takes hold, it will stop many cycles from repeating, both from offenders and from victims.

    He’s right. We need to stop treating suicide as a victimless crime. I daresay 90% of us know someone that’s taken their own life.

    I am a suicide victim.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  4. Boyd says:

    Michael appears to ignore the difference in intent. The bully intends to harm his victim, where the suicide harms others through neglect. To some degree, that’s got to make a difference.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 0

  5. john personna says:

    I presume that a bullying victim is pain driven, while a bully is cruelty driven. That should pull a different kind of empathy. I say should. I try not to criticize people who exhibit a lack of empathy for suicides, because after all, their walling off of the choice may itself be a defense mechanism.

    Related reading:

    There’s More to Life Than Being Happy, at The Atlantic

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  6. It’s worth noting that, in many case, suicide is often the result of deep and untreated depression or other mental illness. Would you condemn someone who died of cancer? If not, then why condemn a sick person driven to suicide by forces they likely don’t fully understand?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 38 Thumb down 0

  7. Geek, Esq. says:

    Theologically, wasn’t suicide considered worse than murder in some circles (seen as an act of repudiating the God who created you and gave you life)?

    It’s odd–suicides will often think about where to commit suicide (use a gun in the bathroom instead of the living room because it will be easier to clean up) but don’t think about the emotional and psychological damage that will resonate in perpetuity.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  8. @Geek, Esq.:

    A person driven to take their own life is typically not thinking rationally to begin with.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  9. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    It’s worth noting that, in many case, suicide is often the result of deep and untreated depression or other mental illness. Would you condemn someone who died of cancer? If not, then why condemn a sick person driven to suicide by forces they likely don’t fully understand?

    Seconded, thirded, fourthed and fifthed. Well said, Doug.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  10. Geek, Esq. says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    The same could be said for a wide variety of offenses committed directly against others.

    I don’t see a lot to be gained from condemning those who have committed suicide. But, I have had no problem telling loved ones who were talking about it that it’s an act of supreme selfishness. The noblest thing to do in the face of such suffering is continue to live.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  11. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I’d suggest it is a loss of emotion .. hope for the future.

    A healthy human has more unfounded optimism than they need. A suicide as a lack of the same.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  12. john personna says:

    @Geek, Esq.:

    Build their hope and their connection. Also, that Atlantic article says help them find meaning.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  13. Geek, Esq. says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    We do not disagree. It’s easy to judge when we have the good fortune to have our brain chemicals in proper balance, etc.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  14. Rafer Janders says:

    @Geek, Esq.:

    It’s odd–suicides will often think about where to commit suicide (use a gun in the bathroom instead of the living room because it will be easier to clean up) but don’t think about the emotional and psychological damage that will resonate in perpetuity.

    How is that odd? All humans do that to some extent, think of the short term but not the long term. For example, I’ve said things to loved ones in the heat of the moment because of my own selfish frustrations but didn’t think about the emotional and pyschological damage that my words would do in perpetuity. We all inflict both intended and unintentional emotional pain on our loved ones through what we say and do, or don’t say and don’t do.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  15. Rob in CT says:

    Well…

    My 1/2 brother committed suicide. No, it’s not victimless, though I dispute that it should be thought of as a crime. My father was devastated. My brother also had two kids. They’ve turned out fine, but at the time, yeesh.

    So yeah, there was a period of time during which I thought my 1/2 brother had done something quite selfish… cowardly, even. But I barely knew him and I really don’t have the first clue as to what was going on in his head. I was just sad because dad was so sad.

    That said, I see a pretty big distinction between a bully and someone who commits suicide. A big effing distinction.

    So no, I call bullshit on Reynolds here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  16. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Interesting choice of semantics, although I suspect the layers of irony entirely will be lost upon this demographic.

    If suicide is a “crime” that would mean ipso facto attempted suicide also is a crime. I doubt, however, the big thinkers on the Internet would want the government prosecuting attempted suicide. And if suicide is a “crime” that also would mean ipso facto that physician-assisted suicide is a crime. Let’s say young Jadin Bell, rather than hanging himself, immediately upon becoming of legal age, walked into a physician’s office and then paid for and received a physician-assisted suicide. Since that’s “not a victimless crime” should the physician accordingly be prosecuted? Scorned? Sanctioned civilly. Should his licensed be revoked? Should people protest outside of his medical office? And how would that all be kosher, since Oregon voters approved assisted sucide as a state law referendum.

    Of course we could be talking here figuratively and colloquially, not literally. But again it would raise the question of how the left could support such items as assisted suicide and then in the next breath argue that suicide is a figurative crime for which there are victims. And I say all that as someone who supports doctor-assisted suicide.

    Of course the giant screaming neon elephant in the room is abortion.

    A bullied gay kids hangs himself and we should condemn him and the bully, because suicide “is not a victimless crime,” but scraping out a fetus (some would say “person”) is all well and good, even on the public dime, even late in the term. So sayeth the left. I’ve read it. They’ve waved placards and such. And I say all that as someone who’s not even pro life.

    Sometimes — OK, all the time — the liberal complex doesn’t actually think through the ramifications of what they say and think. Ripple effects are not merely for skimmed rocks.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 25

  17. Geek, Esq. says:

    @john personna:

    Done that too. Honestly, whatever it takes to get them past that kind of thinking.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  18. Rafer Janders says:

    @Geek, Esq.:

    The noblest thing to do in the face of such suffering is continue to live.

    So, other people should have to continue to endure horrific pain so you don’t feel bad? That seems rather a lot to ask of another.

    Maybe the noblest thing to do is to be glad their suffering is over.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  19. Geek, Esq. says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    To inconvenience one’s wife by making a mess on the carpet vs making her a widow would seem at first blush to be a very minor deal and the one more prone to be overlooked.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  20. john personna says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    If suicide is a “crime” that would mean ipso facto attempted suicide also is a crime. I doubt, however, the big thinkers on the Internet would want the government prosecuting attempted suicide.

    That would be the whole reason to make suicide a crime, so that attempts can be channeled to mandatory treatment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  21. Rob in CT says:

    the layers of irony

    HOLY SH*T ENOUGH WITH THIS BULLSHIT.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  22. Rob in CT says:

    Hahaha @ me. Asterisk the first one but not the second one?

    All caps really isn’t my thing, I guess.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  23. Rafer Janders says:

    Consider this scenario: your loved one has been in a horrible accident and lingers on, in great pain. There is no hope of a cure, and all they have to look forward to is continued suffering. They tell you that, rather than endure such a terrible life, they have decided to kill themselves.

    Do you then ask them to go on living so that you won’t feel bad? Berate them for being such a selfish jerk and thinking only of themselves rather than of how you’ll feel when they’re gone? Tell them that their suffering and pain is just something they’ll have to learn to live with so as not to burden others?

    I would call that monstrous.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  24. Franklin says:

    @mantis: Fourth: What’s the point in condemning a person dead of suicide?

    Condemning any action is usually intended to tell other people not to do it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  25. Rafer Janders says:

    @Geek, Esq.:

    To inconvenience one’s wife by making a mess on the carpet vs making her a widow would seem at first blush to be a very minor deal and the one more prone to be overlooked.

    It’s what you can control versus what you can’t. The suicide thinks he can’t control living his life. He can control the leaving of it. That’s not completely irrational.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  26. rudderpedals says:

    Link to Michael’s facebook page?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  27. grumpy realist says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: No, the “giant screaming elephant in the room” is NOT abortion. The “giant screaming elephant in the room” is your incessant desire to have control over the bodies of women because you “think it is good for them.”

    If you want to outlaw abortion, then I get dibs on forcing you to donate a kidney or other bodily organ to individuals who needs it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  28. Rob in CT says:

    Taking this step by step:

    if a violent person was the victim of abuse, are they not due some compassion?

    Sure. Not as much compassion as a person they abused to make themselves feel better, though.

    Like many people I was sexually abused as a child. I don’t transfer that pain to someone else. I eat it. I make it stop with me. Katherine grew up as a child of an alcoholic. She ate it. She made it stop with her. I think that’s the only morally defensible position to take: whatever the hell happened, it stops here, with me, I do not take it out on innocents.

    Excellent stuff here. Much respect.

    But we need to say that. We need to take the position that even if you were beaten on, it doesn’t give you license to beat someone else. And even if your life was made hellish by bullies it does not give you the right to punish everyone else by committing suicide. Otherwise things don’t ever get better.

    Well, who says suicide is an appropriate response to bullying? Nobody.

    But here’s the thing: does condemning suicide (or withholding some compassion or whatever Michael is on about here) actually do anything to prevent suicide?

    My limited understanding of this is that someone who is suicidal tends to think they are worthless, that they’re better off dead, that they’re nothing but a negative for those around them… some combo of that. How does trying to shame them help, exactly?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  29. Franklin says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: But again it would raise the question of how the left could support such items as assisted suicide and then in the next breath argue that suicide is a figurative crime for which there are victims.

    So you don’t see the difference between a terminal illness and somebody being (hopefully temporarily) bullied? As always, the irony is actually lost on YOU.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  30. grumpy realist says:

    Sometimes suicide is an act of courage. I hope if I get to the point of knowing that I am going gaga and will be nothing more than a burden on the people around me, that I have the class and dignity and courage to go out walking across the snow and letting myself freeze to death.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  31. Rob in CT says:

    I don’t think we’re talking about the person who decides to fade away at the age of 80 with terminal cancer rather than have chemo.

    We’re talking about young people killing themselves because they’re depressed.

    Right?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  32. michael reynolds says:

    The point of condemning suicide is to use moral suasion to cause second thoughts. People interrupted or frustrated in the act often do not later go through with it. They often find a different path.

    Making clear to a potential suicide that this is not a victimless crime, and that society will see them not as helpless victims but as perpetrators of a hostile, anti-social act adds a level of complexity and nuance that may actually deter some suicides.

    It is not true that all suicides are purely the result of mental illness or clinical depression. Were that the case then all suicides would succeed. And all suicides who made an unsuccessful attempt would later succeed. Suicides can be cries for help, and sometimes they find the help. Suicides can also be dramatic, impulsive gestures by people who have not thought through the consequences.

    We have a lot of history on suicide. Romans killed themselves to preserve their family’s fortune when they ran afoul of an emperor. Japanese kill themselves as a matter of honor after some shame or failure. Suicide bombers do it for politics and religion. Cult members do it to please their cult leader. Sometimes in our society people kill themselves because they’ve suffered financial reverses. There is not a 1 to 1 correlation of suicide to clinical depression or mental illness.

    I feel this is a case where sympathy and understanding can end up being enabling. Suicide rayes are much higher in some western societies than in others. Are we to assume that Kiwi kids are five times as likely to suffer clinical depression as German kids? Obviously there’s something else going on. British kids kill themselves less than Canadian kids. Why? Most likely because of societal attitudes of one type or another.

    In any event, it’s a mistake to believe that we harm a person by telling them that suicide is wrong. On the contrary, we give them one more small weapon in resisting that impulse. We give them a moment of hesitation. As liberal as I am — and God knows as a parent I’m pretty easy-going — I still have the right and obligation t tell my kids that some things are simply wrong.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 4

  33. Mikey says:

    We use the phrase “innocent victim” so frequently, we forget it is not always appropriate. In ending his own pain, Jadin Bell has inflicted unbearable pain on those who loved him. He essentially elevated those who tormented him above those who cared for him.

    Still, it is difficult not to empathize with someone who considered life so irredeemably awful that they engaged in an act of ultimate destruction and selfishness rather than keep on living.

    I was bullied in school, for years. Sometimes I wonder why I didn’t get to the point of suicide. Today, like Michael Reynolds, I “eat it.” I “make it stop with me.” No doubt it influenced who I am today, but I have chosen to let it go.

    But sometimes I wonder if, but for some subtle difference in the structure of my brain, I might have gone down a different path, and made the same awful, destructive, selfish choice Jadin Bell made, that thousands of people make every year.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  34. michael reynolds says:

    @Rob in CT:

    I’m not putting bullies and suicides on an equal plane. I’m saying that if we hold that suicide is “understandable” given bullying, it makes no sense to simply condemn the bully who is driven that that by his own history of abuse.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  35. Rob in CT says:

    Making clear to a potential suicide that this is not a victimless crime, and that society will see them not as helpless victims but as perpetrators of a hostile, anti-social act adds a level of complexity and nuance that may actually deter some suicides.

    Why do you think this is so?

    In any event, it’s a mistake to believe that we harm a person by telling them that suicide is wrong.

    Wait, what? We tell people suicide is wrong now.

    Is your position that sympathy in the aftermath of a suicide is incompatible with a general message that suicide is wrong (and that people will miss you)? I don’t see that it is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  36. michael reynolds says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    In the original Facebook posts I told a kid — and bear in mind, I was talking primarily to kids — that the only situation where suicide is okay is if you’re 80, sick and going down for the count.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  37. Geek, Esq. says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    I wouldn’t say that to a terminally ill person with a crippling disease, sorry if that wasn’t clear.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  38. @grumpy realist:

    I would say that there is a distinction between someone who is otherwise healthy but, due to mental illness or whatever else it might be, commits suicide and someone who is suffering from a terminal illness, in great pain, and wishes to end their life with peace and dignity.

    I don’t think suicide, or attempted suicide, should be a “crime.” I also don’t think that the government forcing someone who attempts suicide into treatment against their will is necessarily a good thing. In the end, it may do more harm than good. So-called “physician assisted suicide,” however, is an entirely different animal and, I would submit, could be seen as the voluntary action of a rational person depending on the circumstances. Once you have a family member or two suffering with a terminal disease and lingering on and on, you tend to view that particular issue differently than you might have before.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  39. Rob in CT says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Ok, it’s possible that I’ve missed something in our culture. I don’t always have my finger on the pulse of popular culture, so this is entirely possible. But last I checked, we do not generally view suicide as “understandable” so much as “tragic.”

    You’re angling for a change in message, but I’m struggling to see what that change is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  40. mantis says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I’m saying that if we hold that suicide is “understandable” given bullying, it makes no sense to simply condemn the bully who is driven that that by his own history of abuse.

    I get what you’re saying, but I think the motivations are very different, even if both behaviors hurt others. A bully intends to hurt others as an outlet for emotions he cannot handle, often caused by abuse he has suffered. A suicide usually does not intend to hurt others (even if he recognizes that he will), and suicide is not an outlet for a troubled mind, but a full and irreversible escape from that mind.

    Yes, suicide should be discouraged, and if doing so by pointing out how much harm it causes to others works, then great. But bullying and suicide, while they may stem from similar causes, are not even close to morally equivalent acts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  41. michael reynolds says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Do we tell people that suicide is wrong? In the case of this individual kid, find me where any of the media reports treated it as a morally reprehensible act. The immediate move is to pin it on the bully. And the bully obviously should be blamed. But there is not even a slight measure of condemnation of the suicide.

    The point is that other kids reading this, reacting to it, see that a kid was viciously mistreated, was a victim, and had no way out other than suicide.

    Is that the message we want to send? That there’s no way out but suicide? Or that no blame can be attached to that separate and discrete act? Without lessening in any way our just condemnation of bullying, do we have to take the next step of effectively endorsing suicide?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  42. Rob in CT says:

    I guess what I’d say is that to the extent that our culture is really generally projecting a message of “suicide is ok” then I also disagree with that (I do not think this is actually so, though).

    Where I come from, it’s more like this:

    - suicide is not a good choice. Your whole life is ahead of you, etc, etc.
    - your family and friends will be very sad
    - if you feel *that* sad, gosh talk to someone… there are things that can be done to help
    - bullying is horrible.

    If I’m wrong, and the above is not the message, generally, then ok, perhaps some pushback is required.

    By the way, regarding “hey, think about those who will be sad when you off yourself” … I suspect a certain % of suicides, particularly of the impulsive variety, might be angling for that (they’ll miss me when I’m gone!). That’s PUMA, though (pulled-out-of-my-…).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  43. C. Clavin says:

    “…I suspect the layers of irony entirely will be lost upon this demographic…”

    I’d call Tsar a stupid f’er…but it would be an insult to stupid f’ers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  44. mantis says:

    @michael reynolds:

    the only situation where suicide is okay is if you’re 80, sick and going down for the count.

    What about Hunter Thompson?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  45. Ben says:

    I have to disagree with Michael and the main point here. Boyd nailed it: intent matters. I was bullied mercilessly growing up, and I knew the bullies very well. They did it because they intended to hurt me. They were cruel, vicious people who took out whatever neuroses they had inside them out on other people.

    People who commit suicide largely do so to end their suffering. The fact that their loved ones are harmed by it, is incidental to the act. It certainly isn’t the intent of the act itself. In the rare cases where someone commits suicide with the intent of harming their loved ones, then the loved ones are almost certainly the cause of the pain the person committing suicide is trying to escape, in which case, I would find it difficult to consider them victims.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  46. michael reynolds says:

    Something needs to be made clear here: we will never eradicate evil. People will always encounter some cruelty. So the solution that goes, “Let’s make the world perfect,” is a non-starter. We need to work to make the world better, and we also need to teach kids to survive, however hard that is. Because alive and depressed still allows for hope, and dead doesn’t.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  47. Rob in CT says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The media reports tend to condemn the bully and then discuss the pain of the family/friends of the person who killed themselves. Which seems to incorporate, at least partly, what you’re talking about.

    You want to stiffen the message by including a condemnation of the suicide itself…

    Hmm. I’m trying to figure out how a reporter would go about writing that up well.

    I think the best angle would be to really play up the family/friend suffering, and let the reader draw his or her own conclusions accordingly.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  48. Rob in CT says:

    Thinking back to my 1/2 brother…

    He was depressed. He saw people for it. He had meds (prozac, yay). He had 2 kids, and there is simply no way a grown ass man doesn’t know that if he kills himself his 10/12 yr old children will be torn up about it (particularly when he had to know that his wife was mentally ill as well… and an alcoholic who as it turns out lasted maybe 2 years more, leaving the 2 kids orphaned). He knew.

    And still, throwing himself off the George Washington Bridge was the choice he made. I don’t know exactly why (apparently there was a note, but my side of the family was never allowed to see it). But I rather doubt stronger condemnation of the act would’ve prevented it.

    And yes, I know. That’s 1 case, and Michael is talking about trying to lower the incidence of the act generally (or specifically, within fairly young people, whereas my brother was in his 30s).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  49. michael reynolds says:

    @Rob in CT:

    I want to say that committing suicide is morally wrong. That it is not a victimless crime.

    Also that it’s stupid. That if you think you have to kill yourself at age 15 or 16 it’s because you lack perspective. Yes, I understand that of course kids lack perspective as a matter of course. So do most adults.

    The point is that if you want to stop a behavior, you deploy all your tools. Of course it goes without saying that we should come down very hard on bullying. Yes, it goes without saying that we should destigmatize mental illness, depression, etc… and get people help. We’ve been doing all that to some extent, and the youth suicide rate remains pretty level.

    One of the tools we have as adults is moral standard. Saying something is wrong. I’m sorry, but we don’t say that in secular society, we don’t say killing yourself is simply morally unacceptable. We have a right to say that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  50. Rob in CT says:

    One more thought, then I should stop blabbling for a bit:

    Surely, the main problem remains the bullying. This is a little bit like telling the woman who was raped that she made poor choices that made her more vulnerable (often true, but rather besides the point – the rapist seeks out the soft target, and there will likely always be vulnerable people).

    So, stiff upper lip! Don’t let the bully get you down. Dude… the bully has homed in on the victim of his/her abuse precisely because the victim doesn’t do that well. Believe me, I know. I must’ve had a giant red bullseye on my back. Telling me to shrug it off didn’t do shit. But then I never got suicidal, so…

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  51. Rob in CT says:

    I agree that it’s morally wrong. If this is actually disputed, I’m on your side.

    I also agree it’s not a victimless act (I do dispute “crime”, but that’s semantics).

    So perhaps we agree more than we disagree.

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  52. mantis says:

    @Rob in CT:

    So perhaps we agree more than we disagree.

    Hey, this is the Internet. That sort of thing is not allowed.

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  53. michael reynolds says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Absolutely the essential problem is the bullying. No question.

    Before that sad, probably scared little kid killed himself he would have circled around the idea a few times. It would have been in his head for a while. I’m sure there were people who told him to tough it out. And others probably told him to get help. Others probably gave him what they thought was pragmatic advice: try to fit in, or however it would have been phrased.

    Did anyone say, “What you’re thinking about is wrong. It’s morally unacceptable. It will be turning your pain into other people’s pain. You’ll be hurting other people because you hurt and that’s never going to be okay.”

    And did anyone say, “By the way, you’re likely to live 100 years and high school is 4% of that. You’ll suffer the tortures of the damned for four years, but then you’ll walk out of that place, move out of town, make a whole new life, and live to tell the tale, so it would be kinda stupid to kill yourself?”

    Obviously I don’t know. We’re speculating here. But if the goal is to stop kids from killing themselves, shouldn’t we try all the tools at our disposal, and not become so focused on the bully that we are unable to call the suicide a cruel and immoral act? If it’s my kids, or your kids, and we’ve done all we can about the bullying, and we’ve done all we can on the counseling end of things, can we not say, “This would be reprehensible and foolish?’

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  54. Rob in CT says:

    @mantis:

    Shouldn’t you be condemning my act? I doubt it’s victimless! Cats and Dogs living together… mass hysteria! Basically the worst parts of the Bible.

    [Happy Hour cannot come soon enough]

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  55. Rob in CT says:

    Michael,

    I agree with much of what you’re saying. I remember from my time in highschool that those sorts of things (holy crap, highschool isn’t forever! others will be hurt, you know!) WERE said. I don’t recall exactly who said ‘em. Might’ve been me, after the loss of my brother. It wasn’t coming down from on high, but then that sort of messaging doesn’t work all that well. The best is peer-to-peer. And at least amongst my group, there was an understanding that suicide was a poor choice (whole life ahead!) and hurt others.

    Yet people still do it. I’m suggesting that they do in spite of knowing these things full well.

    Perhaps there is research on this we should consider?

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  56. Rafer Janders says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Do we tell people that suicide is wrong? In the case of this individual kid, find me where any of the media reports treated it as a morally reprehensible act.

    Treating something as wrong and treating it as morally reprehensible are two entirely different things. Suicide may be wrong (or it may not be, depending on the individual circumstance) but it is not morally reprehensible per se.

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  57. bernieyeball says:

    Whatever your reasons, whatever your pain, you have no right to turn your pain into someone else’s pain.

    I wish I would have said those words 40 years ago to my friend John. Maybe he would be alive today. There is no way for me to know.
    At 22 he was a couple of years younger than me and a damn fine human being.
    A few months before he died his girlfriend had left him. They had met in High School.
    She told me he had threatened suicide and was worried about it. I told her he wouldn’t do it.
    I remember him saying the same thing to me while we were drinking at one of our local swill holes.
    I laughed. “You will not…” I said.
    A few days later he put the wrong end of a .22 rifle in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
    Pain! Jesus!
    I remember meeting his sister and mother for the first time at the funeral home. I can still see the utter despair on their faces when they asked me why he did it.
    I can still hear her wails of agony as his ex-girlfriend cried out his name as she was literally pulled off of his casket at the graveyard.
    There were probably a dozen of us friends of his there at the time and we were all devastated by what he did.
    His former girlfriend was smart enough to get professional help. Even with that she was an emotional trainwreck for far too long.

    …..
    The only time after John’s death that I ever had someone say to me “I’m going to kill myself” was a few years later. It was an acquaintance more than a friend.
    All I remember saying was something like “Well, we like having you around.” Don’t really know how serious he was but I do know I saw him out and about for several more years.

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  58. swbarnes2 says:

    Did anyone say, “What you’re thinking about is wrong. It’s morally unacceptable. It will be turning your pain into other people’s pain. You’ll be hurting other people because you hurt and that’s never going to be okay.”

    I think you are conflating two rather different things into one, using “hurt” to mean two rather different things. You are lumping the loss that friends and family will feel with the hurt the victim receivers, and they aren’t the same. The bully is violating the victim by forcing interactions on someone who doesn’t consent to them. But you can’t say that the suicide violates the consent of this family by killing herself. That’s just nuts. That’s not something which the friends and family have a right to demand. You might argue that a dependent, like a child, can demand this, but that’s not relevant here.

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  59. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    If not, then why condemn a sick person driven to suicide by forces they likely don’t fully understand?

    My cousin Bob was always a little off. When he came back from ‘Nam he was a lot off. PTSD, drugs, etc. When his father died and was buried before Bob even knew he was gone,(he’d been on another bender) I suspect it was the last straw of guilt and Bob just could not handle any more.

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  60. Jen says:

    Michael, is your argument something along the lines of the message of the movie Heathers, where suicide became the “in” thing to do because kids saw how much sympathy was expended to the victims?

    Because that’s about the only thing I see as logic for the argument to treat a suicide as anything but tragic. I think the sympathy expressed after the fact is for those who remain. A person who is considering suicide, for whatever reason, is thinking about their own pain–and, this is important–they generally believe that despite the short-term pain they may cause others (family, friends) that those people will be better off in the long run without them.

    The timing of this is discussion is interesting for me. I lost a friend to suicide two years ago this month.

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  61. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I feel this is a case where sympathy and understanding can end up being enabling.

    My 2nd experience with suicide involved a buddy of mine named Steve. Over the years he slowly slid into alcoholism. That combined with his naturally depressive state (one that I am on a first name basis with) led him to the eventual threat of suicide. I organized an “intervention” and 3 of us got together with Steve and put an end to that. But it didn’t stop his drinking and within 6 months he was at it again.

    Fast forward a couple years. I run into his girlfriend at a bar and she is crying. “Steve’s going to kill himself.” she said. I was so pissed off at him, looking at her devastation, I just wanted to hunt him down, put a gun in his hand and help him pull the trigger.

    Instead I said, “No he’s not.” I’d had it with all the bullsh!t. I didn’t care anymore. If Steve came into a room, I left, unless he saw me first and then he left first.

    He did, eventually try to commit suicide with a garden hose to the cab of his truck. The cop said it was an honest to God attempt at suicide, but I can not believe that it was ever anything more than another pathetic attempt to put himself back at the center of the universe.

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  62. jd says:

    The best part of blaming the victim is that you don’t have to look any further for causes or work any harder to prevent it.

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  63. michael reynolds says:

    @swbarnes2:

    But you can’t say that the suicide violates the consent of this family by killing herself.

    Sorry, that’s not true. You can say exactly that. I happen to have a 15 year-old, a son with whom I have spent a great deal of time, lavished love, spent money. He’s a member of a family, he’s not an island, he’s our son and his sister’s brother and of course he has an obligation not to destroy our lives.

    In fact, this is exactly the kind of unspoken societal assumption I’m talking about. A child doesn’t have an obligation not to destroy his family? The hell he doesn’t.

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  64. grumpy realist says:

    I’m on the exact opposite side of the spectrum. Probably because I lived in Japan so long. For me, suicide can often be an extremely moral act, and sometimes, the expected moral act. If you’re the CEO of a company like Enron, I’d prefer you realize your moral turpitude and kill yourself rather than playing catch-as-catch can with the Feds. (Ditto for ex-governors of Illinois named Blago.)

    If suicide were the expected result of fraud, embezzlement, or similar crimes, maybe CEOs wouldn’t be tempted so much….

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  65. michael reynolds says:

    @jd:

    Can you point to where I “blamed the victim?”

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  66. michael reynolds says:

    @Jen:

    I think the sympathy expressed after the fact is for those who remain.

    I’m not talking about attacking the suicide or failing to feel sorry for him. What happened to this young man is horrible. The effect on his family is horrible. Of course we all feel sympathy, we’d be inhuman not to.

    But this isn’t a zero-sum game. We can feel and express nuanced emotions. We can say that the bullies involved are morally culpable in this death. We can say that we feel terribly sorry that we failed to protect this boy. And we can say that suicide is wrong, unacceptable, and foolish.

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  67. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @michael reynolds:

    “By the way, you’re likely to live 100 years and high school is 4% of that. You’ll suffer the tortures of the damned for four years, but then you’ll walk out of that place, move out of town, make a whole new life, and live to tell the tale, so it would be kinda stupid to kill yourself?”

    I think this is where you are missing it Michael. To a sixteen yr old sophomore 4 years is not 4% of their life, it’s a full one quarter of their life. The pain they are feeling is not something that is passing, it is something that is getting worse. You can tell them suicide is morally wrong, but if you can’t tell them how to end the bullying, I don’t think it is going to help.

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  68. michael reynolds says:

    I think in the end these efforts to call this problem A or B but never C – unconscious, I don’t mean that they are intended — just put a difficult problem in a box where it’s easy to forget.

    People are arguing simultaneously that teen suicide is all about mental illness and all about bullying. Sorry, but it’s not that simple. We have taken steps against bullying. We have provided counselors. We should do more, but the world cannot be made entirely easy or entirely kind.

    So, given that evil will continue to exist in the world, and given that a century from now, despite all our good and just efforts there will still be bullies and thugs, how do we keep vulnerable kids from killing themselves?

    This is a function that used to be served by religion. Some things need to be a sin. Not illegal, but wrong. Not just a symptom of mental disorder, but wrong. Not because we want to stigmatize desperate kids but because we don’t want them to kill themselves.

    A bunch of “don’t blame the victim” blather is just self-congratulatory. It’s facile. Just as it’s facile to say, “Oh, they were bullied,” or “Oh, they were depressed.” Grant that they were bullied, grant that they were depressed. How do you stop the kid from killing himself?

    Is it the position of all above me on this thread that moral suasion has absolutely no effect on a potential suicide? Really? Because I can cite lot of cases of devout Christians in terrible pain who begged for death and yet would not take their own lives for fear of God’s damnation. They believed suicide to be a sin. They believed if they took their own lives they would burn in hell.

    Well, religion doesn’t hold the sway it used to, and I for one am glad. But we still need to be able to tell young people that some things are simply wrong, no matter the excuse, no matter the circumstance, wrong. Do you tell your kids it’s wrong to use a racial slur unless they’re really provoked? Do you tell them it’s wrong to beat someone up unless they’re really angry? No. You tell them those things are wrong. We tell them you may never do those things. Period.

    And yes, believe it or not, telling kids a thing is wrong sometimes works.

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  69. michael reynolds says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    To a sixteen yr old sophomore 4 years is not 4% of their life, it’s a full one quarter of their life.

    Yes, that’s why we teach them that no it is not. This is why we as adults put it into perspective. Because we do understand and they don’t. Isn’t that our core job as parents?

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  70. michael reynolds says:

    What’s surreal here is that I’m an atheist, have been one for longer than many of you have been alive (I was one before it was cool) and I’m way far to the left on social issues, and yet I’m the one arguing for a moral standard that is clearly expressed.

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  71. Rob in CT says:

    That shouldn’t be surreal at all. I’m an atheist, but I absolutely have a moral code. Atheist != amoral.

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  72. john personna says:

    @this:

    What was that, a vote against mandatory treatment for attempted suicides? A vote for life, liberty, and the pursuit of anti-happiness?

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  73. john personna says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Secular humanists gotta hate … no, that’s not right …

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  74. Jeremy says:

    When I was 17, my best friend in the whole wide world, a rather eccentric guy, went into his basement while his family was sleeping and blew his head off with a shotgun. His family had no idea until hours later when his mother, after just waking up, stumbled into the basement looking for him.

    Yes, they slept through a shotgun blast. It’s a very weird, and very traumatized, family.

    I cannot think of condemning my friend. Although I think he made the wrong choice, he was dealing with depression and mental illness, and he had a family that also was full of mental illness, as well as just bad attitudes. So I too, call bs on Reynolds.

    I’m also a little surprised at the sexual abuse thing. I see a lot of people say they were sexually abused online. I hear all the time about this in fiction, which I figure is because it’s edgy or whatever, but I’m still shocked when I hear it in real life. I have to ask, is everybody sexually abused? I certainly haven’t, and I’ve never met anyone who has been. Yet I hear life and right about this, and I have to wonder if all of its real or if a good chunk of it is made up. I’m certainly not here to cast aspersions on Reynolds–I take him at his word–but something does not make sense.

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  75. Jeremy says:

    @michael reynolds: There are instances of religious humanism and religious naturalism, so religion does not, per se, require unscientific belief in an omnipotent deity. Maybe that’s what we need? To hold human life paramount, not because of god’s wrath, but because life itself is the highest value?

    Whoa, got a little Randian there…

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  76. Jeremy says:

    @michael reynolds: I have to agree with barnes here. Ultimately, individuals own themselves and their lives. To enslave them to others–even their families!–is immoral and wrong. Just wrong.

    I’m not endorsing suicide. I’m not saying that it should be the first thing to do. I’m not saying that the person in question should disregard his family’s feelings. But, at the end of the day, who owns that life? Who is the only one with the right to make decisions about that life, including ending it? The person living it. No one else.

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  77. michael reynolds says:

    @Jeremy:

    Since there’s obviously no profit for me in claiming something that didn’t happen, yes, you should take my word for it. It was a “family friend,” he’s dead, so I’m not looking for anything. And believe me: you have met people who were molested.

    As for us all belonging solely to ourselves, that’s bull. Your position is that we owe our parents or families nothing? Then does that mean I owe my kids nothing?

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  78. PD Shaw says:

    I think michael has written a nice, thoughtful posting.

    In the end, Jadin Bell did not act like an autonomous individual, but more like a frog being prodded by electrodes brought to bear on him by hostile or impersonal forces. He lost and they won. We shouldn’t treat suicide as some triumph of individual choice, particularly when your responding to externalities. He had choices and he made the wrong one.

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  79. swbarnes2 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    What’s surreal here is that I’m an atheist, have been one for longer than many of you have been alive (I was one before it was cool) and I’m way far to the left on social issues, and yet I’m the one arguing for a moral standard that is clearly expressed.

    “If my daughter commits adultery, I should cut her throat” is a clearly expressed moral sentiment. That doesn’t make it really moral.

    And what you are arguing isn’t that far away from that. You are arguing that, in the end, a person’s life is not theirs to live. You are arguing that there is no such thing as a personal decision, because everything a person might do might disappoint someone else.

    What are you arguing is the moral difference between a kid who commits suicide because of bullying, a kid who runs away from home and never comes back because of bullying, and a person who commits suicide because of, say advanced MS?

    I would argue that in all three of those cases, a person has to be allowed to do what they want with their life, and the mere feelings of other people can’t be more important than that personal autonomy. But you seem to disagree.

    What if the family says “Never come out of the closet, you can’t choose to destroy our lives by doing that”. Or “You can’t have this baby as a teenager, you can’t be allowed to destroy our lives like that”? When does a person get to make decisions about their own life that ones family and friends disapprove of?

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  80. Unsympathetic says:

    Abandonment / neglect is also a sexual abuse from one or both parents. It doesn’t require touching – because the child is a substitute for unfulfilled needs.

    I don’t think the OP touches on the crux of the issue. Make no mistake, being that person to swallow the abuse of generations of people who aren’t strong enough to stand up.. takes an incredible amount of internal fortitude. But that just gets the person from negative to zero.

    So how do we get past the original tragedy? Unfortunately, there’s exactly one answer: Love.

    Cliche? Yes. But true. And the further reality: You won’t know the true story of people around you unless you invest mass quantities of time in them to establish trust. But that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve compassion.

    Unless, of course, they’re a Republican.

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  81. Mikey says:

    @michael reynolds:

    As for us all belonging solely to ourselves, that’s bull. Your position is that we owe our parents or families nothing? Then does that mean I owe my kids nothing?

    If you don’t belong solely to yourself, then to whom else do you belong, and how much of you belongs to them?

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  82. Rafer Janders says:

    @michael reynolds:

    What’s surreal here is that I’m an atheist, have been one for longer than many of you have been alive (I was one before it was cool) and I’m way far to the left on social issues, and yet I’m the one arguing for a moral standard that is clearly expressed.

    Um, what the hell is surreal about that? Are you imagining some sort of contradiction between atheism and clear moral standards, or between liberal social views and clear moral standards???

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  83. Rafer Janders says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I happen to have a 15 year-old, a son with whom I have spent a great deal of time, lavished love, spent money. He’s a member of a family, he’s not an island, he’s our son and his sister’s brother and of course he has an obligation not to destroy our lives. In fact, this is exactly the kind of unspoken societal assumption I’m talking about. A child doesn’t have an obligation not to destroy his family? The hell he doesn’t.

    So say that I happen to have a 15 year-old, a son with whom I have spent a great deal of time, lavished love, spent money. He’s a member of a family, he’s not an island, he’s our son and his sister’s brother and of course he has an obligation not to destroy our lives by coming out as gay and flouting the entire religious structure upon which we’ve built our family.

    In fact, this is exactly the kind of unspoken societal assumption I’m talking about. A child doesn’t have an obligation not to destroy his family by choosing to be gay, when he could instead suppress these urges and marry a woman and have kids with her instead? The hell he doesn’t.

    So how is the above any different?

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  84. Rafer Janders says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Your position is that we owe our parents or families nothing? Then does that mean I owe my kids nothing?

    No, that’s not it at all. But we don’t owe them everything.

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  85. anjin-san says:

    @ Jeremy

    Someone very close to me was sexually abused as a child. Two teachers from my childhood went to prison for sexually abusing students. Believe me, it happens.

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  86. DMan says:

    So say that I happen to have a 15 year-old, a son with whom I have spent a great deal of time, lavished love, spent money. He’s a member of a family, he’s not an island, he’s our son and his sister’s brother and of course he has an obligation not to destroy our lives by coming out as gay and flouting the entire religious structure upon which we’ve built our family.

    In fact, this is exactly the kind of unspoken societal assumption I’m talking about. A child doesn’t have an obligation not to destroy his family by choosing to be gay, when he could instead suppress these urges and marry a woman and have kids with her instead? The hell he doesn’t.

    So how is the above any different?

    Been following this thread and thought I’d take a stab at this one.

    If you wouldn’t try to stop a family member from being gay, but would try to stop a family member from killing themselves, then you can see there is a distinction between these two examples.

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  87. Rafer Janders says:

    @DMan:

    If you wouldn’t try to stop a family member from being gay, but would try to stop a family member from killing themselves, then you can see there is a distinction between these two examples.

    For me, yes. But there are others who would try to stop a family member from being gay. In more, let’s say “traditional” cultures, there are even people who will kill a family member for being gay, or if they’re a girl for having sex before marriage, or even for being raped or otherwise “dishonoring” the family. They believe that the person’s life is not theirs to live as an autonomous human being, but that that life belongs first and foremost to the family instead.

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  88. DMan says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    For me, yes.

    So you see the distinction then. The two are not the same in how they affect a family.

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  89. michael reynolds says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    The fact is life and morality and obligation are complicated and inevitably on shifting ground. The urge is to want to simplify the equation by imposing some across the board rule like, “I am a rock, I am an island.” I don’t think that attitude is sustainable.

    Families exist. Families impose certain obligations. Those obligations vary by family and may change over time. But to maintain that a child owes his family nothing is to argue that the family should cease to exist. No set of obligations is uni-directional. If I owe my son or daughter, then they owe me.

    Even setting aside family obligations, you may not cause terrible pain to other people if there is any alternative.

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  90. michael reynolds says:

    @Unsympathetic:

    So how do we get past the original tragedy? Unfortunately, there’s exactly one answer: Love.

    Yes. Nothing cliche about it.

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  91. michael reynolds says:

    @swbarnes2:

    And what you are arguing isn’t that far away from that. You are arguing that, in the end, a person’s life is not theirs to live. You are arguing that there is no such thing as a personal decision, because everything a person might do might disappoint someone else.

    No. You’re looking for a simple answer and life isn’t simple. Life is not zero-sum: either you get the pie or I get the pie, but we can’t both have pie. Life, properly lived, is pie for everyone.

    Yes, you have a right to make decisions. No, you don’t have a right to do so with callous disregard for others. Of course you have to consider other people. Does that mean you can never do what you want? No, because those other people also have an obligation to you. So you work through things.

    This is why we are not replaceable by computers: life is shades of gray, nuance, balance, complexity.

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  92. Pharoah Narim says:

    I’m with Reynolds on this one. There IS a “martyr” sentiment attached to child suicides especially when it is a LGTB child. People light candles and bemoan the cold, cold, world that drove them to end it all while sprinkling in a bit of deification of the memory of departed soul. There’s imagery of peace and angels associated with them. In a sense, there is cultural acceptance of his final decision in practice. This could be very attractive to someone depressed and feeling worthless–their oppressors become demonized and they themselves gain emotional value to people in death… a win win in its own twisted way. Personally, I think they are cowards. My heart breaks for their families but not so much for them. Life is tough and can (and will) change for better or worse in the twinkling of the eye. One guarantees the other. Night guarantees day, spring guarantees fall and vice versa. You just have to trust the natural cycles of the universe and wait it out.

    Where I live there is a rather tall bridge and a handful of people try to end it all by jumping off. Its about 60 ft down so the ones that don’t wait to be talked down usually succeed but one or two survive impact and pop to the top quick enough to be found and saved. To a person: EVERYONE KNEW IT WAS A BAD IDEA AS SOON AS THEY LEFT THE RAILING—but it was too late. After the physical rehab they were forced to deal with the problems that drove them to the bridge in the first place. The could have done that in the first place without having to get lucky and survive a suicide attempt.

    Life is often contradictions wrapped in paradox. We didn’t make personal decisions to embark upon this life so why should we get a personal decision to leave it? Most of us were greeted at our debuts with overwhelming joy–where is the equilibrium in leaving never-ending pain in our departures? Conversely, the human soul is endowed with the concept of freedom of which we must doggedly pursue–but also limit, discipline, and control in order to experience that aspiration more fully.

    Ultimately, we have to start teaching people to now allow mental cases and a$$holes to have power over them through their words. Why should I care what a$$hole or a unbalanced person thinks? Is that the sort of person that I want to add weight to their words? In other words “Sticks and stones….” Im a couple decades out from high school but I still can relate to the pressure and longing to fit in and be liked. I didn’t as much as I like but what kept me going was I knew that time would take care of “cool” kids. The qualities that make you cool amongst teenagers are worthless amongst adults and in the real world. Consequently, I enjoyed the smell of my own smug when the time came that these former “cool” kids were dealing my cards at the blackjack table, serving my food, dancing in my lap, or trying to come home with me after the nightclub ended. Life works like a pendulum, extremes trigger correction. As the Dao teaches: All things in moderation–except moderation.

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  93. Rafer Janders says:

    @DMan:

    So you see the distinction then. The two are not the same in how they affect a family.

    Well, no, I don’t think you read or understood what I wrote. They are not the same in how they would affect my family. There are other families who would make the opposite calculus, would rather have a suicide in the family than have someone come out as gay, have an affair, etc.

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  94. Rafer Janders says:

    @DMan:

    If you wouldn’t try to stop a family member from being gay, but would try to stop a family member from killing themselves, then you can see there is a distinction between these two examples.

    There are many things I might try to stop a loved one from doing but that I would otherwise recognize that they had a moral and personal right to do as their ultimate decision.

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  95. des says:

    @michael reynolds: That is the one scary view of being a parent. I guess you think you own your son? He’s there only to make YOU happy and not sad. Children are not toys you buy at a toy store.

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  96. des says:

    @Mikey: If you happen to be Michael Reynolds’ children you belong to him, obviously, and must never do things that will make him sad or “destroy his family.”

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  97. michael reynolds says:

    @des:

    Do me a favor and actually read what I wrote before attempting moronic reductio ad absurdem arguments.

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  98. jd says:

    @jd: Can you point to where I “blamed the victim?”

    @michael reynolds: “Is that the message we want to send? That there’s no way out but suicide? Or that no blame can be attached to that separate and discrete act?”

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  99. Jennifer R says:

    It’s been said before but I’ll repeat it: if laws and punishment worked to prevent crime, then there would be no repeat offenders. In fact, if laws and the threat of punishment worked, there would be no offenders, period, because just the fear of possible punishment would be enough. Condemning suicide will not prevent it. Maybe the same might be said of bullying, though? Maybe in both cases it might be better to look at the cause(s) which often include depression and abuse. When you hurt so much you want to kill yourself, it’s pretty obvious. But when you hurt so much you want to hurt others, it’s not so obvious.

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