Bridge To Nowhere

It’s almost impossible for me to comprehend the insane grief a family experiences when one of their members suddenly dies. When that death comes through suicide or homicide, the agony is no doubt compounded many times over. (Thankfully, sudden deaths have been rare in my family.) Two stories from today’s news provide a glimpse into bewildering family tragedies that might have been prevented.

AP Photo/Eric Risberg
AP Photo/Eric Risberg

Most people who ordinarily pay attention to the news are aware of the decision today to move forward on a $76 million funding package to wrap the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge in a suicide prevention net. Hoping to stanch the bleeding (figuratively) − after some 1600 people have leapt to their deaths since the bridge opened more than 75 years ago − the people of San Francisco believe a wide net will dissuade further suicides. While the work won’t be completed until 2018, proponents of the barrier believe people will stop jumping.

As with almost any issue, there are opponents of the project who argue the barrier will detract from the beauty of this amazing structure. One commenter noted this is “spend[ing] money on forcing people to be alive.” Another observes “A safety net … won’t prevent someone from taking too many pills or stepping in front of a train.” Indeed, a barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge-way won’t eliminate all suicides.

I mentioned two stories from today’s news. The second involves a 22-month-old toddler who died after being left buckled into his car seat for seven or eight hours while his daddy worked. (The toddler’s death actually occurred last week.) The child’s father has been charged with murder but people who know this family have expressed their incredulity that the father has been blamed for the toddler’s death. (The facts, of course, have yet to be adjudicated, and the man should be presumed innocent.)

Whether we’re discussing suicide or homicide, these tales cause me to contemplate the senseless destruction of life that happens in our world today, but also goes all the way back to the First Family … Adam and Eve and their offspring. Cain killed Abel in a senseless act motivated by jealousy, nothing more. (While Cain’s rage was directed against his brother, Cain was actually angry with God.)

Think for a moment about the two recent news stories and consider the ironies. A car seat, the mandated means to keep a child protected while riding in a vehicle, ends up being the device that hastens his demise. The Golden Gate Bridge, a manmade structure that speaks to man’s ingenuity and can-do spirit, becomes the scene for desperate individuals who’ve hopelessly relinquished their can-do spirit in favor of one final and audacious act.

There’s a common misconception today that if we can make our environment safer, these needless deaths can be eliminated. At all levels, the government adds more and more layers of regulation to save us from ourselves. There are laws against smoking, drinking, doing drugs, motorcycle and bike riding without a helmet (in some states), hang tags on all sorts of products, warning statements on others and the list goes on. People who’ve experienced a tragedy are often first in line to insist on new regulations to govern this or that “dangerous” action or product.

It seems to me we’ve arrived at the point where people accept they’re incapable of using ordinary common sense to assess everyday dangers; they’ve become so dependent on government to filter out the dangers, they no longer understand how to measure it for themselves! It’s impossible and ridiculous to attempt insulating everyone against everything, but that’s where we’re headed.

Don’t get me wrong. I sympathize with the families whose loved ones have chosen to jump from the Golden Gate Bridge. But what’s next? Grounding airplanes because people sometimes die in airplane crashes? Putting a speed governor on automobiles so their top speed is 45 mph? Removing electrical outlets from homes and businesses because people occasionally die from electrocution? Implementing all of these safety measures would save lives, right?

AP Photo/Eric Risberg
AP Photo/Eric Risberg

When my children were small, I reminded them often:  life is hard, there are dangers involved, but risks can be mitigated by learning to think critically and applying common sense.

Wrapping everyone and everything within some kind of safety net is far from practical … and what kind of existence would that be?

… And for anyone who has come to an inconsolably desperate place where the only seeming alternative is one’s suicide or someone else’s homicide, please consider that as long as life remains, there is hope. Numerous people who once contemplated dire action have come back from the brink to resume normal and happy lives.

It takes courage to choose life. Don’t ever close the door on HOPE.

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