Rubberneck Culture

An accident occurs along the interstate. Usually on an interstate, metal-colliding-with-metal is going to happen at a high rate of speed, thus increasing the likelihood of injury and/or death. Whether it’s a simple fender-bender or a more serious multi-car pileup with injuries and even fatalities, most drivers respond in a predictable manner.

automobile accident, 1929
FROM: http://www.vintag.es/2013/04/an-automobile-accident-1929.html

They react with natural but morbid curiosity. They will avert their eyes from the road to see what has happened. In such instances (even for accidents that occur across the median) normal interstate traffic chokes to a crawl. Like sick voyeurs, we find our eyes irresistibly drawn to the misfortunes (perhaps even bloody misfortunes) of others.

I wonder about this rubbernecking of culture. The death of Robin Williams (see yesterday’s post here) was only the latest example of this phenomenon. First, we had the 24/7 media storm. Not just the simple fact that Williams was dead, but instant retrospectives appeared, featuring his life and artistic portfolio, even online photo displays of the inside of his home. There was an intensity in the examination that felt creepy … almost as if his underwear drawer had been laid bare for public scrutiny. Continue reading “Rubberneck Culture”

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Goodbye, Peter Pan

Suicide is never noble!

Let me repeat. Suicide. Is. Never. Noble. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever!

"Robin Williams 2011a (2)" by Eva Rinaldi → Flickr: Robin Williams - →This file has been extracted from another image: File:Robin Williams 2011a.jpg.. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Robin_Williams_2011a_(2).jpg#mediaviewer/File:Robin_Williams_2011a_(2).jpg
FROM: http://tiny.cc/xehikx

The individual may be a supposedly devout Muslim and ardent follower of the radical Al-Qaeda who is perversely motivated by the promise of 72 virgins for dying a so-called martyr’s death.

Or the individual may be a celebrated comic, actor and all-around good guy as Robin Williams appears to have been.

Whatever the person’s status, religious conviction or seemingly hopeless conditions might be, not one of these reasons (in my view) justifies self-murder. And I say it again for emphasis:  No death by suicide should be considered a noble act … ever!

Am I being harsh? I don’t think so. I’ve posted about suicide before (here, here, here, among others). My thoughts on the subject should be clear to anyone who reads those posts. Most people who know me would probably agree I’m compassionate and have a deep well of empathy. But I’m also acutely pragmatic. Continue reading “Goodbye, Peter Pan”

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.) Continue reading “Bridge To Nowhere”

Suicide Note, A Sonnet

Power of WordsIt should go without saying, but I’ll emphasize the point here:  poems (and stories) don’t spring out of thin air, but the poet doesn’t necessarily speak (via a poem) from personal experience. In my creative process, poems generate from somewhere deep within my psyche and they reflect my observations as well as an internal dialogue in which I engage. Often, I’m writing about situations I’ve witnessed secondhand. When my brain reacts, my heart frequently empathizes. Even when I’m just a bystander, events can have a forceful effect on me.

Such was the case when I wrote the following sonnet. The poem (written in the early 80s) practically wrote itself. It was at a time when several people close to me were going through divorce. I was stunned to realize the impact of divorce isn’t just felt by the couple and their offspring.

The poem was published in the annual publication of Poems by Poets’ Roundtable of Arkansas 1984 and won third place in the annual contest sponsored for this publication. Following the book’s publication, one of my dear friends (also a poet) called on me, greatly concerned to know if “everything is okay.” She thought the poem was too real. Was this a cry for help? she wondered.

Of course, it’s great to have such good friends and I would hope anyone in desperate need has a friend, like mine, willing to ask the important, life-affirming questions. [And God forbid, please don’t construe from this sonnet that I condone suicide! As long as there is life, there’s HOPE!]

This isn’t a poem you enjoy, but neither is the death of a marriage. Your comments are always welcome.

Suicide-Note, suicide, marriage, other woman, desperation, sonnet, poetry, poem
Sonnet: Suicide Note