Life by the Horns

So, yesterday I started streaming the original season of Law and Order (you know, back when it was good) and one particular episode frustrated me deeply to the point where I was absorbed by it even when I went to bed.

In brief, the victim was a closeted homosexual with AIDS who committed assisted suicide. The only problem was that the person “assisting” had assisted two others in California. This is not what angered me. What angered me was that gay activists got on the DA for charging this guy. After all, gays had a right to “live and to die.” So by prosecuting someone who committed a crime – assisted suicide is illegal – he was “gay bashing.” (This was back in the early nineties, before Oregon and Washington had assisted suicide laws. I would characterize that as different, though, as it takes a doctor’s consent, not just-some-schmuck.)

My God this made me angry. A lot of activists groups do this sort of thing. I remember back when I worked for the PPB, the black community was in a big snit because some black guy had committed a crime and admitted it to the police. And leaders in the black community said that that testimony shouldn’t be relevant, since he “didn’t know what he was doing.” He was, in their opinion, too stupid to know he shouldn’t tell the police, thereby, racism.

…..what? I remember thinking that if I were black, I’d be really offended. Heck, just being a human would make me offended. This is also something a lot of feminists groups fell into in the last three decades – wanting preferential treatment over equal treatment. It’s insane.

So – prosecuting someone who has killed someone who theoretically wanted to die: is that gay bashing if the two persons involved are gay? In what sane world does that make any sense? If it had been a woman who was raped, and her friend “assisted” her suicide, that would be paraded up and down as murder.

It could be that my INTENSE dislike of suicide colors my opinion on this matter. I have all the respect in the world for the suffering of others. But I have spent way too many sleepless nights wiping snot onto the sleeve of my sweatshirt because my friends wanted (and tried) to kill themselves to be okay with suicide. It is potentially the most selfish act in human existence. One becomes so wrapped up in ones pain to the complete expulsion of all those who care about the individual. And when that pain has ended, a rift is left open that is virtually impossible to heal. I’m lucky because none of my friends’ suicide attempts have been successful. But I know people who were not so lucky, who had to discover bodies and deal with the aftermath. I know the pain they go through, and no one will ever convince me that somehow the suicide victim’s pain was worse than theirs.

There are some very selective instances where I would say suicide was noble. E.g.: a POW of the Japanese in Burma. In a concentration camp in Nazi Germany/slated for execution (piano wire death? Yeah, no). Terminally ill to the point where quality of life is absolutely gone. Terminally ill with many years left ahead? No. That is the most unkind cut of all.

Depression is a terrible thing, and I know. Many diseases are terrible, but not so many are death sentences anymore. But whether there is an afterlife or no, when we are dead, we are dead. We must squeeze out life to the fullest and allow ourselves to be conquered by nothing. The beauty of humanity is that it has the strength to overcome much – not everything, but much. Let us only say “die” when no other road lies before us, and then we can embrace a death – by our own hand or otherwise – that does our life proud.


About emilydnelson

A recent graduate of Hofstra University with a B.A. in anthropology, Emily is like every other twenty-two year old on the planet - trying to figure out what the hell to do now. Follow as she struggles with writing, her social work job, and bopping from coast to coast.
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