I know, I know. Everyone and their brother are churning out blog posts in the wake of the news about Robin Williams. Do we really need another one? No, probably not, but here goes anyway.
You see, I wouldn’t bother if someone, anyone was saying what I want to say. I’ve waited several days and watched the number of shared stories on my Facebook news feed dwindle down to almost nothing. I’ve read all about how sad everyone is, how awful depression is, how suicide is or isn’t this or that, blah, blah, blah… but no one is speaking up on the topic I feel is most important. And, seeing as I have this little private corner of the Internet to say whatever I want in, I will.
I didn’t know Robin Williams. I never met him in a doughnut shop, we never made a movie together, he didn’t personally come to cheer me up when I was suffering from anything. I like his movies. I’ve been searching for a copy of The World According to Garp on thrift store shelves for over a year now. It’s my thing, but it will probably be even harder to find now, oh well.
But when I hear the know-it-alls and pundits admonishing us to stop saying that Robin died due to suicide, but instead to say he died from depression I get angry. As if they know exactly how his brain chemistry factored into his decision. They don’t. We don’t.
Most everyone on this planet is just like me, we don’t know the guy and have no idea why he made the decision he did. We just know that he did. Why can’t we just respect that?
Everyone is singing his praises and saying he was clever, well-informed, in control and successful for most of his life. He made thousands of life choices that we respect and admire, despite his depression, despite his being human, despite the often crushing pressure of celebrity. He led a good life, an admirable life. Why do we have this disconnect when it comes to his decision to die?
What is it about death that makes us so irrational? Why do we refuse to allow people in pain the means to die with dignity? Why do we FORCE them to make decisions like this in secret?
Imagine for a minute that we lived in a society where someone like Mr. Williams could go to a doctor and say, “I’m ready to die” and the doctor would say, “OK, here’s the protocol for that. You’ll need these tests to rule out any organic reason for your decision, you’ll need proof that you’ve discussed this with your next of kin, you’ll need to go through this counseling program that helps you process your decision and you’ll need to wait out the “cooling off” period. When that’s completed, you’ll be eligible for the Death with Dignity protocol and can make your transition at any time you choose.”
It’s not unreasonable to want to die. It’s not irrational. It’s not something that we can only explain with a disease or mental defect. It’s a perfectly logical response to aging or pain or circumstances that cannot be overcome. It’s part of that glorious circle of life that all the animals in Africa keep singing about. Without death, it’s not a circle anymore.
Don’t give me crap about God or any supposed Pro-Life agenda. That’s a cop-out. Putting it off on your imaginary God allows you to watch people suffer and not care about them enough to help them. Look at Mother Teresa, she made an entire phenomenon out of letting folks suffer “for God”. It’s immoral.
Don’t tell me that you loved Robin Williams and then insult him by insinuating that his decision to end his own life wasn’t his to make. It was. It is. It should have been.
If you loved him, join me in the fight to take these sorts of choices out of the closet and into a sane, rational, reasonable, dignified future where no one needs to hide their decision and allow total strangers to pass judgment on them after they are gone.
For more information (not all of which I agree with, but it’s a start) see Death with Dignity