“Do not go gentle into that good night” (Thoughts on trolls, suicide, Robin Williams)

In any given human interaction scenario, there’s that proverbial line. Once you cross the line, you’ve entered the land of excess. You’re beyond. I think that as humans, for the sake of decency, we make efforts to not go there. We don’t want to offend.

Conversely, there’s a sub-species of human who regularly and deliberately crosses the line, a sub-species that evolved out of the masses somewhere in the mid-90’s when the World Wide Web opened for business and ushered us into a new dimension of existence. Suddenly, we could hang out in the ether. No one could see us, but we were there. And we had keyboards. They had keyboards… they of the sub-species whose raison d’être is to go there, into the beyond. Those with a propensity to offend could now do it in the most cowardly fashion: Invisibly. At some point, someone started calling them “trolls.” The name stuck, and the verb form quickly followed. Trolling is now a behavior that’s as common-place online as annoying ad pop-ups you have to “click to close” before you can read what’s on the page.

Trolls are everywhere. It’s just a fact of the internet that nothing is sacred to them. I know this, but still, I was aghast at their comments on articles about Robin Williams’ death (if I may use that event as an example). As a reader, I saw that as crossing the line of all lines. When trolls unleash their misdirected anger in the comments section of an article about someone’s death, they’re so far beyond that I can’t begin to comprehend it.

Maybe it’s naïve of me to expect nothing less from trolls who spend their days seething under the bridges of the interwebs, but really? Robin Williams committed suicide in an apparent state of confusion and despair. He was a fellow human being, an artist who devoted his career to making us laugh and using his acting gifts to enrich our collective human experience with the depth of his dramatic performances.

We now know that Robin Williams suffered with Lewy Body Dementia and a couple of other, related neurological diseases. His depression was likely a by-product of LBD, but what if he didn’t have LBT? What if he was simply, clinically depressed, as everyone assumed at the time of his suicide?

Disdain for those who commit suicide* confounds me.

Within our legal system, we have a mechanism by which murderers are shuttled away from incarceration. We informally call it the “insanity plea,” and those who use it can take up residence in a medical facility instead of in prison… because to be determined to be too mentally unfit to stand trial is to be recognized as suffering with a medical condition.

Given this, I often wonder why the murderer of one’s self doesn’t deserve that same consideration. Why do we judge the deceased who took their own lives? Why does the church refuse to bless a soul that died deliberately? The act of suicide comes from a place of inner chaos, whether from clinical depression or from neurological disorders such as those that Williams experienced. Regardless, to be in this state of despair is to be mentally unfit. If a criminal can escape prison due to being mentally unfit, why can’t a person who committed suicide also be spared? Why can’t we acknowledge the fact of mental illness and let the dead rest in peace?

 

Works of two of my favorite poets (of the many who've committed suicide).

Works of two of my favorite poets (of the many who’ve committed suicide).

 

You can’t explain such concepts to trolls. They can’t be reasoned with, but you can reason with others. You can explain how it’s offensive to speak of the deceased as being selfish, pathetic, immature, “a loser,” etc. Many of us say such things. “Suicide is cowardly and selfish. It’s the easy way out that only hurts those left behind.” In my opinion, if we’re into Political Correctness, we should deem it un-P.C. to speak unkindly of those who commit suicide.

Suicide is only tragic. 22 veterans commit suicide every day, and do we speak of them with disdain? No. For the most part, we understand that P.T.S.D. (whether from military experience or from other traumatic events) and depression go together. We reserve our disdain for civilians… but suicide is suicide. No one who commits suicide is mentally fit at the time of the act.

Trolls who emerge to spew their vitriol in the comments section of article about people who committed suicide – such as Robin Williams – are the worst, as far as I’m concerned. They’re gleeful to have this excuse to rant about politics, religion, etc. They want their hatred to be heard, and they’ll use any occasion to achieve that.

The fact is that trolls are the cowardly ones… not the victims of suicide. (This is not at all to say that those who judge suicide victims are trolls.)

People who commit suicide can no longer avoid “going gently into that good night.” Let’s honor their bravery in fighting it, rather than looking down on them for dying.

 

*****

*Please note that I don’t include extremists in my definition of suicides.

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6 thoughts on ““Do not go gentle into that good night” (Thoughts on trolls, suicide, Robin Williams)

  1. Very well said. We cannot really understand what people are going through when they reach such a point of despair. And it’s a disgrace that so many veterans take their own lives when they should be getting help from the government to prevent that.

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  2. Very simple for my generation. Do not speak evil of the dead. From the times of ancient Sparta to today, we should have some basic human respect. There are exceptions of course when we study history. In fact some people in my generation are a little bit superstitious about it.

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  3. This isn’t a dark article, just one with a lot of heart.

    Suicide is drastic. It is a final solution to some, if they felt they had support or a way to get out of their dilemma, they might not do it. Depression is a killer. Being disabled is a killer on many levels. No one can understand it because we survivors often can’t explain the forces that drove you there.

    As for trolls, they are often also bullies. They have faceless victims, and those victims are often just others. Trying to shock in comments, to get a reaction from another. They don’t care about the subject. It is just vitriol. And trolls are bullies because they often pick one subject, or group of people to harass. They wish to build their egos by getting reactions. They do form groups to do this also.

    I do not understand the desire to upset others, or to follow them around to upset them. I have seen some on fan pages, political pages etc. It isn’t the subject matter so much as wishing to draw attention to themselves. I can name a few political trolls that go everywhere to post comments.

    It is very hard for some to understand this behavior. There are studies out on troll and bully behavior. It is extremely sad that they picked a subject of disability and depression to harass others.

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  4. Thank you, Neva… yes. It’s sad to think that so many veterans feel directionless and unsupported when they’re more in need than ever.

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  5. Et voila! “Do not speak evil of the dead.” That shouldn’t be so difficult to do or to understand. I agree completely… some basic human respect would do so much good.

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  6. Exactly. And it’s difficult to make sense of trolls, especially those who harass others on sites or articles about disability, death, depression, etc. As Bob suggests, it comes down to basic human respect. Trolls are a relatively new phenomenon along with the internet explosion, and we’re still wading through this amorphous, borderless territory trying to reconcile it with our laws (of protection, among other things). I would be interested in reading some articles about trolling. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I know that you’re a survivor… that you’ve been there. oxox

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