The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



Fred A Wilcox • 2 May 2005

Last night I sat in a beautiful chapel on the campus where I have taught for the past eighteen years. The sun was setting, trees shimmered in our pond, and a lone blue Heron seemed to be meditating at the water's edge. We had gathered in the chapel to commemorate the life of a young man who, just days before, had taken his own life.

One by one, people rose to say how kind, how generous, how compassionate and caring this young man had been. I didn't really know him, but I wanted to express my condolences to his family, and to offer support to grieving students.

As I listened to the speakers, I remembered standing beside a bathroom sink one night, watching flood flow from the deep slashes I'd cut into my arms. The cutting had been painful, but seeing the sink fill with blood I felt only curiosity. So much blood, and yet I didn't' even feel light headed. And how fast the blood coagulated, stopping the drain so that the sink actually began to fill. Was I bleeding to death? Perhaps, but it hardly mattered because something inside of me had already departed, something that had made me laugh and cry, feel anger and sadness, longing and hope, had gone. I was depressed, yet the cutting was not really about dying. I wanted to come back to life, but didn't know how, so I skated at the edge of eternity, thinking that might do the trick.

Now, when I read about young people committing suicide in Ireland, or when I hear that another young person has taken their own life in my town, I invariably flash back to the days when I dragged my body out of bed, forced myself to swallow an egg and a slice off toast, and struggled outside to face a world that seemed so utterly indifferent to my suffering. I remember feeling as though I were at the bottom of the sea, in a diving bell, separated from other human beings, watching the world swim by while I remained paralyzed, immobile, wishing that, at least, I could experience sadness.

My parents sent me to a psychiatrist who was getting rich giving his clients electro-shock treatments. This charlatan didn't care what might be troubling his patients, just run electricity through their brain and they would be fine. After 13 of these "treatments, " I couldn't remember close friends' names, couldn't read or write or concentrate. My brain was a cinder. That's when I cut my wrists.

I am convinced that most people who commit suicide do not wish to die. That would be an easy way of deconstructing the mystery of suicide, but this view will not help those who may be living in that diving bell, isolated from the world that swirls around them, wishing they could explain what they are feeling to someone, anyone, just once.

The problem, I'm convinced, is that we insist on thinking about suicide as an expression of madness, an aberration in an otherwise normal world where people go about the business of working, raising their families, attending church, paying taxes, dying of old age. Those who succumb to some mysterious despair, we tell ourselves, do not reflect the world in which we, normal people, live and work and die. They do not represent the world in which ordinary people live according to rational rules and regulations.

But what if the world we have created for ourselves makes little sense to our children? When I questioned why the church had pounded "thou shall not kill" into my head, when in fact what it really meant was that it's perfectly acceptable to kill foreign enemies, no one seemed to have an answer. When I suggested that capitalism and Christianity are incompatible, the former based upon greed, the later on love, I was warned not to think that way. When I asked why some members of my parents' congregation drove expensive cars to church, while others could barely afford to keep a roof over their heads, I was told not to worry about such unimportant things.

I remember feeling increasingly isolated from a world that insisted that political, social, economic, and religious contradictions made perfect sense. I didn't understand how killing for peace is every Christian's duty; how hating our enemies is compatible with "turning the other cheek," or how discriminating against African-Americans, Native Americans, homosexuals, and others is an expression of Christian love. People who questioned these absurdities were sent to psychiatrists. Many found themselves locked inside of psychiatric wards.

I've come to realize that if it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to drive children to the brink of despair. After all, what choice do young people have but to embrace the Orwellian world in which they happen to live? Children who ask why the world bristles with nuclear weapons, when even the use of a small percentage of these warheads will destroy all life on this planet, are told their government is the best, the greatest, the most democratic in the world; therefore, their government has the right to blow up the world in order to save it. Kids who ask why politicians lie and cheat and steal from the very people they claim to represent, are informed that these crooks represent the people; therefore, they are exempt from the rules by which we, ordinary humans, live.

Young people who dare to ask why so many self-proclaimed Christians are willing to drop bombs on innocent children, will be told it's all right to commit mass murder as long as God is on your side.

I'm not suggesting that everyone who commits suicide is driven to do so by uncaring, indifferent, or downright cruel people. But I can say with absolute certainly that when I stood over that blood-clogged sink so many long years ago, I was crying out for someone, anyone, to listen to what I had to say. I was told that I was crazy. I'm convinced now that I was trying to discover what it means to be sane.



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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

6 May 2005

Other Articles From This Issue:

Voting Bobby Sands
Anthony McIntyre

Ruritanian Mockney State
Mick Hall

It's a Dirty Job
Brian Mór

Fred A Wilcox

2 May 2005

Daily Ireland: It's Not Over til It's Over
Mick Hall

Education Cuts
Sean Smyth

Rate My Teachers Blocked
Michael Hussey

* Election Coverage *

Greens Endorse McCann
John Barry and Kelly Andrews, Greens

Young People Are Not the Problem
Tish Murray Campaign Press Release

Liam Kennedy and West Belfast
Anthony McIntyre

Coulter's Choice
Dr John Coulter

Send Mitchel to London
Brian Mór

Flashback: A Coversation with Lindsay Whitcroft
Anthony McIntyre



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