Exiting this life was a simple matter. It came down to the decision, the determination and the doing. But the matter became powerfully complicated in consideration of those he left behind. Just as acts of terrorism disrupted so many lives, turning off his own switch created at least momentary chaos; and long term, left behind a legacy of cowardice, shame, guilt and perhaps hardship. No one should inflict torment on those they love. If leaving life were a worthy objective, he should at the very least have found a way to commit the perfect crime – to either render the act an accident, or put on a disappearing act. The first is tricky, at best. Faking doesn’t wash unless everyone believes it. It’s been tried. “Lose control” of the car and T-bone a big oak. Take a nice long swim in the Atlantic. Slip from the balcony of a hotel resort. In the process, leave no evidence of premeditation, like drugs or alcohol. Easily said, difficult to carry off. Unfortunately, forensic investigation always seems to expose inconsistency and leave nagging doubts. Disappearance has more appeal. No one accused Amelia Earhart of purposely taking a dive. One thing must be certain with this strategy – human remains can never be found. No one would know if you were a deserter, living under an assumed identity on a Pacific isle or if you were truly deceased, decomposing in some desolate wilderness. The aftermath of such action might generate resentful anger or uncertainty, but no one would suffer through the awkward, embarrassing and painful task of cleaning up the “crime scene” and disposing of the corpse. To those left behind, mystery of the unknown has infinitely more appeal than stark reality. With this considerate approach, generations of families could gather to pass down legendary theories, speculating whether the old boy ran off to a secret life in Southern Italy, was kidnapped by the CIA or was robbed, murdered and ground up in a wood chipper. Not knowing is always a good thing. Self-destruction has no justification – none – unless it is perceived as an act of God or a third party interference. In a sense, Jesus played a key role in his own premature passing – albeit a redemptive, sacrificial act – willing to give Himself up for mankind. Thousands of mere mortals have given their lives to save others; but these acts of “suicide” are exemplified by valor, justifiably applauded and revered, while self-murder remains an act of selfishness and cowardice — regardless of extenuating circumstance. For reasons unknown, except for religious teaching, an individual in Western culture is not given leave to take life into his own hands without suffering ignominy. No such stigma exists in the East. Regardless, putting aside all moral and spiritual considerations, it seems only fitting that a person so inclined should be thoroughly thoughtful and judicious in the timing and manner of any final act – to, in a matter of speaking, just leave the scene, like stepping aboard a small boat and sailing away.
You’ve heard a lot of rhetoric about gun control, health care and gay marriage. Politicians use these issues and a number of others to shackle the very people who pay their salaries and lifelong perks. Truly, these issues are important because they involve America’s soul. And not surprisingly, therefore, Americans are polarized, split irrevocably into bellicose camps. Yet during this hostility, no politician of any stature dares bring up the one issue that rightly should command the nation’s attention: Voting Rights. Millions upon millions of Americans should not vote — or to put it more strongly — should be legally prohibited from casting a ballot at any level of government. Even though millions of Americans are ill-informed, ignorant or prejudiced by race, you agree they have a perfect right to play dumb and pick candidates. Which they do. Unfortunately, intelligence is not a prerequisite in a free society. But, starting tomorrow, in the interest of fairness (BO’s favorite word), justice, morality, ethics and honor, suffrage should be denied to the following: 1. Students who don’t work and pay taxes. The 26th Amendment should be repealed, excluding members of the military; 2. All Aliens, including humans or creatures from other galaxies (often seen in malls); 3. Millions of normal people on permanent welfare, excluding those who are physically handicapped, unable to work. 4. The Dead, especially those who haven’t kept up with current events. You’ve heard the popular expression used in business — “skin in the game.” Investors invest money; athletes invest sweat equity and taxes; owners and workers invest time, labor and taxes; retirees invest a lifetime of work and taxes; soldiers invest their lives. Even the animal kingdom honors this natural concept. You would be the first to admit that some 12-year-olds are better equipped to vote than many 50-year-olds; you see, the issue doesn’t fall on sound judgment (as evidenced by the recent election). Voting rights can’t be ambiguous, left to politicians for subjective analysis. By law, it must be objective, based on pragmatic requisites. How do you earn the right to vote? By breathing? If individuals are dependents on parents’ tax filings, they shouldn’t have suffrage. Period. But don’t expect one politician to step out on this slippery ice. As far as incumbents and serious contenders are concerned, winning is the only thing; the only skin they care about is their own. And as the takers — those with no skin in the game — outnumber the givers — the suckers who work and pay — guess what sort of leaders the takers choose. Oh, forgot, you don’t have to choose. You already have them.
If you can avoid the thought of death for a millisecond, you must already be dead to the world; that is, deceased — literally. Or you’re in the grasp of a coma. Or in a much less dire circumstance, you’re lying in the arms of Morpheus. But, no, you happen to be conscious. You can’t avoid thinking of The Reaper because the Information Age takes cruel delight in assaulting you with torrents of violence, gloom, doom and carnage. That abuse isn’t surprising. Television networks would shrivel without excessively violent programming. As would video game peddlers who glorify savagery and brutality. Ditto the Hollywood sleaze merchants who mass produce violence on a huge scale to conceal their lack of talent and taste, aiming their sewage at puerile audiences all too willing to squander time and money on bilge. In the real world, everyday, Death has a field day. You hear of young warriors who make the ultimate sacrifice in defense of a nation while, daily, their absentee commander, his family and his political minions squander that nation’s wealth as they wallow in the lap of personal luxury. The Pale Rider doesn’t discriminate and doesn’t miss a trick. He visits you on Sundays as a starring performer in the exercise of theology, liturgy and littany. He stands by indifferently as you witness the final departure of comrades and the grief of close friends. One of those close friends was not Travis Alexander but his murder keeps Death in the spotlight during daily courtroom drama, as his bespectacled murderess stoically, almost clinically, relates that shooting him the face, stabbing him 27 times and slitting his throat was a desperate act of self defense. Since Death never takes a holiday, you were treated to weeks of fulsome blathering when a South American commie dictator, intimately familiar with the death of others, bit the dust himself, ending 15 years of oppression and coercion. Since Death is the prearranged outcome of Life, you should examine the motives behind your morbid fixation. Beyond conventional concerns — or let’s be honest — beyond the utter dread of your own mortality — you struggle primarily with the notion of Justice among “the quick and the dead.” Apparently, through Grace, a murderess and a scum bag have equal opportunity in Paradise. Apparently, Justice doesn’t flinch when an evil dictator enjoys a full life as he commits genocide; while a young mother, wholesome and loving, perishes in the midst of full bloom. If Life has consequences, what are the consequences of death? Ancient superstition says your eternal punishment will be the thing you fear most — a truly terrifying prospect. Under no circumstances can you risk it — an eternity of suffering the ghastly, insipid noise of rap “music.” Or consider an equally wretched outcome — forced to share eternal living quarters with the odious Barney Frank. As undeserving as your life may have been, you must, for the remainder of your days, reject all things malicious and malignant; or most likely there will be Hell to pay. After all, no amount of delicious Sin can justify the agony of being within earshot of Chris Matthews for all time to come. There you have it. Death is either your ally or foe. Your choice. Meanwhile, you would be smart to adopt Scarlett O’Hara’s method of coping with the quandary: “I won’t think about that now. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”