Trying to understand the inconceivable

A friend’s suicide leaves a reporter with questions that can’t be answered and a pain that won’t diminish

If there is any criminal act that leaves the victim’s survivors more bewildered, frustrated and tormented than suicide, I can’t imagine what it could possibly be.

David-Webb
David Webb The Rare Reporter

Four months ago, I discovered one of my former college classmates and best friends of more than 40 years dead in his home, apparently by his own hand. The official ruling was suicide by a shot to the head with a handgun that I didn’t even know he owned.

I now understand that he bought the gun for protection several decades ago. The idea that my friend would even own a gun for protection seemed ludicrous to me because I couldn’t imagine anyone who was so loving, peaceful and gentle being capable of shooting anyone, let alone himself.

I’ve been told that some people buy guns for protection because they believe that the exhibition of one will scare an intruder away. That must have been what he was thinking.

I’ve finally decided to write about this because The Dallas Morning News columnist Steve Blow recently wrote a column noting that older white men are more likely to commit suicide than other groups of people. My friend fit in that category.

It is inconceivable to me that my friend — who as a young man had been beautiful, talented, athletic, affluent and charismatic — could ever succumb to such a fate. But if it could happen to him, I guess it could happen to anyone when they grow older.

My friend was a 61-year-old straight guy who had never been married, and his best friend was his elderly Jack Russell Terrier who was dying of old age. He became so depressed one time that he went to bed and was found later, nearly dead of starvation and dehydration.

As a young man, my friend was adored by both women and men. But when he grew older, the attention from everyone died away. He had trouble making dates and trying to form a relationship in his older years.

He also was experiencing devastating financial problems of which few people were aware.

My friend had suffered a similar depressive experience five years ago when his mother died of natural causes. But he seemingly had recovered enough to function for a few years before his death. But he apparently quit taking the medication that had brought him back to sanity in years past. He suffered a terrible relapse as a result.

My friend was admitted to a hospital’s intensive care unit and later transferred to a mental hospital. Although his family and many friends rallied around him with loving care, he just never made it back to where he had been. His beloved dog was put to sleep while he was hospitalized.

He was released from the hospital, but it was clear he was not well. He was registered for outpatient care but apparently could not face it.

Within two days, he was dead.

Many things come to my mind about this on a near-daily basis now. It is so unbelievable to me that he could shoot himself or anyone else that I sometimes have trouble believing it was really a suicide.

I think that’s what they call denial.

Logically, I know it was suicide, and I’m glad that he is free of the severe mental illness that he had apparently endured for a number of years.

Emotionally, I search for answers and often think, “What if?” I would never have left him alone for those two days had I known he was in such danger from himself.

The two lessons I believe that can be learned from this are that if someone has suffered a mental illness, they should never be left alone until it is ascertained they are again stable.

The other message is for the mentally ill who are considering suicide if they are able at that point of making logical decisions: The pain and suffering that will be wrought upon the surviving friends and family will result in a lifetime of utter agony for them.

A friend of mine whose mother went into her garage many years ago, started her car and died, said to me, “Your mind is going to be raw for a very long time.” And it is.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative press for more than two decades. He is a former Dallas Voice staff writer and editor. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

—  Kevin Thomas

Who’s the bigger threat to U.S. national security, Terry Jones or Dallas’ own Robert Jeffress?

Terry Jones is pastor of the 50-member Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., which plans to burn Korans to mark nine years since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

Robert Jeffress is senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Dallas, which has been promoting a video (above) in which Jeffress calls Islam a “violent” and “evil” religion that, among other things, “promotes pedophilia.” WTF?

While Jones is making headline news for his dangerous bigotry, Jeffress’ rant seems to have gone largely unnoticed. Steve Blow of the Dallas Morning News had a good column about Jeffress’ rant this weekend, but other than that we haven’t seen much coverage. (UPDATE: Robert Wilonsky notes that Unfair Park covered this before The DMN.)

Gen. David Petraeus, head of Multinational Forces in Afghanistan, has warned that Jones’ church’s plans to burn Korans will jeopardize U.S. military efforts and put us and our troops in greater danger. As Blow pointed out, Jeffress statements do essentially the same thing.

Seriously, folks, someone needs to muzzle Jeffress, who is perhaps best known to the LGBT community for his “Why Gay Is Not OK” sermon a few years back. The scary thing is that while Jones’ church has only 50 members, First Baptist has umpteen thousands.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Talking Points Memo has a post up noting that Jeffress responded to Blow’s criticism during his Sunday sermon:

“Uninformed, I am not,” Jeffress said in his sermon on Sunday as a response.

“It does incite violence. It is used to oppress women around the world,” he added, continuing that he “was not talking about this country” when referencing pedophilia. But, Jeffress said, “the worst thing about Islam is that it is a deception that leads people from the true God.”

Jeffress contended that “we do not hate Muslims” and noted: “I have a very good friend here in Dallas who is a Muslim.”

—  John Wright

Steve Blow’s controversial blog post was also homophobic

In case you missed it, Dallas Morning News Metro columnist Steve Blow is under heavy fire for a blog item he posted yesterday about a Rowlett priest accused of inappropriately touching girls and women. Here’s what Blow’s original item said:

This is sad to say, but it’s almost refreshing to read about a priest accused of good, old-fashioned heterosexual perviness.

The dreadful stuff between priests and boys has been going on for so long that I almost forgot that some priests have more mainstream sexual hang-ups.

Again, I say, it’s time for a married priesthood.

In response to the ensuing outcry, the post was pulled from The DMN’s website, and Blow apologized. CBS 11 provides a recap of some of the criticism:

Bethany Anderson at D-Magazine’s FrontBurner blog responded by questioning his wording.

“I’m not so sure the women and girls molested by this priest find it refreshing,” she wrote. “Perhaps a better choice of words, friend?”

And at the Dallas Observer’s Unfair Park, Andrea Grimes called the post a “rape joke.”

“A penchant for molesting women and girls who are members of your church is not a ‘sexual hangup.’ It’s a crime. They are not asking for it. They did not consent,” she wrote.

I don’t disagree with Anderson and Grimes, but one thing no one has mentioned is the fact that Blow’s post was also patently homophobic. In saying that it’s “refreshing to read about a priest accused of good, old-fashioned heterosexual perviness,” Blow implies that pedophilia is somehow worse when it involves an adult male and an underage boy. Blow’s post also serves to perpetuate the myth that pedophilia and homosexuality are somehow linked, which is simply not true.

For the record, here’s Blow’s apology:

“If you have to explain humor, it has failed. My attempt here at some sardonic humor has obviously failed with a number of readers. I apologize,” read his post. “No offense was intended — except toward pervy priests of any persuasion.”

—  John Wright