Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Echo of the Tolling

Without taking the time to calculate the precise number, I would daresay that if I had a dollar for every truly shitty, mean-spirited thing I did to another human being (with the greatest proliferation of them undoubtedly coming in my high school and college years when I truly believed I knew it all) I would sleep in past my 3:00 a.m. alarm at least one or two days a week. I was as bad at being a construction worker as I have been at most everything else that I have affixed my paws to throughout my life so while I know not what my home is actually made from, metaphorically speaking glass abounds. Not much of a stone thrower am I.

The debate has raged all over New Jersey and all over the nation I suppose this week about the suicide of one member of the Rutgers University freshman class and the role (if any) that two of his classmates played in his arrival at the decision. Over the course of the past couple of days, when the gut-wrenching news that the youngster whose rights had apparently been so blithely trampled upon by his two tormentors had chosen to end his own life - at age 18 - had indeed done so by jumping off of the George Washington Bridge into water some two hundred feet below, the last impossible-to-unring bell in this sad saga was rung.

Of all the reasons why we wish that Professor Peabody had experienced more success with his WABAC Machine, saving our children from themselves is as good a one as any. Unfortunately he did not. Therefore we cannot.

People considerably smarter than I are lining up squarely on both sides of the question, which is whether the two perpetrators of the act are guilty of not simply invading the privacy of another but of more serious offenses such as commission of a hate crime. I cannot pretend to offer an informed opinion on it. I am neither a mental health professional nor a law enforcement professional. Not knowing any of the kids involved, I cannot ascribe either a rationale or a motive to what the two did to the one including whether it was simply an act of abject stupidity utterly devoid of malice aforethought or whether it was something undertaken for a far more sinister purpose.

At day's end, while it matters much I know - and as I know it should - to the mental health professionals and the law enforcement professionals involved in this matter as professionals charged with the duty of finding an answer to those questions, it matters considerably less so to me. An 18-year-old boy who probably less than five weeks earlier had begun what should have been the most exciting and fun four years of his life, found himself alone in the darkness on the edge of the abyss and decided almost incomprehensibly that stepping off into it was better than taking a good, hard look down into it, realizing just how empty and awful it was, and stepping back away from it. The "why" seems inconsequential when juxtaposed with the "what". At least it seems that way to me.

Yesterday afternoon the family of the boy whose life ended tragically at 18 announced that his funeral shall be private. As it should be. For all the wrong reasons, they have been forced to share their son with the whole world for the past week. Before the rest of us knew his name, they loved him. Long after the rest of us have turned our attention to the next outrage, they shall love him. He belonged with them as they now belong with him. The rest of us, present company included, are just background noise.

Noise not too altogether different from the tolling of a bell.


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