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Another Death and the Trolls Come Running

I was determined not to write anything before the New Year but sometimes you have to speak out because remaining silent would not only be indecent, it would be an act of cowardice in the face of those who contribute nothing but acrimony and petty partisan bigotry to our society.

Another human tragedy has brought out the social media trolls and bigots eager to feed on the misery and sorrow of others.

George Smitherman is a former Ontario Liberal Cabinet Minister. As such he was part of a government under former Premier Dalton McGuinty that did considerable economic damage to the province of Ontario.

Mr. Smitherman is also gay and was married to Christopher Peloso with whom he had three adopted children. I deplored his politics but neither his sexual orientation nor his humanity.

Mr. Peloso suffered from depression and had disappeared from the family home he shared with Mr. Smitherman and their children for a second time. He was found dead yesterday and too many among us, including some very mean-spirited and weak-minded conservatives, have continued to allow partisan bigotry to override basic human compassion. They have posted cheap, hateful comments about the sexual orientation of Mr. Smitherman and Mr. Peloso online and I cannot remain silent in the face of it.

I have personal experience with depression.

I suffered from it for more four decades during which time it went undiagnosed. Despite the damage it did in my life I consider myself one of the lucky ones. It wasn’t until my depression almost killed me and I was hospitalized for nine weeks that I was diagnosed, and received treatment, that my life changed. I was in treatment four days a week for two years and swallowed the better part of $100,000 in meds to get through my illness but in the end, it gave me the life I had always struggled to live and that depression had consistently prevented.

I wanted to know as much as I could about the illness that had controlled so much of my life so I researched it. What I learned about depression staggered me.

In 2003, the year I was diagnosed, depression had killed more than 17 million people in the United States alone (accurate numbers were not available in Canada). Many of those deaths were by suicide but not all. Depression attacks the immune system which leaves the body open to other fatal diseases and in younger people, the thymus gland. It is not, as some would have you believe, merely about being or feeling sad. Depression is a devastating illness and one in five Canadians is stricken by it.

Depression has both cognitive and physical causes but ultimately it is most often defined as “unresolved emotional trauma in the subconscious” and it shadows and drives the daily lives of those who suffer from it. We see it in the victims of child abuse, war and rape. It is found in those who have been severely injured or who have suffered severe head trauma.

Depression is not simply “Everybody has issues – get over it.” It is an illness that kills more people than heart disease and cancer combined and living with someone who suffers from depression is challenging and stressful.

To Mr. Smitherman, his children and his family, I extend my sincere condolences.

To those who look on the death of another human being, a fellow Canadian, as just one more opportunity to make hurtful comments and to express their smug self-righteous sanctimony I say this,. Your lack of fundamental values and your lack of basic human compassion contribute nothing to this society. A fellow human being has died. His family mourn and only the morally bankrupt take his death and his family’s suffering as yet one more opportunity to spit out spite and hatred.

There is no decency, let alone humanity, in taking delight in the death and suffering of others.

This isn’t only about the death of one man. It is also about the unrelenting assault on decency, mutual respect and human compassion. There has been too much of it in the past year and too many of us have remained silent in the face of it.

It’s time for Canadians on all sides of the political spectrum to remember again who we are as a people and to defend our common values rather than our petty political ideologies against those who are undermining them.

Perhaps that could be a New Year’s resolution we could all consider and perhaps if we did, something good could come from this one man’s death.


© 2013 Maggie’s Bear

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  • starfighter441

    In sofar as it is between two consenting adults in private, sexuality should be a matter of indifference to those not involved. IMO only of course, your mileage may vary.

  • Pingback: Montreal Simon ~ The Unspeakable Foulness of Ezra Levant - THE CANADIAN | THE CANADIAN()

  • fem_progress

    Check on Twitter. I am not making this up.

    @ezralevant @seanomalleyctv @cafreeland George a former drug addict, Peloso with mental health issues; yet they’re allowed to adopt. Odd!
    — Michael Coren (@michaelcoren) December 30, 2013

  • fem_progress

    3 @seanomalleyctv I’m sure Smitherman’s grieving. Last time Peloso was found by cops, Smitherman was photo-opping next day with @cafreeland
    — Ezra Levant (@ezralevant) December 30, 2013

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  • JoeFrmEdm

    Bear can you name the conservatives that have posted those hateful comments? I for one after surfing many right wing blogs cannot find any that were mean spirited they are respectful and kind. You have been Blogging enough to realize any derogatory remarks come inevitably from those who lean left. I am sorry for your continuing fight with depression hope you are well…

    • fem_progress

      See above.

  • deb Scott

    very eloquently written, thank you.

    • MaggiesBear

      I don’t know how eloquent it is; I was fairly angry after reading some of the comments on line when I wrote it. I’m calmer now. Thank you for taking the time to read it.

  • Brenda2600

    I’m sorry for Mr. Pelosi and his family. Can you show me the same or similar column that you wrote about Rob Ford?
    Appreciate it.

    • MaggiesBear

      This has nothing to do with Rob Ford and I get weary of partisan BS but for the record, I did write a similar kind of piece about Ford. Next time take the time to check things out before you jump to conclusions.


      • MikeFromToronto

        The article that you linked can hardly be considered similar. In fact, you were calling for his resignation as well as justifying the Media hype around him.

        If this article was similar then you would be asking simple questions as to how he died or how come the Media is not asking these questions. You hypothesize that depression played a role in his death which it might have or might not.. We don’t know because the media is not asking these questions.

        • http://abearsrant.com thebear

          I was and still am. What happened to Mr. Peloso was the result of a severe illness. Mr. Ford is very much the author of his own misfortune. He is not a victim; he has proven himself to be self-indulgent, dishonest and with little to no respect for either the law or the citizens who elected him and even his wife and children. Having said that, as I said in the piece I wrote, he is still a human being and a little compassion goes a long way. He should not be mayor; he has violated that trust but he should not be hounded by everyone either. I stand by what I wrote.

  • Randy

    Now that would be really something to strive for in the New Year, respect towards
    other people, regardless of their beliefs, colour, sexual orientation, etc…
    There will always be a small minority in every walk of life who are disrespectful
    to those they don’t agree with, but luckily, they are a small minority, on all sides.
    Mental illness is a disease that we are finally understanding, treating and coping
    with much better than we have in the past. My son is dealing with it,
    sometimes successfully, sometimes not. My sister-in-law is dealing with,
    a very good friend is dealing with it, a friend’s wife is dealing with it. And most
    everyone can say the same thing. I know I have gone from an attitude that was
    “suck it up and work through it, it’s in your head” to realizing that it is something
    that has to be treated by professionals, like any other disease.
    Maybe this man’s death will open a little more light on the subject, provide a
    little more understanding and compassion to the people who suffer from it,
    and create a little more urgency for treatment for those people.
    In the meantime, a man has died, his children will never be with him again,
    his partner will be alone, his parents have lost a son. We should all remember
    that, and they have our condolences.

    • MaggiesBear

      I encountered both harsh judgment and serious support as I dealt with my illness and I am thankful for the support I received. What many don’t understand is that mental illness is no different than a computer virus. It can completely disrupt that organic computer we call a brain and cause it to behave in erratic and irrational ways. I hope things work out well for your son. He has a good father so he has the support he will need.

      • Randy

        Thank you for the kind words. As you know, it will be a daily
        thing for the rest of his days but coming to grips with his problem
        and support from everyone around him has helped very much.
        I used him as an example to show that this is a common ailment
        that people used to hide away. As unfortunate and sad as it is
        that Mr. Peluso passed away, his higher profile will shed a bit
        more awareness on it and maybe just shed a little bit of the stigma
        attached to it as well. That will be little comfort to his family though.

  • peggyt

    Hi Bear,
    Just a minor factual error. Mr. Pelosi was the biological father of a child he had some 20 years ago. He and Mr. Smitherman adopted two children together.

    • MaggiesBear

      Thanks Peggy, I was confused about the children and thought they were all adopted. Either way, though, it is a sad moment when a child, adopted or not, loses a parent. My best to you and your family in the New Year.