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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