Robin Williams didn’t die from suicide. I only just heard the sad, sad news of Robin Williams’s death. My wife sent me a message to tell me he had died, and, when I asked her what he died from, she told me something that nobody in the news seems to be talking about.
When people die from cancer, their cause of death can be various horrible things – seizure, stroke, pneumonia – and when someone dies after battling cancer, and people ask “How did they die?”, you never hear anyone say “pulmonary embolism”, the answer is always “cancer”. A Pulmonary Embolism can be the final cause of death with some cancers, but when a friend of mine died from cancer, he died from cancer. That was it. And when I asked my wife what Robin Williams died from, she, very wisely, replied “Depression”.
The word “suicide” gives many people the impression that “it was his own decision,” or “he chose to die, whereas most people with cancer fight to live.” And, because Depression is still such a misunderstood condition, you can hardly blame people for not really understanding. Just a quick search on Twitter will show how many people have little sympathy for those who commit suicide…
But, just as a Pulmonary Embolism is a fatal symptom of cancer, suicide is a fatal symptom of Depression. Depression is an illness, not a choice of lifestyle. You can’t just “cheer up” with depression, just as you can’t choose not to have cancer. When someone commits suicide as a result of Depression, they die from Depression – an illness that kills millions each year. It is hard to know exactly how many people actually die from Depression each year because the figures and statistics only seem to show how many people die from “suicide” each year (and you don’t necessarily have to suffer Depression to commit suicide, it’s usually just implied). But considering that one person commits suicide every 14 minutes in the US alone, we clearly need to do more to battle this illness, and the stigmas that continue to surround it. Perhaps Depression might lose some its “it was his own fault” stigma, if we start focussing on the illness, rather than the symptom. Robin Williams didn’t die from suicide. He died from Depression*. It wasn’t his choice to suffer that.
I want a movie like The Expendables but instead of it being a giant sausage party you have like Lucy Liu and Uma Thurman and Natalie Dormer and Zoe Saldana and Sigourney Weaver and Lucy Lawless.
Gina Torres plays the leader-y Sylvester Stallone character
Laurence Fishburne plays her oblivious husband she returns to between jobs
Judi Dench plays the tattoo artist/motorbike enthusiast character
Let me be clear: Unarmed college hopefuls don’t deserve to be shot. Unarmed kids heading to work or trade school don’t deserve to be shot. Unarmed kids floundering aimlessly through life don’t deserve to be shot. Unarmed kids who have been in trouble—even those who have been nothing but trouble—don’t deserve to be shot.
The act of pinning the tragedy of a dead black teen to his potential future success, to his respectability, to his “good”-ness, is done with all the best intentions. But if you read between the lines, aren’t we really saying that had he not been on his way to college, there’d be less to mourn?
That’s dead wrong.
After learning my flight was detained 4 hours,
I heard the announcement:
If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic,
Please come to the gate immediately.
Well—one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress,
Just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly.
Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her
Problem? we told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she
I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.
Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick,
Sho bit se-wee?
The minute she heard any words she knew—however poorly used—
She stopped crying.
She thought our flight had been canceled entirely.
She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the
Following day. I said no, no, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late,
Who is picking you up? Let’s call him and tell him.
We called her son and I spoke with him in English.
I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and
Would ride next to her—Southwest.
She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it.
Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and
Found out of course they had ten shared friends.
Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian
Poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours.
She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering
She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies—little powdered
Sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts—out of her bag—
And was offering them to all the women at the gate.
To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
Sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California,
The lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same
Powdered sugar. And smiling. There are no better cookies.
And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers—
Non-alcoholic—and the two little girls for our flight, one African
American, one Mexican American—ran around serving us all apple juice
And lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar too.
And I noticed my new best friend—by now we were holding hands—
Had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing,
With green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always
Carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.
And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought,
This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.
Not a single person in this gate—once the crying of confusion stopped
—has seemed apprehensive about any other person.
They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.
This can still happen anywhere.
Not everything is lost.