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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Suicide Mart

I was listening to Footy, a South Florida talk show host, while driving to work this morning, and he tossed out an interesting premise that I thought I'd air out here.

Over the past year or so there have been some really crazy murder/suicides in the U.S.

There was the Virginia Tech student. There was the guy at Northern Illinois University last month. There was a guy last week, I believe, in the Bristol Tennessee area who shot four people at an apartment complex before fleeing and later fatally shooting himself.

And on Tuesday afternoon there was the guy here in South Florida, who walked into a Wendy's restaurant, blasted a bunch of diners and then shot and killed himself.

So I won't get into a deep argument about whether or not the killers needed help. Clearly they needed something.

Also, I don't mean to sound calloused, but whenever something like this happens the experts are always so quick to look for a reason that involves a treatable condition...gone untreated.

But I wonder sometimes if it isn't that complicated. Maybe these people who kill others before taking their own lives are just old-fashioned, unfixable, bat poop crazy. Maybe they're just bad. Those aren't medical theories, and I'll probably catch flack from mental health care workers. But I'm a simple guy. I sometimes think in straight lines. I'm just wondering.

It seems to me that of all the violent things to do, suicide is pretty selfish - especially for those people who are leaving behind dependents and loved ones. And to murder other folks before you commit suicide? That's hella selfish.

But I'm rambling.

Back to Footy's theory. Just for the record, I'm not advocating suicide. But he proposed the creation of Suicide Depots, where if you want to end it, you can go and take yourself out in a variety of ways for a nominal fee. If you're the jumping type, you could leap off a roof at the depot. If you're a shooter, you could do it that way. If you don't own a gun, they could rent/loan you one for the deed. I'm assuming they'd insist on payment up front.

This way, Footy reasoned, people who wanted to kill themselves could handle it in a controlled environment without the "temptation" to harm other, innocent people first.

So go ahead and laugh, or call him nuts. But I don't think Footy's idea was so crazy. I'd throw in one caveat: that anyone who wanted to off themselves be given a psych test first. And if they're deemed mentally incompetent they be denied permission and hospitalized. But if they test clean and competent, then let them do their thing. Better that than frustrating them by denying their quest, so they can go home and plot on how to take revenge on the world or their neighbors before killing themselves.

It's messy. But I think it could fall into one of those lesser of two (or three, or four?) evils categories.



  • I'm sure Fox could turn this whole idea into a reality show. Everyone at home can call in (and pay for the call) and vote on what method people should use to off themselves.

    By Blogger Jay, at 12:59 PM  

  • I read these suspense novels set in the 2050's and they have 'regulated suicide'. You go through a mental exam and sign some papers and they give you the drugs to 'self terminate'. I'm not sure how I feel about it, but it's interesting...and better than Suicide Depot.

    By Blogger WNG, at 1:22 PM  

  • Jay, you're probably right. I have a strong stomache. But I'm pretty sure I wouldn't pay to watch something like this. Although it might be better than American Idol.

    WNG, not that a cartoon is as good as a book, but this reminds me of the series premier of Futurama, the now-cancelled space cartoon that ran for several years on Fox and Cartoon Network. In that first episode, Fry, who was frozen in a cryogenics lab in 2000 and awakened in 3000, steps into a suicide booth, thinking it was a phone booth, only to find out that putting in a quarter did not result in a conversation.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 1:29 PM  

  • The problem is that the people don't just want to check out; they want everyone to notice them do it. Too many losers want to be famous, and since they are committing suicide anyway, they want to make sure they get their names in the paper. Maybe if instead of talking about these jerks being victims, they would paint them as despicable POS, some of them wouldn't want to go that route.
    Just my opinion.

    By Blogger BobG, at 2:01 PM  

  • I'm not sure I would trust the people giving the test. Or the batshit test itself.

    Wasn't it Chris Rock who asked what ever happened to just plain Crazy?

    By Blogger Say It, at 6:41 PM  

  • Dearest James,
    My name is Seriously McMillan. I am so excited to have found you via Technorati. It seems you and I have something in common. We are both writers, both african-american and we both have a blog called Urban Etiquette. My blog is about teaching manners and style to young urban women. I have also written a book called She So Ghetto: Everything you need to know to go from hood rat to social butterfly. I would love to touch base with you. Writer-to-writer. You can visit my blogs. and or shoot me an email: Yours Truly, Seriously K.B. McMillan

    By Blogger Seriously McMillan, at 8:34 PM  

  • BobG, that's an interesting predicament the news biz finds itself in. You're right that we - not just we in the news, but society in general - are in the habit of referring to people who commit suicide as victims. But I don't believe I've heard the "victim" label put on someone who murders first then kills himself. Most news orgs won't report on a suicide unless it's a person of note, 'cause they don't want to encourage copycats. But the murder/suicide killers? We sort of have to report that 'cause there are real victims involved. What to do, what to do.

    Say It, that was Chris Rock. And I'd have my doubts about the administration of that test too.

    Seriously, I'll check out your blog. Thanks for coming by.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 9:16 PM  

  • So - I have a question - why are these suicide killers always men? When was the last one a woman? I know women usually kill their own children, but when has a female gone on a shooting rampage?

    Do you think this is just a gender difference on how men and women take out their problems? (men do it externally, women internally?) It was just a thought I had to add to the whole complex issue.

    By Anonymous Karmyn R, at 9:19 PM  

  • I agree with bobg, the people who kill, then kill themselves are trying for publicity for what they have done.

    I also concur with Say t about the test. What do you ask? "So you'd like to kill yourself?" "Yes." "Too bad, you're disqualified, it's crazy to want to kill yourself."

    Now, if you could let these people kill each other, in a quick and efficient manner, for a nominal fee..........think of that reality show. You'd need a lawyer, of course.

    By Blogger The CEO, at 9:50 PM  

  • I like this topic. I struggle with what I feel about suicide. I do think I lean towards allowing folks to off themselves if they want to. It's disgusting to me that suiciders take others down with them. Makes me wonder if they are really suicidal or just murderers who are punks and afraid to face the consequences of their choices.

    I also struggle with whether or not I think suicide is a selfish act. On one hand I understand the argument that it is, but on the other hand, someone in enough despair to take his own life really has more going on with them to be concerned about whether or not they are being self-absorbed. I think what is selfish is for a survivor to blame the deceased for their suffering. I know that's an unpopular position, but really, someone was in so much despair that they preferred to be dead. That really isn't about the survivor at all, on any level. Maybe it's just me.

    By Blogger Lex, at 9:51 PM  

  • Karmyn, that's a very good question. You are right. I can only think of one time ever that I've heard of a woman pulling a murder/suicide. Maybe it is how we're all wired. Maybe guys are just more nuts. Or, ironically, in spite of the stereotype to the conrary, maybe men are in less control of their emotions.

    Monty, good point. There really would be no way to pass that test. I like your idea. If someone is really suicidal and also mentally competent, then they may as well make it interesting and accomodate one a controlled environment at Suicide Depot.

    Lex, I hadn't thought about your argument on blaming the deceased. I get your point. Obviously, I don't know much about psychiatry - psychology yes, but not psychiatry. But my simple mind says if you want to off yourself, and you have kids or a spouse or whoever depending on you, that's when you have to dig deeper and fight it and seek help. And if none of that stuff matters enough to you, then you probably were mentally off anyway, and not much would stop you from killing yourself anyway.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 10:28 PM  

  • Writing as someone who's got the t-shirt - if you have children & family, if you get that low, it's not that much of a deterrant. You just want out, for it all to stop!

    Thing is, how many people are really prepared to put in the 'digging work' involved to solve the underlying issues? & with the best interests of the would-be suicide & family at heart, rather than as a source of income or entertainment?

    By Anonymous bronchitikat, at 5:50 AM  

  • They are just a bunch of demonic cowards who don't want to die alone.

    The trouble with allowing the majority of suicides to off themselves with ease - is that the majority of them would change their minds as their depression or whatever subsided.

    By Blogger Pamela, at 6:38 PM  

  • Forget suicide. Footy's still on the radio???

    I would think that going by the name "Footy" you would be committing career suicide, but I guess not.

    By Blogger Curlatini, Esq., at 2:33 PM  

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