--Richard E. Vatz
Please do not read this article if you are searching for undiluted praise of Mike Flanagan, the great former Baltimore Orioles pitcher who committed suicide. This short essay will avoid cuteness and rhetorical flourishes and make but one clear argument:
A healthy, relatively young person who kills himself or herself has committed an unethical act, truly unforgivable.
This writer has experienced a suicide in his extended family perpetrated by a bright young person. His parents, brother and other loved ones never stopped blaming themselves and never stopped suffering from the act. From that moment on, that was their definition: the family whose child killed himself.
Everyone wants to honor Mr. Flanagan, whose greatness as a ballplayer and whose personality brought great joy and warmth to everyone near him as well as to those who knew him only as a great celebrity. This writer himself gained much through those identifications and memories.
Life is extremely difficult for just about everyone and particularly at times when things seem to all go negative. Those days and even years are also terribly tough for those who care about us.
To end that life ends the problems for one who commits suicide but exacerbates them substantially for those who survive the decedent. This horror for the survivors is not significantly mitigated by an explanation left for the world to read or hear, but in this case even that gesture was apparently rejected.
Mike Flanagan: incredible competitor who pitched through pain and won 141 games and was a Cy Young Award winner.
Mike Flanagan: not much of a competitor when dealing with humbling problems that he could make worse for the people who loved him.
Suicide is all about human agency -- the conscious choice to end one's life.
The real victims of suicide are the families, loved ones and friends of the one who takes his or her own life. With public figures, the victimage numbers increase exponentially.
Prof. Vatz teaches at Towson University and is author of the just released The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion (Kendall Hunt, 2012)
Saturday, August 27, 2011
--Richard E. Vatz