From CNN website, May 26, 2011
A bipartisan group of senators is asking President Barack Obama to change the current "insensitive" policy of not sending condolence letters to families of service members who commit suicide.
A letter signed by 11 senators -- 10 Democrats and one Republican -- and sent Wednesday urges the president to "take immediate steps to reverse the long-standing policy of withholding presidential letters of condolence" to families of troops who killed themselves.
The policy, which goes back several presidents, has been the subject of protest by military families. CNN first reported in 2009 about the family of Spc. Chancellor Keesling, who killed himself while serving in Iraq.
These senators speak for an enlightened view of suicide. They speak for a humiliated group of families whose loved ones could not stand the trauma to which they were exposed while fighting in the war theatres.
And these senators also speak for a host of people whose view of life includes death in all its forms. In a death denying society, life has no opportunity to become fully realized. I have attended funerals for adolescents who perished in auto accidents, during which the priest dubbed death "evil" as if to say that God and the Church and his theology were on the good side of human existence.
Death denying societies are also death defying societies. There is a value, in some quarters, attached to those who push themselves into dangerous places, for military honour, for the dollars and fame that come from such experiences as entertainment for others, and for the thrill of climbing mountains, or killing wild beasts.
And yet, those whose attitudes and view of life includes an acceptance and a dialogue and an appreciation of the meaning of death are considered morbid, and sick by some.
The state is the mind, heart, voice and body of many of the values its people hold sacred and significant. And a state at war, for the last decade in at least two theatres, has to come face to face with the suffering its exploits provoke, including the suffering of those whose loved ones take their own lives, for whatever reason.
It is not the act of suicide that is evil, as much as the act of denial that if fully sanctioned by the state.
I once heard a doctor comment that if one took one's own life, there would be a heap of guilt left for those remaining. We have all heard those who see suicide as the most selfish act in the human repertoire of potential acts.
Like abortion, no one really wants to see suicide become a public spectacle, and that includes the state's permission for medical personnel to participate (something I believe the state must also begin to consider openly), however, the denial and refusal to send condolences to the families of service personnel whose lives have ended by their own hands is not only negligent but insensitive, and protects the opportunity and right of denial of the state.
If the society were more open to the signs and the realities of suicide, and were more acknowledging of the pressures that result in its occurence, perhaps there would be more attention paid to those pressures, many of which are clearly created in a society that denies, publicly, the act of suicide.
This is not to be read as encouragement for those considering taking their own lives. It is simply a plea for the state to acknowledge the pain of its occurence and the responsibility to acknowledge the lives and contributions of those whose life ends in this manner, by sending condolences to the families of those who served.