.The Eternal American Battle - Humans V Money


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Tuesday, March 18, 2008


I agree with Mahatma Gandhi who observed, “If I had no sense of humor, I would long ago have committed suicide”. Last year I stumbled across the tragic story of a man from Nagoya, Japan who clearly could not take a joke. One night in July he drove his station wagon up to the Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens. There he tied a rope around a tree in the parking lot, fed the rope through the open rear door, tied the other end of the rope around his own neck and stomped on the accelerator. His head popped off like the cap of a twist-top soda bottle. He left a note, and being Japanese I’m sure he apologized for the mess he left behind. But it’s still a damn odd way to end your life, particularly considering how “mainstream” suicide is.
According to the “American Association of Suicidology” (sic) you should ignore the lurid headlines on the evening news. You are much more likely to kill yourself than you are to be killed by a criminal, assuming you are not a criminal. Suicide is the 10th most frequent cause of death while homicide ranks 15th. (the order is; Number one, Heart Disease, then Cancer, followed by Lung Disease, Accidents, Diabetes, Influenza Pneumonia, Alzheimer’s, Kidney Disease, Septicemia and then suicide) Of the 90 people in America who take their lives every day, (32,600 a year, one every 16 minutes), the most popular methods of self murder show a sexual variation; 56% of males prefer to shoot themselves while 38% of women choose to take poison, proving that the average American male never cleans up after himself, while women are always worried about leaving a nice impression. Tough western men in Montana, Nevada, Alaska and New Mexico (over 19%) are twice as likely to “take the coward’s way out” as are men in New York, New Jersey or the District of Columbia (just 6%). But decapitation is the method of choice in less than 1% of all suicides, and most of these involve lying down on train tracks: ugh. So why don’t more people choose to check out while driving their cars? It seems odd, given how often we hear that America is a car culture, people love their cars and the number of people who feel they are chocking to death on car payments and insurance bills.
Somebody called the cops in Pontiac, Illinois, just before 4:30am on Thursday, November 8, 2007, to report a tow truck driving erratically across the parking lot in front of S&R Route 66 Auto Center at 1026 West Reynolds Street, then crossing the lot of the Super Gyro restaurant on the corner of Reynolds and old Route 66, before hitting a sign, then crossing Route 66 and rolling down the embankment in front of Mike’s Glass Plus across the street. Oh, and the truck, said the witness, was dragging a chain. When police arrived they found the truck idling behind Mike’s. Behind the steering wheel they found the body of a man. They found his head in front of S&R. Mr. Wayne K. Simpson, aged 52, had used the tools he was familiar with to end his life. Wayne was a 4 year employee of S&R, and his boss, Jeff Semmens, said Wayne had been out sick for a couple of days. He added, “I can’t think why he’d want to do this.”
“Why” is the favorite question asked about suicide, with “how “is a distant second. Talk Show host Phil Donahue observed, “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”, while Albert Camus called it “…the one truly serious philosophical problem.” I wonder what he meant by that? Bill Maher called suicide, “…man’s way of telling God, “You can’t fire me – I quit.”” And Chuck Palahniuk, the author of “The Fight Club” pointed out that, “Every time you don’t crash your car, you reenlist.” And if you really think about that statement it doesn’t make any more sense than the movie did. I think the best example of the illogic of suicide is the guy who came home from work to find his best friend banging his wife on their marriage bed. The poor guy starts screaming every filthy word he can think of and banging his head against the wall. The adulterous couple is terrified, for a little while. But as this goes on for five or ten minutes they start laughing. Further enraged, the cuckolded husband pulls a gun out of a dresser drawer and screams, “I can’t take this anymore! I’m going to kill myself.” At this the wife and best friend really crack up, laughing so hard they can barely breathe. And the guy puts the gun to his head and says, “Laugh it up, you bastards. You’re next.”
You can put more effort into your decapitation than just hitting the accelerator. A forty-one year old man in Allen Park, Michigan built himself a fully functional guillotine, carried it into the woods near a mall and put it to use in September of 2007. The cops found the receipts from several stores for the construction materials in his pockets. Deputy Chief Dale Covert observed, “This man was obviously very determined to end his life.” Or you can be more spectacular, like Arthur Ruiz, 32, of La Habra, California, who first removed his mother’s head and then died while trying to remove his own, with a circular saw. A neighbor said she heard the saw but just thought somebody was remodeling. And your suicide can be more poignant. Reynaldo Platon of Quizon in the Philippines, found a neighbor trying to hang himself. He cut the man down and rushed him to the hospital, saving his life. But instead of returning home to a heroes’ welcome twenty-one year old Reynaldo was greeted by a lecture on his drinking and diabetes, by his wife. Reynaldo listened to her for a few minutes, then went into the bathroom and strung himself up. His head did not come off, except metaphorically.
As Wikepedia puts it, “…decapitation was…presumed to be a relatively painless form of death.” But no body who has ever been de-capitated ever offered “de evidence” that it was so. Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, suffered three strikes from the executioner’s axe before losing his head, but his lips remained sealed. Mary Queen of Scots was heard to mutter “Sweet Jesus” when the first blow by her executioner glanced off the back of her head. Still, after the second chop finally separated her from her body, she was silent, even when, as the executioner displayed her head to the crowd, legend says that her wig detached and Mary thudded to the floor and rolled around on the platform. If Mary felt anything at that point I’m pretty sure she would have said something.
Still, when Charlotte Corday was guillotined just four days after stabbing Jean-Paul Murat, an enthusiastic assistant pulled her head out of the basket and slapped her across the face. Witnesses testified that she so clearly “blushed and looked indignant” that the assistant got four months in jail. And when Henri Languille was executed on the morning of June 28, 1905 for the murder of Madame Nibelle in the city of Orleans, a curious Dr. Beaurieux snatched his head up and called out his name. According to the doctor after several seconds, “…the eyes…definitely fixed themselves on mine and the pupils focused…” So maybe corpora delicti do feel no pain. But follow up “experiments” on other guillotined heads failed to illicit any response. And all of this seems to miss the point.
I mean, what’s the point of suicide? It ain’t like you are condemned to live forever. Just be patient and I guarantee that you will die. As Harvey Fienstein observed, “The great thing about suicide is…you can always do it later.” In other words, suicide is a literal waste of time. Consider that 1/3 of all suicide victims test positive for alcohol, 16% for opiates, 9% for cocaine, 7% for marijuana and 4% for meth. Have you ever known anybody who abused any of those substances who then got smarter? As the old adage goes, ‘that’s why they call it dope.’ But of all the odd ways of turning out your own lights, self decapitation by car (or tow truck) strikes me as one of the oddest.
Castle Rock, Colorado, is a community of 42,000, perched in the East Plum Creek Valley at the base of the towering front range of the Rocky Mountains, south of Denver. It boasts a “…low crime rate, abundant parks and open space and clean air” and more than 300 days of sunshine every year. And yet, last July 31st, just about 2:30pm a man in the parking lot of the Kerasotes 12 movie theatre under construction on Limelight Avenue spotted what appeared to be an abandoned car idling in an adjacent field. In the driver’s seat he discovered a decapitated corpse. Naturally enough he called the police. They found the head of a 57 year old white male on the floor in the back seat. It appeared the man had wrapped a cable around a concrete light stand in the parking lot, run the cable through the back window of the car, tied it around his neck and etc., etc., etc. According to Police Chief Tony Lane, they found a suicide note in the guy’s apartment, indicating he was under “…a great deal of stress.”
Yeah? Well, so was the cable.

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