Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Because I'm not finished yet: Robin Williams, Michael Brown, Matt Walsh

Let me start by saying, I'm pretty sure I hate Matt Walsh.

I'm called to forgiveness, as all Christians are. I'll get there on this one, I'm sure, since Matt Walsh isn't really relevant enough to continue hating, but just for today I've decided to hate him.

It started because my brother posted a comment to a blog MW linked to Facebook, so the blog showed up on my screen. I'm not totally sure I understand my brother's comment, so I'm going to leave that out. Matt Walsh was saying, basically, that suicide was a choice, a choice he condemned. He made obscure reference to his own past as being something he'd had to overcome, indicating that he felt justified in making a blanket statement about suicide as a whole, as it is faced by everyone.

That's trouble.  Anytime we start a sentence, "All ______ (suicides, depressed people, Christians, gays) are ________ " we need to shut up, have a good think, and try again.

Matt Walsh knows that at this point in his life suicide would be something he could choose or not choose. Matt Walsh knows nothing about the directions his life might go, the places he might find himself, the struggles he might someday have to endure. He has no idea what illnesses might fall upon his family.

More importantly, he has no idea what it's like inside my brain. Nor my brother's brain, my child's brain, Robin Williams' brain. He's speaking a confident "truth" based only on his own experiences, and that is, primarily, bullshit.

Just because I was feeling ornery, I scrolled down and read the previous post on Matt Walsh's blog. It's titled, "Police Officers Aren't the Ones Destroying The Black Community."  Hey, maybe not, but they are the ones shooting unarmed teenagers walking down the street. Walsh seems to think that the big picture in the Michael Brown story is that some of the protests after his death became destructive. Hello? A momma's child died. Walsh says, "two men allegedly assaulted an officer as he was getting out of his car," and while he notes that witnesses dispute that account, he leaves the strong impression that a cop was doing his job, clearing out some thugs who wantonly attacked him, while again, all evidence points to two young men walking peacefully down the street when a police officer challenged them. Because they were walking down the street. Nobody thought they were committing a crime. It was broad daylight. The officer started something that ended in tragedy by his own hand.

The horrid part is that people listen to idiots like Matt Walsh. They listen to FOX News analyst Shepard Smith calling Robin Williams a "coward," for killing himself in "a fit of depression," as though the disease were a sort of temporary temper-tantrum.  People listen to prejudice and hate expressed with confidence and verve, and they buy into it, but none of it is true. None of it is love. None of it, not one ounce, is Christian.

Robin Williams was a Christian. He was Episcopalian, which he famously described as, "Catholic lite-all the sacraments, half the guilt." He suffered from depression his entire adult life. He fought as hard as he could, and he was brave, and he died.

Suicide is not a sin. It's been centuries since the Catholic Church refused to bury suicide victims in consecrated grounds. Currently, suicide victims are treated as gently as all other people who die. "The church makes no judgment about the individual's relationship with God. We simply place all our trust in God's mercy and love for the one who has died, and for those terribly hurt by the death." (

Depression is not a sin.  Depression is a brain disorder. Many of our better Catholic Saints have suffered from it, including recently Mother Theresa of Calcutta, who never let her black nights prevent her from showing God's love. Neither suicide nor depression say anything about any person's inherent goodness or about how much that person is loved by God.

Unlike Matt Walsh, I would say that shooting teenagers dead for no reason is a sin. I would further suggest that a community protest about that death is not only not a sin, but is an admirable and reasonable response. Without the protest, who among us would have heard of the death of Michael Brown? If there's no protest, there's no media; without media coverage on this issue there is no possibility of change. Michael Brown wasn't the victim of random violence, drug bangers, gang members or thieves. He was deliberately shot by an officer of the law; when that can happen, something needs to change.