We have all stood behind that proverbial trigger my friends. We have all in some way helped kill someone. We stand idle when someone is bullied, we turn a blind eye to someone in need, we support politicians who seek to make it harder not only on those less than us, but make it harder on ourselves. We lie about each other, we set people up, we say things to each other that we know will cut, and while most of us go out of our way to not further ourselves at the expense of others, we still do it to some degree.
This remains, you can kill a man without physically harming them. Take away all they have worked for, all they own, family, friends, dignity, their very hope. Without those things a person is little more than a bipedal animal with the ability to speak, reason and think. This does lead to an interesting moral quandary, but more about that later.
We all know people like this, completely dead on the inside, yet still living, breathing, and thinking. I just sat down for coffee with a high school friend of mine. I had fallen out of contact with him, it happens. You graduate, go off to college, join the military, find a job, move away, in simple terms, life happens. But here I am sitting in the city near where we both went to school, and the first thing that struck me, outside of the fact that he looked like he hadn't shaven in years, and his hair was a combination of Trump's toupee and a mullet, was that the general impression I got was that he didn't want to be there.
Sure he seemed happy enough to be reconnecting with a friend who had all but vanished after high school, someone who left and didn't return for twenty years. Yeah, when I graduated from high school, I bolted, and nobody knew what happened, for all they knew I had been abducted by aliens and had not been returned. But he looked totally out of place, out of his element in society. No, he had not been incarcerated, he was working a dead end job, a few actually. I had bolted for other places, he had gone to the local college, married a girl, had a kid, graduated, got a decent job, and all the other things that come with the American Dream.
He plugged away, playing by the rules, did everything by the book. Really, most people do, but in life there is always a risk. So, why is this old friend of mine sitting across from me in a coffee shop, looking like he did. The wheels came off of his life. From 2007 to 2012 he lost his job, he lost his wife and children. The wife got the house in the divorce, he moved back home with his parents. Outside of working as a delivery driver for a hole in the wall pizza joint, and whatever other odd jobs he can find, he rarely leaves the house. Something inside of him died when he spent that five years getting drug over the coals.
But lets move to someone we have all known, we read his work when he posts here. He is as dead as they come. I would say he would be upset with me talking about him, but he isn't online currently, and does not know when he will be back. Even when he gets back online, I doubt he will be upset, I think that he hit the end of that rope in March. Sure, things for him are getting better, the tent is gone, a relic of the past. He has a home now. Somewhere between the time that his father passed away after years of homelessness, and today trying to find stable work to rebuild his life, whatever makes a person a person died. Like my high school friend, he just goes through the motions. Good days and bad days are all the same to him. He has withdrawn into himself. Sure, he gets on FaceBook, he posts, he comments, he talks to people. He files applications for work, and on occasion will answer his phone. The only time he leaves the house he resides in is to mow the grass or go to the store. He does not live, he merely exists, a shell of a person. The stories he wrote, the books he wanted to publish sit unfinished, their files unopened on a laptop with a dead battery, and even if there was power at his new home, he does not seem interested in working on them.
You see, what led up to his homelessness, with his parents, his inability to find work, to get help, to rebuild his life have robbed him of hope. Even in my darkest times, I remain able to see hope. Hope for a better day, hope that things will improve, that in the end whatever cosmic pay scale exists will eventually balance out.
The type of dead I am talking about have lost that. For them, there is no life, only existing. An existence where good things do not happen to them, and when good things come, the expectation that the hammer will drop is always present. For them, the good comes, and the bad will be there shortly to take it away. I think for him, life has been so bad for so long that he not only feels helpless in the face of all that has happened and will happen, that it has built a strong sense of hopelessness. Sadly, its not just him. There are so many people like him.
It is compounded by everything, the people eating out when you have to make a meal on a dollar pack of mashed potatoes and bread because its all you have. Its the people who proudly tell him to “pull himself up by the bootstraps,” or that they escaped that downward spiral and they are unable to understand why he cannot do the same. The murder of this man started when he was a mere child, thirty-four years of slow deaths caught up with one of the most stubborn bullheaded toughest men I have ever been graced with knowing. A man I watched work to exhaustion, yet still keep doing. A man I have watched rebuild his life several times in the fifteen years I have known him. A short story about him to illustrate my point. In 2011 on of his subordinates had an accident on his way to work, this joker goes to the site in the middle of a raging snow storm to find the subordinate, and when he could not find him or contact him, this guy starts looking for him. After he and another co-worker came in to find this joker, they learn that he had gone home. The co-worker said he would stay, and John went to leave when he slipped on a patch of unseen ice and fell. The next night John went to work, but was experiencing severe back pain, to the point that some of the miners had to help him into his truck because he could not get in it on his own. He called his boss, and on threat of termination, John went to the hospital and learned that he had bruised his spine, and broke his left elbow. He had a co-worker trade shifts with him, and he went back to work the next day.
To see a man who would work, no matter how severe the pain he suffered was, who would work himself into the ground no matter how badly he felt or how sick he was, a man that kept pushing forward constantly, pull up to the table and be so totally broken and hopeless is disheartening. I would say we all know someone like him, someone who day in and day out continues to push forward, to fight their situation, to advance in life, only to be beaten back down, to fail. It seems to me, failure has a heavy weight to it, and we seem to forget the toll it takes.
But that leads me back to the moral quandary I spoke of earlier. If you can say that there are numerous ways to murder someone, yet never physically harm them, are you responsible for taking part in that murder if they kill themselves? Are you responsible if you turn a blind eye to someone who has lost hope? You have not taken an active role in it, you are not the one who stole from them, you are not the one who took their home, you are not their employer, you might not even know that person outside of having laid eyes upon them a single time. But are you responsible for their non-physical death?