A few days ago, we lost one of the greatest minds of our time. Robin Williams. And without going into the tragic events in detail as the media seems to be doing ad nauseum I will say he fell victim to depression because that is the only detail we need to concern ourselves with as the rest is, frankly, morbid curiosity we have no right to pry into. Seeing how he did it does not tell us anything we need to know and only creates an image he couldn’t possibly want to be remembered by or associated with. One will always remember that Elvis has left the building, but rarely remember which building that was.
In the wake of it, there have been the obvious events that happen every time someone like this dies. The news becomes saturated of reporters tripping over themselves to find information no one else has reported, taking to the home of the family with pick-axes, mining up all the tidbits of information they can hack out. Right wing media uses their death to push their own publicity by attacking them. Something Fox and Rush Limbaugh both spent no time getting too, especially when Rush claimed that Robin Williams killed himself because of “his leftist attitude.” Ironic, coming from a right wing who, by all accounts, is the most miserable human being on the planet. Which is saying alot, given the planet I’m talking about is Earth.
But another trend has been developing, one that I haven’t seen for anyone else. Many many references to the Pagliacci “joke” made popular by Watchmen. One of my favorite go to quotes of all time. Something that has a ridiculous amount of personal meaning to me.
Before I continue, let me post the “joke” for those who don’t know it. This is the version from the graphic novel “Watchmen”:
Man goes to Doctor. Says he’s depressed, Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. Great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears. Says, “But doctor…I am Pagliacci.”
This was what many people are associating with Robin Williams, and now, days after his death I understand why. People are pouring in from all sides recalling things that Robin Williams had done for them in their darkest moments. Conan O’Brian recapped about how when he was in a dark area of his life, Robin Williams showed up out of the blue and bought him a bicycle. He would visit a freshly hospitalized Christopher Reeves often under the disguise of a doctor. He’d call Steven Spielburg while he was Steven was working on Schindler’s List just to keep him positive while working on such a dark project. He’d even visit Coco the Talking Monkey when the monkey showed signs of depression and just sit and play with a gorilla. You read that right, he’d even visit sad gorillas.
This man, who we lost due to depression, seemed to travel the nation and make sure no one was feeling how he felt.
While this does shed light on Robin Williams and some how make him seem even more amazing than he was already perceived, it does seem to also shed light on a particular problem with us as a society.
These stories are coming out now. After his death. Posthumous.
We have this trend in America. Well, we have several, but we have one in particular that I’ve been thinking about as of late how cold this nation is. I realized this months ago when I found out that when my wife gave birth to our son Damian. In most countries, there’s an event that happens in which someone gives birth leading to friends and family coming out of the woodwork to band together and support and help. Even if just by visiting and hanging out. It’s treated as the amazing event welcoming someone in the world is. While here in America, more often than not (and definitely the case with us) you’ll have a child and everyone in your life save a very select few will vanish from your life. They’ll disappear as if you were literally dead to them. And out of the ones that stay in your life, half of them will treat you negatively. Either looking at having a child as a handicap, or taking out their angst at not having kids of their own on you.
And with this, it also points out another problem the cold nature of America has. Our obsession with the negative. We have this trend here where whilst someone is alive, we spend so much time finding fault in them. Digging through the dirt trying to surface any bad things they may have done to the point of some people even fabricating events just to get that person to defend themselves. We focus so hard on pointing out a person’s faults. Then, when we inevitably lose that person. When they are dead, we spend weeks talking about how good they were. Bringing up positive and amazing stories no one knew about that person.
Why now? Why do we wait? Maybe if we talked about things like this prior, we might still have him. I know depression. I know how it works. I don’t understand his particular depression as the fact that I’m writing this clearly shows I never crossed that line, but I do know what heavy depression feels like. It’s a daily visitor of mine. And I know that while nothing in the world will ever make that go away, being in a more positive environment would definitely help. It’s like bedrest. Being sick sucks, but laying down with a comfy pillow helps.
So why can’t we do this? We don’t we talk to people like people? Why are we quick to talk smack, but afraid to give compliments? Why do we run from people in need, but gather to complain? What exactly is wrong with us and how do we fix this?
Even now, Zelda Williams, one of the most positive people I’ve ever encountered, one of the main reasons I got on Twitter, has called off social media after people started sending her photoshopped pictures of dead bodies with her father’s head attached. You know, a woman who just had a large portion of light snuffed from her life. Why was this the thing people felt was right to do?
I guess I can only really ask, what is wrong with us?