Monday, January 18, 2010

a hole in the world

So I was all set to blog on Thursday about all my highlights of 2009... and then I woke up to the news about Haiti and everything else seemed a little trivial. It just kind of blows my mind... I go to sleep on a Wednesday night in a large, comfy bed that I mostly take for granted and I wake up Thursday morning and some time in between there's 100,000 less people on this planet. And a 100,000 more that will die from their untreated injuries.

And then you have American Evangelical Pat Robertson, who claims, as an inarguable fact, that Haiti once made a pact with the devil to be free of being the slaves of the French, and therefore the earthquake was just one more sign that "they had it coming." A woman named Lilly Cole from Minneapolis wrote a brilliant letter to Pat Robertson (pretending she was writing from Satan's point of view) that you sort of owe it to yourself to read but here's how I would have responded:

Um, Pat? I've met Christians. Lots of 'em, in fact. And you, sir, are no Christian. Where there's hatred, prejudice, ignorance, racism, and moral superiority, I can assure you: no God, of ANY faith, can exist in such a barren, dead land. Just trust me on this one, k?

And I know that by now we all know where to donate for Haiti relief, but if you haven't yet, and you've got like five or ten bucks and two minutes, it could change someone's life. Maybe even yours.

Donate here.

Also, on Thursday, because when it rains it pours (not unlike our rainy LA day today), I found out that someone I knew and worked with had taken his own life back in June of 2009.

This is somewhat difficult to process and talk about, not because we were super-close; in fact, it's harder to talk about because, quite frankly, this guy was not an amazing person. Or maybe he was, underneath all the pain and self-destruction - I don't know. I'll never know. He'll never know either.

Back in 2007 I co-produced, stage-managed, and assistant-directed a production of Much Ado About Nothing over in Studio City. We all knew, we all saw it - we saw how much talent and charisma this guy had, how charming he was. We also saw the self-made cuts going all the way up his arms and the temper that would flare during rehearsals. And one night, he showed up to rehearsal completely wasted, tried to throw someone through a window, tried to fight his co-stars and ended up getting squished into the sidewalk by two guy friends of mine while screaming and half throwing up. While his face was being mashed into the sidewalk, he saw me and started calling my name. I am extraordinarily nervous and wary around incredibly drunk people but I ambled over, leaned over to hear what he had to say, and promptly got knocked on my ass as he grabbed me and yanked, hard. His face was promptly put straight back into the sidewalk.

I let down my guard that night, and I never, ever do that. But I did. And when he called the next morning, having awoken in jail (I had to call the police to file a report since there was property damage with the broken window), he said he had no memory of anything that had happened. He apologized, probably waiting for me to give the expected that's okay, it happens to everyone response, but I didn't give it to him.

I hope you get some help, is what I said. Because it was true. And if I'd said that what he'd done was okay I would have been lying. And I don't really lie. I kind of suck at it. And now I wonder how many other people said to him, I hope you get some help as opposed to hey man, it's cool, we all have nights like that sometimes.

He and I never spoke again, and now he's been gone for over six months. He never did get help, and now the rest of us are left here wondering about the man he could have become. I'm sure he would have been great.

Anyways, one of my favorite ad-free websites, PostSecret, does a lot to raise awareness and funding for suicide hot-lines. They're trying to win 1,000,000 (to be awarded by Chase Bank) to create the very first online suicide prevention network. If you've ever been affected by suicide, or know someone who has, and you have a minute to do something about it, you can vote using the links from PostSecret, or you can vote here, on the TWLOHA (To Write Love On Her Arms) website. Easiest way to save a life.

And happy observed birthday, Dr. King. You were a voice of reason and hope in a time when there wasn't much other noise but the dull screaming of hatred, rising like the tide. May one day we will be able to honor your vision of love and unity.


Angie Muresan said...

Suicide is such sorrow. I was affected by it years ago, and always wonder if there was something I could have done to change the outcome.

Jenn said...

WELL said! i love this. pat robertson is the world's biggest idiot.

and i love post secret. there are so many good organizations out there for issues that really need to be more of a focus for people. suicide, especially!

Anonymous said...

You did the right thing. The last thing someone needs when they're contemplating leaving this world is someone to hold their hand and tell them 'it's okay'. Obviously, it's not. What I needed was for someone to look me in the eye and tell me I was being a selfish idiot. And I thank God every day that they did, and didn't just pat me on the back and send me on my way. I might not be here today. I've lost two friends to suicide, who weren't lucky enough to have someone knock some sense into them. It's a terrible thing, and the darkness it brings with it is awfully contagious. TWLOHA is a great organization and I hope they get the funding they need to help make some real changes.

Indigo said...

You hit on so many profound points in this single post. Then again you always do...Robertson's approach to life and christianity has always baffled me. Since when is striking someone while holding out a hand, claiming to try to help them up ever been beneficial?

I looked for your email and couldn't find it. In any case mine is As for how to stop Anonymous comments (this won't even allow nice ones to come through). Go to the customize area of your blog and you'll see a tab that says settings. In settings you will find a comment tab. The area that says 'who can comment', click on Registered users. Make sure you scroll down an hit save. I used to have mine set for anyone, until the Anonymous overload of rudeness. And that is how you keep Anonymous from commenting. (Hugs)Indigo

Lori ann said...

This is Exceptional Tracy. I'm with you on every single point you've made here.
If we all just did the best we could, from donating what we could to having (or trying) to live the dream, what a world this would be.
Bless Haiti.
and you too.

Carissa said...

this is such a thoughtful, powerful post. there's so much I could say. but to sum it up, I agree with you. I think there is a "hole in the world" because of what has happened in Haiti, and for ignorant people to claim that the poor country of Haiti "had it coming," well, that's just unfathomable to me, that someone could ever think such an evil thing, especially someone who says they are Christian. your response to Pat-- I couldn't have said it better myself.

as for the person who committed suicide... I've never personally known someone who committed suicide, but I think it is just a terrible, awful thing to do to the people you leave behind. the friends and family. but I think you did the right thing in what you said to him. it's just unfortunate that he didn't get help. maybe things could have been different.

Elisabeth said...

The story of the bigotry you describe in the name of the righteous ones is
powerful. Why is it that when someone is down others come out and 'blame the victim'?

I suppose the answer is obvious: it helps to protect them from the feeling that it could also happen to them.

On 9/11 did Pat
Robertson describe what had happened to those who died in the twin towers as an act of god. I suspect not. The fundamentalists from the opposing side may have done so though.

It's black and white thinking this type of bigotry and self righteousness and it gets us nowhere.

You give such a beautiful illustration of how difficult and painful it is to deal with the greyness of our experience in the story of acquaintance/colleague who committed suicide.

You did not condone his appalling behauviour but you did not simply condemn him for it. You urged him to get help. That's the best we can do. To urge also the bigots and the self righteous ones to get help too. The trouble is they're even more unlikely to see how much they need it than your drunk alcoholic and tragic man who took his own life.

Thanks Tracy/Phoenix for a thought provoking post.

Kris said...

When it rains it pours is unfortunately so true! We really do have to be thankful and help others as much as we can.

On a much lighter, if not inappropriate note, I have a giveaway on my blog. stop by if you can!

Darcy said...

I can't believe that pat robertson statement! wow. ser. wow.

Annje said...

So glad you posted that letter from satan... so well put. I probably wouldn't have seen it otherwise.

akka b. said...

I love reading your mind and feeling your heart. The heart IS a strange amazing muscle isn't it? Capable of holding the whole world. I think some tears needed to be shed this week for the way our hearts stretch and I think indeed, the rain is trying to show us how.

Barbara said...

Another thoughtful, perfect post. You put so beautifully in words what the rest of us are thinking.

Unfortunately we all tend to blame ourselves for not helping someone in trouble. Even if we don't know them very well. We have to hope that family, or someone closer to them does. But even then, sometimes it doesn't help.

As far as anonymous commentors are concerned, an opinion blog is probably more apt to have problems than a foodie blog. So this is not something I have experienced, yet. I hope I never do, but Indigo gave some good advice for all of us.

Gwen said...

You definitely did better by him than most people would have. Telling him to get help put the ball in his court. It's so hard when people take thier own lives because there are so many unanswered questions. A few years back a coworker shot himself and even though I wasn't close with him I still want to know why. What made him decide that living wasn't worth it anymore. People that were close with him even say that it was totally out of character. Still haunts me at times. I'm thinking of you and sending good vibes your way. You are a wonderful person!!! Love you tons!! XOXO

Happy Hour...Somewhere said...

Robertson invites ridicule that was such a bone headed remark.A pact with the devil? Maybe Haiti's leader made a pact with him but the people of Haiti did not and certainly did not "ask" for this.

Loved your birthday wishes to Dr King. I love reading his speeches and, when I can, actually listening to him.

If you had said it was okay to that guy, he probably would have knocked you on your ass in some other way. Watching two siblings suffer with self destructive behavior I realize when THEY are ready, then they accept help, otherwise they just use people. Your answer to him was honest which is what probably kept him away. It is hard to cheat an honest person.

Laura said...

adore post secret, and i feel like people really went out of their way this year to remember MLK it made me smile!

Heather Taylor said...

I'm so sorry to hear about how that man took his life, but I'm glad you didn't tell him "it's okay." Taking the easy way out is often preferred by most, but those who truly care will be truthful and honest and genuinely want to see you in a better place.
And Pat Robertson, my God. I still cannot believe he said that. It makes my blood boil to hear such an incredibly insulting and ignorant remark and even moreso knowing there are people out there who will follow this man on his word. The woman who wrote in, Lilly, she's a genius. Couldn't have said it better myself!
A wonderful and touching post, my dear :)

drollgirl said...

there are so many topics here to comment on, but i will stick to the suicide topic. my cousin's husband recently shot himself to death in a movie theater. awful. absolutely awful. he was a very unhappy and depressed man, and he was set to get help in 3 days. but he couldn't wait. when people are miserable and desperate, they need help quickly. very quickly. it might not help them, but it might. and the world of pain and guilt they leave behind is so difficult to overcome.

p.s. FUCK PAT ROBERTSON. and everyone on fox news.

Phoenix said...

Thanks, Anonymous! Very kind of you to stop by and say such nice things :)

nichole said...

Very well put! I know what you mean. All week I've been feeling trivial and self-obsessed every time I tweet/blog/etc.

We take so much for granted. SO, SO much.

Iva said...

wow. I'm left speechless. Suicide is truly awful. So many people left behind in pain. You are right, sometimes when it rains it does pour. I'm sorry. This is so sad.

Anonymous said...

This was a very powerful post. The tragedy in Haiti is so sad, and I'm very sorry to hear of your friend's suicide. But the advice you offered was excellent. It's so important when someone feels like that to get help.

jennifer from pittsburgh said...

This whole post...
Things, and people, sometimes, just are what they are. Completely outside of our thinking and rationale.
As for Haiti, it's not cursed, just isolated, as an island, on a fault.

bianca said...

I love your letter to Pat Robertson. I would beyond shocked when I heard what he said and it's just ridiculous that such things could come out of someone's mouth.

Overall, this was an excellent post

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