Skip to comments.Can a General Call Suicide "Selfish"?
Posted on 06/05/2012 6:26:45 AM PDT by servo1969
On his army blog of January 19, the commanding general of Fort Bliss (Texas), Major General Dana Pittard, wrote regarding members of the military who commit suicide:
"I have now come to the conclusion that suicide is an absolutely selfish act. I am personally fed up with soldiers who are choosing to take their own lives so that others can clean up their mess. Be an adult, act like an adult and deal with your real-life problems like the rest of us."
According to the National Journal, "Pittard's blunt comments about suicide have raised eyebrows throughout the military. . . . Suicide-prevention experts believe that Pittard's blog posting has already conveyed precisely the wrong message to emotionally-fragile troops.
"In the words of Barbara Van Dahlen, the founder of Give an Hour, an organization that matches troops with civilian mental-health providers: 'Soldiers who are thinking about suicide can't do what the general says: They can't suck it up, they can't let it go, they can't just move on. They're not acting out of selfishness; they're acting because they believe they've become a burden to their loved ones and can only relieve that burden by taking their own lives. . . . His statement -- whatever motivated it -- can do little good for those who are already on the edge.'"
As a result of the furor, on May 23, the Wednesday before Memorial Day, the general wrote the following:
"Thanks to many of you and your feedback, I have learned that this was a hurtful statement. I also realize that my statement was not in line with the Army's guidance regarding sensitivity to suicide. With my deepest sincerity and respect towards those whom I have offended, I retract that statement."
There are three questions that need to be answered here:
1) Was the general's original blog right?
2) Even if it was right, should the general have made it public?
3) Should he have been pressured to retract his original comments?
Regarding the first question, unless suicide is committed as a result of terrible and unrelenting physical pain -- especially if one is suffering from a terminal illness -- or a person knows that he is about to be tortured, most suicides are selfish acts. This is said with no lack of compassion for the terrible psychological suffering that people who commit suicide experience.
But compassion does not negate the fact that suicide is usually a selfish act. An army colleague of General Pittard told CNN that one reason the general wrote his blog was that he had just attended the funeral of a man, one of his soldiers, who had killed himself at home on Christmas Day. Among the suicide's horrific effects on the soldier's wife and two young daughters was their permanent inability to ever again celebrate Christmas with anything but pain.
To deny the selfishness of most suicides -- to declare, as the aforementioned suicide prevention experts do -- that judging suicides is morally wrong means that every great religion has been morally wrong in declaring suicide a sin.
Yet, it is undeniable that countless religious individuals throughout history have refrained from committing suicide solely because their religion declared it a sin.
And if that is true, the general's remarks were probably likely to prevent some suicides. Everyone who has condemned the general should answer the question: Are his remarks more likely to increase or decrease military suicides?
On the second question, the general was quite right in making his thoughts public. Only if it can be demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that these comments will lead to more suicides in the military -- in which case one would have to likewise demonstrate that by labeling suicide a sin, religions have also increased suicides among believers -- would the comments have to be regarded as so irresponsible that they should never have been made.
Which leads us to the third question -- and the primary concern for this column.
That the general was pressured into a public retraction of his position is another manifestation of a totalitarian mentality that pervades our era. Increasingly, no ideas that run against prevailing politically correct doctrines may be publicly expressed. We are no longer permitted to ask whether something said is true; only whether anyone is potentially offended by hearing it. And nothing is as taboo as harshly judging almost any action. Even worse, not only did the general harshly judge military suicides, he denied one of the gods of our times -- the god of compassion.
The American military is a revered institution. Its members rightly constitute the most universally admired group in American society. Every soldier who suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) must be helped in every way. But helped is not the same thing as patronized. Nor is compassion.
If the general's comments lead to one less suicide, those comments embodied true compassion. Moreover, the first purpose of the military is to produce men who will be able to better fight and win wars against the least compassionate people on earth. And transforming generals into therapists will not accomplish that.
Well, at least he didn’t do what Patton did.............
“I am personally fed up with soldiers who are choosing to take their own lives so that others can clean up their mess.”
As opposed to soldiers whose lives are taken when cleaning up the mess of generals.
The general is right.
His original post was correct. Suicide is the ultimate act of selfishness. It’s a permanent “solution” to a temporary problem.
I know we should have compassion for depressed people, but I don’t think assuring everyone that people who commit suicide are blameless discourages other people from comitting suicide. Whenever someone kills himself, the mantra is: “It wasn’t his fault...he was in so much pain...he’s now in a better place.” This sends the message that depressed people can’t help themselves (or be helped), that suicide is semi-rational (because you are out of pain afterwards), and that people who commit suicide all go to Heaven. At the very least, religious leaders should get this message out: “If you are sane and you commit suicide, you will go to Hell.”
Having had two suicides in my family, and seeing the effects these have had on siblings and others, I can tell you that absolutely, no doubt at all, suicide is the ultimate act of selfishness.
It is utter, complete selfishness, rooted in the deeply embedded notion of personal superiority, that idea that ones own problems are so uniquely painful, so much worse than anyone else’s, that one’s own situation is so much more hopeless than anyone else’s, and that ones own existential agony is so much more intense than anyone else’s.
To all these wimp out, self absorbed crybabys, I say - get over it.
I say - don’t be so concerned with your measly self; dedicate your life to others. And think about the message of disrespect and disregard you are sending to those you are abandoning.
Man, I'm getting sick and tired of seeing our guys do or say the right thing only to cave the moment the heat comes on. A Patton, MacArthur or Farragut he ain't!
Of course PTSD (though it had been around since War began under different names) was not as well explained or known by returning Vets.
Though I never contemplated suicide (though the thought of personally strangling John "F'n" Kerry did cross my mind..lol) it took some 25 years for me to realize I had suffered from PTSD without realizing it.
Shortly after my discharge I attended one meeting with a group of Nam Vets (pretty sure is was Vietnam Veterans of America) and there were a bunch of guys sitting around mostly depressed and bitching about everything.
Thinking I had been one of the lucky ones who was "not affected" I figured this was all a bunch of BS and those guys were a bunch of crybaby "losers."
It wasn't until some 25 years later when reading a book about PTSD (and it discussed all the relevant symptoms) that I thought: "Wow, I can't believe I have been experiencing so many of those all these years."
Thereafter, it helped me adjust and comes to grips with a lot of my demons and think I've put most behind....all except again, how we were treated, thanks mostly to John "F'n" Kerry!!!
Thank you for your post and thank you for your service to our country.
Your post taught me that one of the small things people can do to help servicemen battle depression is simply to say, “Thank you!”
Thank you for your service, CVV. I also hope there is a special place in Hades for John Kerry and his fellow travelers.
My family believes that suicide is selfish.
With the ending of DADT, I expect suicides to go up among tne queer segment of the military.
Kind of stupid if you ask me to make a public thing out of it, what does he propose? to court martial them?
So long, General.
“As opposed to soldiers whose lives are taken when cleaning up the mess of generals.”
He’s “fed up”? Seriously? His bad decision making has no doubt cost the lives of a number of soldiers and he’s “fed up” about the few that kill themselves??? What a self-centered ass!
If there is one thing the Army outperforms the other services at, it is treating their people like crap. This war has shown that when the chips are down the Army will discharge combat disabled troops without continuity of care, put mentally ill soldiers back into combat, recruit and tolerate Islamic extremists to provide mental health care, and bill soldiers missing limbs for their gear that was lost on the battlefield.
If this general is fed up I'm sure there are a bunch of other guys waiting in the wings that can do his job.
It’s not that they just happen to be selfish and lacking character.
Depression causes a loss of perspective, including “selfishness”.
OK there is something people can do to try to snap out of it, but people can get stuck and need help too.
That is the fantasy of many a suicide - “THIS WILL SHOW THEM!” they think - and often the people clamoring for prosecutions demonstrate that the suicide DID show people!
Providing a posthumous revenge for people who engage in suicide only encourages more suicides.
Pointing out that a suicide is a selfish sh*t-head who is leaving behind a sh*t bottomed body for other people to clean up; a bereaved family, and (in this case) a military unit that is low in morale and short a ‘man’ - in a culture that is supposed to exemplify teamwork self discipline and masculine and martial virtues - should serve as a deterrent.