Juneau, be kinder to those who hurt

Posted: Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Would you want your epitaph splashed on the front page of the local Sunday paper, sensationally writing off your life as one of "violent threats" (or overeating, laziness, sarcasm, fill in the blank)?

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Randall Clevenger was a human being first, but the combination of a dangerous mood and two deadly weapons formed a tragic end to an obviously tortured individual. In my more than 30 years in Juneau, my sense has been that the Empire reports suicidal actions in a more veiled and low-key manner, respecting the privacy of the primary victim and his or her family.

The paper ran a decent picture of him with his little dog, but it might have been preferable to encounter it on the obituaries page with a more respectful and traditional summation of his time on earth.

On the opinion page of the same issue, the Empire fell to the taunts of Joanne Thompson, who expressed doubt it would print her congratulations to the officer for, in her gleeful words, "excellent shooting." I for one would rather the Empire hadn't. Sufficient support for the officer's actions under the dire stress of that fateful moment exists already. I do not disagree with the support. But I sadly doubt Sgt. Paul Hatch takes comfort in a heartless woman's thoughtless hurrah. He performed a grim duty to protect other potential victims, giving real-life meaning to the concept of "the thin blue line."

In dealing with emotions of pity and outrage stirred up by these two journalistic depressors, I encountered an antidote by searching out the lyrics of The Fray's musical phenomenon, "How to Save a Life." There are no easy answers to a life on the fast track to destruction, but these lyrics are golden advice to those of us who care about people with internal struggles and a tendency toward unwise choices. Our community can use the healing and inspiration of this powerful song just now, because hurting people are among us.

For those with more classical tastes, revisit John Donne's similarly compassionate poem, "No Man Is An Island." Consider the gentler path, Juneau; be kind to those who hurt.

Diane Nash


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