In The End, Everything Matters
If 90% of a population wears purple at the same time, it is most likely not a coincidence.
Perhaps there’s a football game, and the entire school is walking around in ‘purple pride’ wear. Perhaps there’s a group outing, and the members of the group chose to wear purple hair ribbons in order to be easily sought out. Perhaps it is Mardi Gras, and an entire parade is decked out in the traditional purple, green, and gold.
Perhaps someone died.
Last year, an acquaintance of mine posted a very depressing status on Facebook: ”If only you had known how loved you were. I’m sorry you felt like you had to do this. I’m glad you’re in a better place now. R.I.P. Joshua.” Her friend, a boy who lived several states away and knew only two or three people attending our school, had committed suicide.
Within the hour, my newsfeed was filled with condolences, R.I.P.s, and posts urging everyone to wear purple the next day (purple being the color often worn on October 20th, Spirit Day, to raise awareness about LGBT bullying and suicides).
I spent over three hours on Facebook that night, watching these posts go from heartfelt and sorrowful to… well, a fad, for lack of a better word. I watched this boy’s act of suicide transform from a tragic event into gossip whispered in the bathroom stalls (“Why is everyone wearing purple?” “Oh, didn’t you hear? A boy committed suicide yesterday. Some people at this school actually knew him!”). I watched him turn into a statistic, a story to be told and then quickly forgotten. By the end of the week, the only people who were still thinking about him were those who truly knew him, and the rest of us, well- we had moved on to the Next Big Thing.Several months later, I read a book that changed my life, and I was struck by how eerily similar the story was. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher follows Hannah Baker as she narrates the thirteen reasons she committed suicide. She does this through a set of cassette tapes, passed along to a list of people that were, in one way or another, involved in her death- including Clay Jensen, one of Hannah’s classmates.
On the surface, it doesn’t seem very similar to Joshua’s story- at least, not the part of his story that I know from Facebook posts and hallway whisperings.Thirteen Reasons Why does not include the student body’s reaction to Hannah’s death. Rather, it shows how she slowly became depressed and suicidal- and a very large part of it is indeed gossip.
Dehumanizing people is not uncommon. The human race likes to categorize people, place them in tight little boxes. We like labels- Slut, Phony, Attention Seeker. We imagine ourselves as complicated and unique personalities, but we do not extend this kindness towards others- we think of them only in terms of reputations, stories, statistics. Our thoughtlessness can cause suicide, as shown by Hannah’s story, and disgustingly enough, it continues even after death. I would not be surprised if Joshua’s story began the way Hannah’s did- cruel rumors, thoughtless acts- or if Hannah’s ended similarly to Josh’s- false care, whispered gossip.
The truth is that everybody has a story, but it is far more complex than you could ever imagine. Think about that the next time you want to say something rude about a person. Think about it the next time you believe a rumor, or the next time you base your opinion of someone off of their reputation. Think about it while they’re alive, and maybe then you won’t have to think about it when they’re dead. Think about it while they’re alive, and maybe then you won’t have to think about it at a funeral, as you watch those that truly cared about the person cry. Think about it while they’re alive, and maybe then you won’t have to think about it while surrounded by people who couldn’t care less that this human being–this living, breathing, complicated, unique, incredible human being–killed themselves, and instead are looking for an excuse to gossip and wear purple.