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Suicide is shadowland.  Stark statistics are always available – most recently, that American gun suicides have reached an all-time high (and basically anybody who is anybody who doesn’t want to be anybody uses a gun) – but the act itself is so unaccountable, so extreme, that we consign it to the shadows.  

We can sort of make out how a very old person beset by terminal pain might want to do it; but the vast majority of suicides remain hopelessly obscure.  Most of us are too wedded to life, and too afraid of death, to get anywhere with them.

Suicide shadows lie deepest where gunshots to the head ring most sharply.  Cowboy states like Wyoming and Montana have outrageous rates of gun suicide, and their state legislatures do practically nothing about it.  Just getting suicide hot lines set up in these locations is a battle.  Shine a light on massive firearm self-slaughter, after all, and you risk giving gun control people something to talk about.

Even the little we do know about suicide is so upsetting that we avert our eyes.  Can it be that there are many people so lonely, so rejected, so alcoholic – and so bitter and angry about this condition – that they derive their last bit of pleasure from the thought of how they’re abandoning and wounding the few people who do care about them?  Or say their motive isn’t quite this ugly.  Can there really be people whose self-disgust is so intense as to make them pull the trigger?  

Yes, and yes.  

Can it be that there are many people so encased in clinical depression, and so resistant to medication, that no pill or therapy regime will be able to free them from it?  


So we also press suicide into the shadows because we cannot accept the thought that suicidality often eludes cure.  The best doctors, the most loving families, may jolly it away for a while, but people who have come to hate themselves, or hate their lives, to this extent, may despite all try to do the deed.  And a gun makes it so much easier and more certain to cause death than any other form of self-destruction.  

A gun sits in a drawer by the suicide’s bed, beckoning him (statistics again – it’s overwhelmingly men) to do it.  That’s what it’s for – to kill.  It’s not like pills or ropes — innocent objects which you must struggle to make lethal.  Guns positively sing of unconditional easeful escape from anguish.  In a chorus 450 million weapons strong, they sing of instant surcease.  They even have an anthem, if you like: Bach’s Come, Sweet Death.  

Guns are the kingdom of death on earth, and their preeminent kingdom is America.  In our privileged country, we get pretty much everything we want, including a rich array of death-promisers from which to choose.

Margaret Soltan, August 22, 2023 10:17AM
Posted in: guns

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2 Responses to “Shadowlands”

  1. Matt McKeon Says:

    Suicide isn’t us and them, the suicidal and the non suicidal. Especially with young people, its an impulse, that can be derailed, delayed and then fade away, given time and treatment. That’s the problem with guns. Killing oneself doesn’t require a plan, it’s as easy as clicking a remote.

    Good post

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Matt: Thanks. And you’re right – large numbers of suicides seem to be of the impulsive variety. Given a little time in a world without guns, some impulsives might well pull back, or perhaps they will weakly attempt suicide so as to be able to save themselves (we know this from interviews, etc.). But no gun offers a weak suicide. As easy as clicking a remote, as you say. Guns get it done. End of story.

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