Autumn Leaves Satisfaction
The Autumn 2013 issue represents the best of everything the Scholar has been and still is.
I find it hard to know where to start: Lincoln Caplan’s admonitory cover story; William Quirk’s exposure of the scandalous student loan business, in which every damning fact falls like a blow from Thor’s hammer; Jennifer Hecht’s moral hymn lamenting suicide, which, whether one agrees with her or not, is inescapably moving; Ralph Keyes’s simply marvelous essay about neologisms, which is more inventive than most of the verbal inventions he discusses. On it goes. There isn’t an inept or inelegant word in the entire issue.
More than the parts, however, it is the whole of the Scholar that is so satisfying: the balance between serious and playful things, between analysis and imagination, seems, to this reader at least, exactly right. The pieces come from the writers, but the finished puzzle is the editors’ work.
Judging a Cover
“Leakers or Traitors?”—the Autumn issue’s cover line for Lincoln Caplan’s essay—was ill conceived. No one doubts that Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden are leakers—that’s a matter of fact. A more exact title, with each term expressing a moral judgment, would have been “Heroes or Traitors?” Millions of Americans, and a majority of non-Americans, consider Manning and Snowden heroes.
When a Fog Is Just a Fog
Regarding Phyllis Rose’s point (Books Essay) that artists determine how we view life: Oscar Wilde went even further in his essay “The Decay of Lying,” in which he wrote, “At present, people see fogs, not because there are fogs, but because poets and painters have taught them the mysterious loveliness of such effects. There may have been fogs for centuries in London. I dare say there were. But no one saw them, and so we do not know anything about them. They did not exist till Art had invented them.”
Montclair, New Jersey
Ending It All
Without doubt, the goal of reducing the suicide rate both across society as a whole and among veterans in particular is an admirable one. However, I did not find Jennifer Michael Hecht’s essay (“To Live Is an Act of Courage”) to be a particularly constructive argument for the cause.
Suicide is a tragedy, but in the end, each of us is in charge of our own life, and only our own life, and we have the right to end it if and when we judge the suffering to be too great for us to bear any longer. Others can claim it is selfish of us, and that we should consider the feelings of those who are left behind, but the arguments of others do not match the validity of the suffering individual’s own experiential argument for ending his own life.
The prevention and treatment of suicide, especially in the military, has been a subject familiar to me throughout my clinical psychology practice of 50 years, and I have never had a patient who ended his or her life. When I thought the patient was near to acting out, I would hospitalize the individual until he or she was ready for psychotherapy. A case in point is a young man who attempted to hang himself while at college. He eventually responded well to treatment, married, earned a law degree, and became a judge.
I attribute my success in treating suicidal patients to conveying to them that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
Wyckoff, New Jersey
As one who has sometimes fallen into a form of habit of thinking of suicide as someone’s “choice,” I am very moved by the penetration Jennifer Michael Hecht makes into the many layers of the question. I love how her essay combines intellectual agility with tender care for other people. Compassionate and adamant in its affirmation, her essay plants forever in me a resolve to never again rationalize a suicidal person’s scope of despair.
I will be among those who say, with her, “Living through your misery is a colossal gift to the community. You may now or someday feel as if you are useless, as if the world would be better off without you. But that is wrong. You may have made some mistakes, even some terrible mistakes, but you would do even more damage—immeasurable damage—if you were to kill yourself. It is not an option.”
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