Saturday, November 05, 2005

Lethal Beauty

The San Francisco Chronicle series, Lethal Beauty, is one of the best I've ever read:

One thousand, two hundred eighteen dead. The lives of families devastated. Sixty-eight years of debate about a suicide barrier. Lethal Beauty is a seven-part series looking at the darker side of the Golden Gate Bridge. The conclusion is inescapable: A suicide barrier would prevent deaths. Golden Gate Bridge district directors voted in March to authorize a $2 million feasibility study, which has not yet been fully funded. The stories this week provide the context, background, meaning and a human dimension for the decisions that will follow.

I'll keep this short and sweet. Shame on anyone for crying about the money it'll cost to save lives. Shame on anyone for crying about how a suicide barrier will ruin the look of the bridge.

It doesn't take a genius, and it shouldn't take personal experience, to recognize that suicide can be a spur-of-the-moment thing - a quick decision, spontaneously made, at some random point in time for some explicit reason or not. All the evidence points to a suicide barrier being a very effective suicide prevention tool. I'm all for free will, but I don't think it is healthy for society to allow people to take their own lives spontaneously. Actually, I believe it is a crime right now, and perhaps it should be, but too many people are victimized after the suicider is gone. Families, children, loved ones - the damage is too enormous. Build the suicide barrier.

UPDATE: In a later post on smoking cigarettes and libertarianism and free will, I made the point that free will, freedom, is important - including the decision on whether someone wants to live or not. The opponents of the bridge barrier, however, are not arguing for freedom and free will - they are arguing for 'saving money' and for 'not ruining the aesthetic beauty of the bridge' - even if it means thousands of people each year suffer gravely due to the 'lethal beauty' of the Golden Gate Bridge. Both those reasons, to me, are immoral. I believe I could give serious consideration to the argument that people should be allowed to put an end to their own lives, as it is a far stronger argument than 'saving money' or 'not ruining the aesthetics of the bridge'. I'd probably come down on the side of forcing people to live, but at least I could take this 'free will' argument more seriously than the others being offered.

UPDATE: Just wanted to add, because I often forget to record things here that I'd thought of before I began typing, that there have been times, when out jogging, I'd be leary of crossing bridges because of how down/depressed I was feeling. I have even avoided jogging across bridges at times when I was feeling really down. I never intentionally headed towards a bridge to jump off it, but I knew that I didn't want to be tempted to do something impulsive. One of the big arguments in support of the suicide barrier is that we should attempt to protect people from their own impulsive behaviors when those behaviors could be tragic both to the individual, their families, and socity at large. So, while I probably don't have a direct personal stake in whether the Golden Gate gets a suicide barrier, the issue certainly is very personal to me. It is very important to me.

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