On Monday, August 10th, we heard the news of Robin Williams' death by his own hand. Immediately, the media exploded with commentary and supposition; today, the internet is ablaze with expressions of sympathy and recollections of favorite Robin Williams' films. Amid the shock and sorrow of this tragedy, two things strike me.
First, within hours of the announcement of Williams' passing, television's talking heads, in their continuous effort to fill the airwaves with drivel, discussed and analyzed the man's depression ad nauseam. In a telephone interview soliciting his reaction to the news, writer/television host James Lipton freely talked about Williams - and then admitted he didn't know the comic and had only seen him on occasion at the theater. In my opinion, celebrities without personal connection to Robin Williams (and maybe even those who enjoyed a relationship with him) have no place discussing his suicide on television; doing so smacks of insensitivity and conceit. Offering public condolence is one thing; joining a lengthy dialogue on the man's depression is quite another. In an on-air interview, Doctor Drew Pinsky (Celebrity Rehab program) speculated Robin Williams' depression may have been caused by medication taken after Williams' 2009 heart surgery. Again, what right does Pinsky (or anyone else for that matter) have to analyze Robin Williams' personal struggles? And isn't doing so unethical for a medical professional like Pinsky? Needless to say, I turned the television off last night. Enough is enough.
Secondly, and far more importantly, debating the root of Robin Williams' depression is highly insensitive and ignorant. You can say how sad it is that the man who made the world laugh was unable to uplift himself, and shake your head all you want, but depression is not easily shaken. It is not a one-size-fits-all illness. It isn't cured with a beach vacation and a handful of antidepressants. And contrary to what idiots like actor Todd Bridges believe, suicide is not a selfish act. (Bridges, of the old sitcom, Different Strokes, criticized Williams' suicide as “a very selfish act”, inferring the much loved comic's death resulted from flawed, weak character.) Selfishness requires clear thought and motivation; a person trapped in deep depression is ill, hardly thinking clearly, and is thus incapable of a selfish act. If people insist on discussing Robin Williams' depression and personal struggles, they should do so with respect and sensitivity. Better yet, they should keep their mouths shut.
Today, commentary and superlatives are freely flowing. Robin Williams is described as brilliant, electric, energetic, warm, caring, honest, frank, flamboyant. Without doubt, he was a comic genius, a versatile actor. But the man's legacy is far more than the body of his work. In his life, Robin Williams taught us to laugh. In his death, he shows us the frailty of the human spirit. From Williams' tragic passing, we learn deep pain and sorrow can be masked by smiles and laughter. Comic Marc Moran said it best: “Robin Williams was a shining piece of humanity,” a brilliant comic who now shows us “the other side” of the laughter, “a heart too heavy to live.”
During his lifetime, Robin Williams freely shared with us. Now, in his passing, let us freely share with him...our respect, our gratitude, our prayers. And say no more.
Thank you, Robin. God bless you.