Wednesday, February 10, 2016

MarShawn McCarrel's Life and Death Matters

Honored three days before his death, at NAACP Image Awards
pictured with his mom

Reading about this freedom fighter today, I am gaining a picture of who MarShawn McCarrell was and what he worked for. His social media posts, specifically his Twitter feed in the weeks before his death, have told me more than the newspaper reports. His personal shares are heart -shattering in the context of his death, and as one progresses, undeniably chilling--not because we are seeing the progression of a man moving toward suicide, but because there is no clear and absolute sign it is to happen.

He speaks of getting a tattoo, of being in the mood to paint, of "wanting to record" when he returns from his trip, and he makes the sort of light jokes that one would not connect with a man who knew he was soon to committ suicide. His obvious and touching respect and consideration for his mom--and for all those he is fighting for--would be in direct opposition to giving up, let alone taking his life in a public place, so he was either a man in great conflict, or else it didn't happen like that.

  It would perhaps be understandable, but no less tragic, if his death were a statement of protest, but that wasn't his style. He valued life, including his own. Just look at the video produced by the organization he founded--or read his poems, and you will see the tone of hope and strength, and above all, action.

Untreated, or poorly managed mental illness has a power of its own that trumps all, this is true. But is it true that MarShawn McCarrel suffered from severe illness? If so, was it the sort of illness known to strike rapidly? One minute clear and lucid and the next ready to die.

Only his friends and associates would know whether he had a polar opposite side. To be either premeditating suicide, or to be seized with a sudden unstoppable urge--was that consistent with who this man was, or consistent with a known diagnosis?

It seems coincidental that yet another young activist who speaks out against others being shot down,  is himself shot down--supposedly by his own hand. I'm not hinting that there was no suicide, although strangely, there were no witnesses to a shooting that took place during rush hour.
Several reported being in the vicinity, at a bus stop, seeing the aftermath, but not the actual act.

I would imagine if he was of relatively sound mind, which he seemed to be, that a man who had devoted these past years to helping to build communities, feed communities and inspire and empower youth, a man who spoke of a spiritual life and seemed--(from all reports I have read)--to reach for one in daily life--that this man, even if he had good reason to die, would be blind-sided by despair and leave behind no note or else a heartfelt letter--the two cryptic lines on his final Facebook post is what sets off the most alarms--for me. Is that really what he would do and say? I would want to ask an expert psychiatrist if that seemed plausible, given his personality.

 Beyond that, he had much to live for. Days before he died, he and his mom had flown out and he was honored at the NAACP Image Awards. He had every reason to be proud. Of course, one who suffers from severe mental illness has times where all reason is crushed, and of course with severe mood swings, this can happen overnight. But again--conjecture.
Excerpts from twitter feed cut and pasted in chronological order

I feel this is a criminal case, because it is a criminal waste,  when a life filled with potential is snuffed out, a waste that warrants investigation into the motives and the means of this crime. I believe a true investigation, perhaps by objective journalists, would turn up a variety of system failures and human frailties as well as strengths. It would possibly turn up a multitude of causes, not the least of which were the threats he received and the barrage of notes from haters, one of which was also recently posted on Facebook.

A post on MarShawn's Facebook page less than 30 days before his death

He was dead less than a month after he posted this.  But of course, African American activists routinely get threats. And what if this constant aggression did not spur him on, but torment him, and contribute to any underlying mental health issues? Or is it possible that hatred kills. Because ultimately--it does.

A hero and lover of justice and equality, who is struck down by mental illness-- raises questions about mental illness and its treatment--or lack of treatment.  Further investigation--an perhaps open discussion, without stigma-- gives us the opportunity to educate ourselves, raise awareness and compassion--all of which leads to more intervention and treatment for those who suffer.

Is it any of our business? I think it is good to know why our fellow humans suffered so much that they had to die--good to know so we can rise, in any way to stop that suffering with our own efforts and choices, and by speaking out and helping out, in the most human and simple ways.

It is not a question of courage, pushing through or willingness to remain. It is possible he was tortured within--or even without. Sometimes the boundaries become unclear when in his line of work. Even the sanest, the bravest and the strongest are human.

How can we help him to rest in power and true peace? If the truth of how and why he died was discovered through inquiry and investigation, couldn't this lead to justice--and let him remain a hero to those who set out to help?

He believed in individuals and communities taking back their own power, and taking on responsibility for growth and transformation. To honor him, perhaps we can investigate our hearts, or do what he requested in his second to last Facebook post, which turned out to be his final request.

"Let's tell somebody from our neighborhoods that we love em."

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