Making Jokes About the Recently Deceased is Trash [OPINION]
As a society, it feels like we should be past this point by now, but online reactions to the death of Linkin Park's Chester Bennington have served as a sobering reminder that we still have a long way to go.
Let me put this right out on front street -- I am not a fan of Linkin Park. I realized pretty early in their career that their music was not for me. I made fun of both the band and their music on numerous occasions. The most recent example of which included a lengthy comment section where I replied to a friend using only LP lyrics after learning she was a fan. In retrospect, it was not my finest hour, but it was all in good fun at that time.
Personal distaste aside, I still recognized their talent. I have always said that Chester had a great rock voice. I actually rather enjoyed that EP he recorded with Stone Temple Pilots, despite being one the most doubtful about that particular collaboration. My reason for disclosing all of this up front is because I want to give you an idea of who this article is coming from. These are not the rantings of some LP fanboy. The fact that I did not enjoy their music doesn't grant me some kind hall pass to talk s*** about their singer after he's passed. The same goes for you.
I was amazed at the amount of people online who dusted off their lamest 'In the End' "jokes" to "impress" their social media friends with how "shocking" they are. As someone quite succinctly put it on my Facebook page earlier, "from a comedic standpoint it's piss poor low hanging fruit." Being a crappy comedian is not an unforgivable offense. It's more of a crime against good taste, whereas trash talking the just deceased makes you an opportunistic edgelord. An internet shock jock with no audience. To put it more bluntly -- you're a garbage human.
There are usually two camps of people who do this -- the garden variety troll and those who believe they are morally superior. The first group can be written off as being d-bags (or maybe they just have d-bag tendencies), while the latter of the two, well, they are the ones you gotta watch out for. These are the people who feel that, because Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell committed suicide, they are better than them. They don't believe in suicide, so they get some sort of moral satisfaction out of proudly making jokes about it in public forums. Often times, they can't wait to tell you that they "don't respect people who go out like that" or whatever when you engage them online. Good for you, buddy. We're all very impressed with how sanctimonious you are.
Here's something to consider though, suicide is often a result of mental illness. The mind can go to some pretty dark places, and some people have a harder time than others escaping their demons. Sadly, some can't.
Did you know that a 2016 study found that roughly 22 American veterans commit suicide every day? That's almost 18% of all suicides in the U.S., from a group that only accounts for about 9% of our population. You don't see many self-righteous online comedians with the balls to go and trash talk our vets who take their own life. However, if you do fall into that category, I believe the Westboro Baptist Church would be happy to have you.
I'm not one to take the moral high ground. I'm guilty of saying some pretty ugly things in my life. However, I lost someone in a way that made me look at everything differently. My best friend, who was almost a year older than me, died almost two years ago. I had never lost anyone that close to me so unexpectedly. It had a profound effect on the way I looked at my life, and the lives of others. I also realized about how fragile you become during the grieving process. Just one word can emotionally and mentally destroy you for hours, even days. It's a soul-crushing experience.
I'm not perfect, but I now see a sadness in these tragic situations that I never saw before. Instead of my mind going to a place of comedy in times of sadness (which it often would as some sort of emotional defense mechanism), I think about the family and friends of that person. I empathize with their pain, because I know what it is to hurt like that. I have a very hard time respecting someone who can disregard all of that for a cheap laugh.
So before you post your bulls*** Linkin Park jokes online, all I ask is that you think about Chester's kids. Try to imagine looking one of them in the eyes and saying the thing you're about to type out loud to them. If you can make it past a gut check like that... I don't know. Maybe you're more broken than you realize. The internet has done a real number on us as a society, and it's time we start looking at things differently. People see the things that you say online, and even though you might not see it in person -- your words do have an effect. There's nothing wrong with being more conscious of that. I only hope that someone is that understanding when you lose someone you love.
Empathy is not a weakness, it's what separates us from the animals.