There are many who understand that when someone commits suicide they were likely in great pain. Why else would one end their life? Surely people who feel happy and are filled with joy are not going to suddenly sacrifice their good feelings. When one commits suicide it is likely because they want to put an end to the misery. When this is recognized, the question isn't why one would commit suicide, the question becomes what caused that person so much pain that they felt ending their life was their only option?
Sometimes, people kill themselves to make a statement. Sometimes they kill themselves in such an extreme manner that people almost have to sit up and take notice. In those cases, it becomes necessary to examine the cause of the suicide if we wish to prevent such tragedies and strive to better societies for all. There are several suicides that are notable in history including Thich Quang Duc who was the monk who self immolated himself in Vietnam as a protest to the oppression of the Catholic Diem regime that controlled the South Vietnamese government at the time and more recently Mohamed Bouazizi who set himself on fire in Tunisia to protest the government policies that have led to economic stress in that country.
There is an attitude that this kind of protest could not happen in the United States of America, that lighting one's self on fire is something that only crazy people in third world countries would do. What could possibly go so wrong in the United States to drive a person to take such drastic action? What could possibly cause a man so much pain and stress that that man feels his only option and the only way people would listen to him is to light himself on fire? Thomas Ball knows the answers to those questions. He took such action and burned himself to death on Wednesday, June 15th, 2011 in front of the Cheshire County Court House in Keene, New Hampshire.
There are likely many who would think this was the act of a crazy man. They would hear this story and simply shake their heads, label the man insane and walk away. Then there are those of us who would dig deeper. There are compassionate people in this world who understand that people do not just throw their lives away on a whim, that there are reasons for taking such dramatic, extreme actions. Thomas Ball did not just one day decide out of nowhere that it would be a good idea to pour gasoline on himself and light a match. He told us his reasons for doing what he did and we should pay attention. He wrote a long essay which he sent to The Sentinel, a New Hampshire based news source, that arrived the day after the tragedy. Here is Thomas Ball's last statement to the world. I really believe everyone should take the time to read it and give it some thought.
Thomas Ball was not a crazy man. Reading through his letter one can see he was a very lucid individual able to express himself in a very cogent fashion. He, like the other victims of self immolation mentioned earlier in this article, had been harmed by the state. He had fallen victim to the power of government and felt he had no other recourse left to himself. He decided to sacrifice himself in order to bring attention to the plight of many who find themselves entangled in the family court system of this nation.
Anyone who believes that the court system in this nation is fair and just either hasn't had to deal with it or have been fortunate and either had some kind of political influence or found themselves a member of those with favored status. Too often people don't look at the other side of an equation. Too often they believe that the courts are correct and those operating it know best. They can't possibly imagine how many times courts get it completely wrong. They can't imagine how often courts take emotions and feelings and relationships completely out of the equation and leave all traces of humanity out of the case. The courts are simply another one size fits all government organization that has no feelings for those it harms, has no imagination and can see no other way to do things other than the way it has been programmed to behave.
Read through Thomas Ball's statement and you should find that he's pretty well nailed it. He understands intimately the faults of the family court system. I don't know if he saw the larger picture and realized that the same problems permeate all the court systems of this nation, including the criminal court system, but it wouldn't surprise me to find out he did. He was focused on his own experiences, and I can relate to that. I had my own problems with the justice system. I know how Mr. Ball felt because there were times as I was going through the system that I gave serious thought to committing suicide myself, such was the level of stress I felt. My lawyer one time told me that I was a young man and had lots of life to look forward to. It was the thought that someday the stress and pain would end and I would not have to deal with the system that kept me going. Mr. Ball felt the same way, judging from his letter, only the system wasn't about to release him and found ways to keep him involved despite his being found not guilty of his supposed crime. Once these people in the system get their claws into you, they don't want to let go.
Mr. Ball's story, in a nutshell, is one of emotional over reaction and a lack of understanding or caring about human nature. He hit his child as punishment for disobeying one time and perhaps that was wrong, but it didn't rise to the level, in my opinion, of getting the state involved. The counselor his wife called told her if she didn't call the police she could be arrested, and that was wrong and a definite problem with the laws as they are currently written. This woman called someone looking for help and rather than helping the counselor calls in a system that is going to split the family up and tear them apart rather than helping them talk things through and striving to keep them together. Rather than allowing those involved talk things through, people who have been married for years and professed to love each other, they split them apart and don't allow them to talk to each other and explain their actions. Such a divide and conquer technique allows the state to maintain control of both sides of the conflict and makes sure that no reconciliation will suddenly arise and spoil their process before it comes to its conclusion and they get their money.
Even after he was found not guilty of any crime, he wasn't allowed visitation because he was going through a divorce which was likely exacerbated by the state's involvement. Ten years after the fact he still couldn't have unsupervised contact with his children despite his children expressing a desire that he be able to do so. He paid his child support as he was supposed to, but when he became unemployed and could no longer afford to pay, he was threatened with more court and jail time. In his own essay, he explains better and more thoughtfully the financial impact this system has on those involved than I could. That was the straw that broke the camel's back. One can try as hard as one wants to break free, but this system has a tight grip and if it's decided to shake you down, you will be shaken down even if you have nothing left to give. Well, Mr. Ball decided to give his blood.
Mr. Ball explains that he was a soldier. He was trained by government. He saw an injustice and tried to determine the best way to fight it. He fell back on his training and determined the best way to get his point across was to light himself on fire in front of a court house. He was trained by government to fight, then the same government tried to dehumanize and humiliate him. He had, in effect, spent nearly his entire adult life somehow involved with government agencies. It is no wonder he can provide such insight as to their true nature.
It is not enough to just shrug off this incident. The system itself has grown so corrupted that those involved don't even realize how bad it smells. They actually believe they're doing good work. They actually believe they're helping children. In the long run, I believe they are hurting more children than they are helping. I believe they are tearing more families apart than they are helping. I believe that they are creating a dependence on the state in order to validate themselves, make sure they have work to do, and are able to reap the benefits of carrying such influence. Mr. Ball has very eloquently pointed this out for all to read, and the actions he took has certainly lead to more interest in what he wrote. It is very sad that he felt it necessary to take such actions.
This is a system that can't be reformed, in my opinion. It needs to be slowly dismantled. It needs to allow for competition. It needs to allow other systems to operate so there is choice. It needs to allow for human compassion and for ideas that will help people who are not constantly involved in the system rather than being beneficial for mostly the lawyers and judges who have a monopoly privilege on law and force. With such competition the people who need dispute resolution will choose which system best suits their personal needs rather than being forced into the one size fits all mentality we have today. One thing is certain, something is wrong when people start reacting in such a way to remind us of third world countries. There has to be a better way;.
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