There have been a couple of intriguing, if depressing, recent media events.
ESPN has an ongoing film series, entitled 30 for 30. It recently screened "The Book of Manning," about the storied family of quarterbacks, including the Super Bowl victorious brothers, Eli and Peyton (they have a third brother, Cooper, a former football player, who is no less central to the family). Their father, Archie Manning, set records at the University of Mississippi—broken by Eli—before becoming an NFL star like his two sons after him.
Home from college one summer, Archie found his father dead from a self-inflicted gun wound. In "The Book of Manning," Archie is unable to understand or express why his own father committed suicide. Yet he went on to create a tight-knit family. "I get invitations to go speak," Manning said. "They want to put a title on there—'How to Raise an All-American.' No, no, no, no, no. We tried to raise kids. Not NFL quarterbacks."
Archie Manning was a quarterback for the New Orleans Saints. The current star quarterback for that team is Drew Brees, who is greatly admired for his civic, religious, and—as the father of three sons himself—family commitment. This is so even though Brees' mother, a prominent attorney, committed suicide (as described here).
Meanwhile, favored New York City mayoral candidate, Bill de Blasio, won the Democratic nomination in good part by featuring his extremely appealing family. His own family life was a different story, however—de Blasio's father (whose name, Wilhelm, de Blasio rejected), an alcoholic, killed himself after he separated from the family. Indeed, de Blasio determined to pilot his life—like the children of many alcoholics—by using his father as a model of "what not to do."
T.S. Eliot's poem, the Wasteland, contains this line about the Inferno, where Dante notes the endless procession of the hopeless filing into hell: "I had not thought that death had undone so many."
Suicides are not as common as those Dante "observed" entering Hades. But they are not unheard of, even among the highest echelon of successful people. And, yet, contrary to the idea that has gained hold in America that such traumas inevitably produce dysfunctional, addicted, and mentally ill people, even this most extreme form of family tragedy does not prevent people from having successful lives, including forming close families of their own.
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