Friday, October 17, 2003

deadly beauty

This has been well-blogged elsewhere, but I finally had a chance to read last week's Tad Friend's New Yorker piece about the record-setting number of suicides at S.F.'s Golden Gate Bridge. The most interesting point that Friend advances is that the reason why a barrier fence hasn't been erected at the Bridge - despite the 1000+ suicides that have happened there over the past 70 years - is that society is uncomfortable with dealing with suicide as a part of human nature and action. In other words, to erect some kind of anti-suicide device, besides changing the aesthetics of the Bridge, is also to acknowledge that, in Friend's words, "we do not understand each other; to acknowledge that much of life is lived on the chord, on the far side of the railing." In other words, we're so afraid to deal with the issue of suicide (few people polled realize that suicide is far, far more prevalent than homicide), that we'd rather not confront it at all.

I'm not suggesting that I'm 100% for a fence at the Bridge - after all, the fact that it is so unfettered is partly what makes it so beautiful. On the other hand, I never thought the Empire State Building suffered from having a cyclone fence installed on its observation deck either. I do think this article raises important questions about how we, as a society, are dealing with suicide...which is apparently, not very much at all. Meanwhile, across town from me, the Bridge still stands as an icon for the Bay Area's beauty and unfortunate beacon for its hopeless.