Human Exceptionalism

Obama Right to Send Condolences to Military Families of War Zone Suicides

Frankly, I don’t understand why this was ever an issue.  President Obama has changed policies and will now send condolence letters to families of military service members who commit suicide while in a war zone.  From the NYT story:

As the number of military suicides has surged since 2001, the issue of presidential letters — which are sent to the families of every service member killed in action — has become a source of great dismay among families of suicides. Some organized letter-writing campaigns and prodded members of Congress to introduce legislation to overturn the policy, which has existed for several administrations.

In 2009, the Obama administration demurred, citing widespread concerns among veterans groups and senior military officers that such letters might be construed as sanctioning suicide. But on Wednesday, citing an 18-month review of the policy, Mr. Obama said he had concluded that by recognizing certain suicides, he might destigmatize the problem of mental illness within the military and thereby encourage service members to seek counseling.

Does everything have to be viewed through a prism of supposedly victimized groups?  The no letter policy was never about “stigmatizing” mental illness.  Moreover, writing sympathyletters won’t have any effect on people’s views on either mental illness generally or suicide specifically.  Let’s not turn this into more than it is.

Bottom line: Condolence letters don’t sanction or encourage suicide.  They express sympathy and concern to the bereaved left behind.  It is never wrong to be kind.  Good for Obama for making the right call.


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