Art imitating life…and afterlife

With the recent publication of my novel, Oh Hell, inspired by the suicide of Thomas Ball in June 2011, it seemed right to update an article that appeared here just over one year ago, entitled, Only one thing left…. (Oh Hell spoiler alert.)

Shortly after Thomas James Ball’s death on June 15th, 2011, I read about it online. I learned about his frustrating relationship with the so-called “Justice System.” His tragedy had been playing out in the courts of New Hampshire for ten years by the time it came to an unthinkable end that day. There, back east, this beleaguered divorced father of three committed suicide by setting himself on fire. And he did it in front of the very courthouse that was to serve on the morning of June 24th, 2011 as yet one more opportunity for players within that System to further hound him. This time most likely straight into their own jailhouse.

Instead, in essence, the man decided he’d already been dogged sufficiently. I believe he felt that he was already dead – as a man and as a father, denied normal access to his own precious children and thereby estranged from them.

For eleven days words failed me. Then on June 26th, 2011, I thought I got it, so wrote on the poster board I keep near my bed:

“What can a man do when he has only one thing left for them to take?”

For those yet to choose the Red-Pill and see the U.S. legal matrix for what it’s become, it’s unpleasant contemplating Mr. Ball’s decision, and harder yet to read the writings he left behind (find the full 10,000-word essay: Hell, we’ve been conditioned from the first day we’re able to look at a flickering video screen to believe our system is the best in the world. But after reading his essay back in 2011, I was further enraged by the pitifully small media coverage the man’s death merited. Sure, his very readable, downright journalistic essay contained hard Truths…but only for those who knew to look. It contained Truths about his experiences with the powers-that-be who lord it over all of us, from the uniformed cops out driving the streets to the robed monarchs sitting high on their benches in our courtrooms. Most of it, therefore, seemed relevant to an awful lot of people, not just divorced men.

While the writing certainly needed minor polishing, I felt Ball’s personal-essay-plus-investigative-journalism was falsely and disingenuously characterized as “rambling.” Damn straight some of his exposé was paradigm-challenging; some of his proposed solutions, shocking. But it was not rambling. In my estimation it earned that label for two reasons: to cause its dismissal and earn the man an ignominious label. That way if his actions were ever referenced he could be easily dismissed as just another Uni-bomber type nutjob with a “manifesto.”

I contend that upon an honest reading, even women who might typically dismiss “Men’s Rights Issues,” or see the entire sex as privileged and part of the Problem-of-the-Patriarchy, would at least recognize how children are routinely decimated by court decisions. They couldn’t fail to see how wives are used as pawns; how they have their strings pulled by the velvet-gloved side of the iron-fist simply to perpetuate the big-bucks business which the three-headed, incestuous abuse/rehab/family court creature has metastasized into.

The more poignant reality to take from Mr. Ball’s essay is the palpable Hope he has: that his final desperate act, his suicide, would inspire a real-world Justice-seeking League. And wouldn’t that be frightening to certain individuals–say, the powers-that-be who are guilty of willfully using that System to spitefully harm others?

He imagined a movement of real-world men who, like himself, had been pushed to their own brink; stripped of their families, their worldly goods, perhaps even cut out of their jobs, or falsely-accused out of hard won careers. He hoped to inspire men whom this corrupt System had squashed, inspire them to once again take charge of their own lives, to take action towards real Change and thereby live fully again. Hoped they’d become fighters for their own Freedom, freedom from the most insidious discrimination in practice today: that against men for simply being men.

Absent Mr. Ball’s writing he might have been dismissed as “mentally unstable,” but that’s impossible now. It is being done however, as I write this: to a 64-year-old man who committed suicide October 4th, 2013, precisely the way Thomas Ball did, only this time on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Because as you know, only crazy people kill themselves like that. Setting oneself ablaze has never been about protesting anything, right? (Buddhist monks, anyone…anyone?) The media’s unspoken – and unwritten – message couldn’t be louder or clearer: Nothing to see here; move along….

Too many in this nation seem unaware that even our own long cherished institutions can be corrupted; can become so broken as to leave too many individuals with no way to “redress their grievances.” But history is full of warnings and to continue to believe our nation is exempt, “just because,” is to choose to remain naïve. Hennessey Pict, the main character in the novel, “Oh Hell,” started out like that: well indoctrinated at home by her vindictive divorced mother, with reinforcements from school and the culture at large. She believed without question the stories about a long-gone father who “just walked away,” until she, too, reads letters written by his own hand and meets on paper his paranormal anti-hero, Inferno(R).

So, if burying evidence is evil, what then is media-mischaracterization? In the real world, Thomas James Ball was buried twice. Once the usual way, then the Press way. The latter did it by hiding his truths in plain sight, mischaracterizing his writing as “rambling.” In my book “Oh Hell!” the fictional Hennessey Pict’s estranged father, the Mainstream Media Complex assisted politicians (shocker, right?) in burying his comic book words, and in a wholly un-American, anti-First Amendment way: spreading the lie that Art caused “copy-cat violence” and therefore it should be charged, convicted, and then silenced as Hate Speech. Wouldn’t it be ironic if such sophisticates chose to go Savonarola and burn the offending papers on the town square as a 21st century “vanity?”

Both the real New Hampshire man, and the fictional man within my book whose suicide inspired Hennessey’s father to create his series, took their lives in tremendous acts of desperation. In a cruel fictional twist, her cartoonist father is killed and, like Inferno, he hasn’t “…gone down to the grave in peace…” either. His spirit’s gone rogue as well, but not merely in two dimensions on glossy paper. Trace Pict turns vigilante with a capital-V, just like his character. This fictional father returns from the afterlife to stop – by any means necessary – the “Systematic” injustices he’s seen and suffered.

Through characters in Oh Hell, perhaps Mr. Thomas J. Ball’s spirit can return in some small way; perhaps his non-fiction writings can get a second shot. I dare to hope my book, with a blend of irreverence, humor, and poignancy, will help people look in a more empathetic way at men ensnared in a Justice System also gone rogue.


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