When news came late Friday night that Chadwick Boseman, the actor who played King T’Challa in the Black Panther and Avenger movies, had died at age 43, the news hit me harder than I thought it would.
Boseman had been battling, unbeknownst to most, colon cancer for four years. This time had included the time he was working on the Black Panther movie. If you haven’t had cancer or a serious, debilitating illness, it’s difficult to appreciate what I consider to be a truly heroic effort to portray a hero. Each time cancer takes someone young or inspirational, I’m reminded I need to embrace more of the remaining life I’ve been given to live. This death cut me to the core. I’ve so much left to do.
I remember when the Black Panther movie came out and so many people of all races and lifestyles came out of the theaters crossing their arms in the “Wakanda forever!” sign. People of color walked out of that movie changed and inspired. Young black children finally had a Marvel superhero on screen that looked like them, that they could identify with. Someone strong, caring, extraordinary and human.
I was also inspired by the Black Panther. The strong women of Wakanda, who were in charge of the technology and protecting the King, made me cheer. These depictions of strong, intelligent women (of any color) shouldn’t be so few and far between, but they are. Shuri is the smartest in the room. Any room. Okoye and her crew could kick any man’s ass. Nakia is brave, and convinces the King that sharing their knowledge and wealth for the good of all is an important enough idea to allow it to stand between her and her relationship with the King.
Heroes don’t have to be the same color as you are to be inspirational, but I’m white and I have plenty to choose from if that is what I seek. It was about time that people of color had an extraordinary hero and a slew of capable, ass-kicking heroines. I can only hope another hero can rise on the shoulders of Chadwick Boseman.
What I hope people learn from Boseman’s short, but well-lived, life is that people can be heroes both on and offscreen and be an inspiration beyond what they intended or hoped for. Heroism and quality of character goes more than skin deep, and that is one of the legacies that Boseman left behind for all of us.
Carrie Fisher was my first princess. I was 8 years old when Star Wars: A New Hope arrived on the scene and it changed the world forever.
Princess Leia was no ordinary princess, at least not the ones I’d seen up to that point. She was smart, sassy, and in charge. She didn’t wait for a prince or hero to save her, she grabbed a gun and shot her enemy and fought her threats herself.
Three movies and an entire space mythos later, Princess Leia was firmly entrenched as one of my role models. Pink, fluffy-haired, prissy, weak damsel in distress princesses would never, ever measure up.
I was thrilled to see Princess Leia return to Star Wars decades after Princess Leia helped save the galaxy and ride off into the galactic sunset. She had aged, yes, but she was still in charge. Now a general, always royal, guiding fragments of humanity to overcome the throngs of evil that will always rise and fall.
The eighth installment of the Star Wars saga finished filming this summer. Again, Princess/General Leia figures to figure prominently in the galaxy far, far away. Unfortunately, her story will end.
Carrie Fisher, the talented, gritty portrayer of Princess Leia, is gone. She left us this morning, after suffering a heart attack Christmas Eve. She was only 60 years old. Earlier this week, we lost George Michael at only 53 years old. All year long the list of celebrities and the well-known who have left us has been long – young, old, talented, not so talented, smart, sciencey, larger than life, angelic, humanitarian, mercurial.
And now the list has my Princess. I’m saddened to know her story has ended in life and on screen, and the world mourns with me.
When I got into my car on Thursday, I heard these words on CNN, “school shooting,” and “10 dead.” I thought, my God, not again. Not again. I drove home with tears in my eyes. It’s so difficult for me to believe that in the 14 years since the Columbine shootings shocked the nation that we are still dealing with school shootings at all.
In 2006, the Nickel Mines Amish school shooting shocked the nation because an unstable man decided to take out his insanity on a group of pacifist children in a one-room schoolhouse. The Amish community stunned the nation with their outpouring of forgiveness and support of the shooter’s widow.
Newtown brought me to my knees. Victims were so little. I was horrified. The US was horrified. The world was horrified.
That is just the list of school shootings. Gun violence in America is as old as our right to bear arms. We are the only modernized, civilized, advanced country in the world who has a problem with gun violence.
I don’t pretend to have any answers for this issue. I know there will never be a ban on weapons in this country, and I’m not sure I’d ever want one. Still, gun control is essential. I truly believe that.
I posted this to Twitter and Facebook when I got home Thursday. Some people were supportive, others not so much. I see both sides. At this point, however, I would give up my right to bear arms if it meant gun violence would decrease. Sure, criminals will always be able to gain access to things we as the general population are prohibited to have. Still, maybe if law enforcement had only to go after criminals and not worry about the general population’s armaments, maybe the amount of guns in the hands of criminals would also decrease.
The argument that the criminals would have guns and you and I wouldn’t does not apply in the case of these school shootings. These mentally ill people are not criminals until they carry out their plans. If a school shooter walks in with a knife instead of a gun, would the carnage be as bad? Perhaps not. It’s something to think about anyway.
I grew up shooting all sorts of guns, shotguns, even a musket gun. I have shot targets, birds, and bats. I know how to use a gun safely. My dad always kept the bullets in a separate place from the guns, but we always knew where they were. I never thought about using a gun to defend myself from someone else with a gun, or anyone else for that matter. Guns were for hunting. Shooting targets. Shooting bats. Not people.
I remember a neighbor of ours had a teenage son who killed his cousin when he accidentally discharged a gun. I remember the grief he went through, that his family went through, because of this accident. I see news stories all the time of toddlers shooting a parent or sibling by accidentally discharging a gun they could readily access. Guns are too plentiful and handled carelessly.
About 8 years ago, I was hosting a Bible study in my apartment and a guy walked in with a gun tucked in the back of his pants. When I confronted him about it, he said it was his right to defend himself and carry a gun. I told him to put it in the car, or leave my apartment – which was a loaded gun free zone. Yes, recently, people have been shot during a Bible study in a church in Charleston. Still, the odds of someone knocking on my door and taking us all out with a gun are so remote I decided I’d take my chances. He did not understand why I asked him to put the gun away, but he honored my request.
As for defending myself against a person with a gun – if I had a gun, I doubt I could shoot another human being, even to save my own life. I have a knife, a taser, and a pepper-spray gun. I also have something that most people don’t think of when it comes to self defense – I have my wits and my mouth. I know I can shoot off my mouth when I need to do so. I know I can convince people to do just about anything. Maybe, just maybe, I can convince a person not to shoot me. If I can’t, then it’s my time to go.
I find it ironic that many of the people who want open carry laws and the right to own and use as many guns as possible are offended and outraged that I would even hint that I’d give up my right to bear arms to decrease gun violence, because the right to bear arms is their right, their choice. They are outraged the government may take away their rights or choices, but many of these people believe it is their right to tell a woman what to do with her body and reproductive system. They believe the LGBT community has no rights. Just don’t try to take any of their rights away.
Somewhere in that big, tangled mess of rights, privileges, and choices is the answer. I just don’t know what it is. I always try to honor other people’s opinions, I stay civil in discourse, yet people jump all over me and very enthusiastically tell me I’m going to hell or worse, misinformed, but we all have opinions.
What we don’t have right now in the middle of this hot mess are answers, solutions.
I encourage everyone to put down their “rights” and “choices” and take a step back to become part of the solution. Who knows, maybe there will be a solution where everyone gets what they want. We won’t know until we try.
This week, I came across this article reporting on a blog post in which a doctor stated that cancer is the best way to die and society should stop wasting money trying to cure it.
Of course, as a cancer survivor, I was livid. I couldn’t even come up with a way to describe how his words made me feel other than, “KMA – kiss my ass.”
As I read his blog post describing various ways to die, I still couldn’t form words to comment on it. Doctor Luis Bunel compared various end of life ways people die and chose cancer over dementia, sudden death, and organ failure. I understand he was contemplating ways to die and, at age 62, he may be closer to death than I am. We all contemplate how we want to leave this world, that’s a normal part of life, especially after passing the invisible, perceived halfway point of typical life expectancy.
The point is, Doctor Bunel, none of us gets to choose how we leave this earth, or when, (though some do by taking their own lives). By stating there’s a better way to die surely guarantees that won’t be how you get to the end of your line. I do believe that our wishes really aren’t considered when it’s our time to die. Death is an inevitability, sure. Being able to shove that inevitability back one more day is a gift.
I’ve buried way too many people I love because of cancer. Each of them fought what Doctor Bunel would term the best way to die. They fought with their own strength, they fought with medicine, and they fought, most of all, to stay with the people who love them.
“An even more horrible death,” he wrote, “is one that’s kept at bay by the miracles of modern medicine, a death that never ends. In the name of Hippocrates, doctors have invented the most exquisite form of torture ever known to man: survival.”
One more day with my brother would be worth everything, I guarantee you, doc, that I don’t think his parents, siblings, wife or kids would say otherwise. If my brother thought what he was enduring was torture, I guarantee you, he would never have said a word. He fought until his last breath to remain with us and if it was torture, he was willing to take it. Every. Single. Day. For one more moment.
Survival does not equal torture.
I know with my own cancer, I was nowhere near death. I didn’t have major organs failing because they were being eaten away from the inside. I am nearing four years cancer free, and while I do not see breast cancer making a comeback, I GUARANTEE you, Doctor Bunel, if it does, I will fight it with everything that is in me to do so. I will embrace the modern medicine, and if that one extra day is torture, I will celebrate it.
This morning, I saw on ESPN that Stuart Scott, a long time host of Sports Center, had passed away from cancer. His fight reminded me to never give up. He fought cancer for almost a decade. He FOUGHT it. He left behind two daughters, two daughters that I’m sure he felt the alleged torture was worth. Watching the tributes to him from his coworkers and friends brought me to tears. He inspired them in many ways and he will be missed.
None of us knows exactly when or how we will die. What we do with the time we have is important. It is not a great sin to want to live longer despite our quality of life if we want to live. Cancer treatment and research costing billions is not a cancer patient’s issue, it’s a larger issue of the greed and inefficiency of the healthcare system (that’s another post). Regardless of the cost, most people are not in a hurry to die, even if it’s painful, because most of us have something bigger than us to live for.
I’m still not completely calm about this article. I know it’s not personal, but yes, I took it very, very personally because the miracle of modern medicine let me have moments with my brother and mother that I wouldn’t have otherwise had. I also a member of a family of cancer survivors who are still here, living full lives, because of the advances in medicines that fight cancer, all of whom would agree those billions of dollars spent on cancer research are not wasted.
Survival does not equal torture. Not by a long shot.