Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Celebrity: Why the Conversation About Robin Williams Matters

As I sat down yesterday from a stressful day at work, I turned on the television.  I really wasn’t even aware of what was on at the time; it was more for the noise than anything else.  Then I heard the news that was starting to make its way around the world:  Robin Williams had died.  My heart sank because he has long been one of my favorite actors.  Then the rest of the story played out.  His death was believed to be a suicide.  I felt like I had just been sucker-punched in the stomach.   

Now before you climb up on your high horse and berate me because I’m emotional over someone I didn’t know personally - especially a celebrity - let me ask you to pause and read the rest of my story.  Yes, the world is talking about Robin Williams.  Yes, the world is mourning the loss of a superstar.  Yes, you are correct that few are speaking of the many other suicides that are committed in our nation, or for that matter, in the world, on a daily basis.  That doesn't make anyone a horrible person.  It doesn't make any of the other suicides less traumatic or “unimportant”.  But there is a difference.

What is that difference?  The difference is the celebrity that you complain about.   Don’t get angry at the people who are upset over the loss of an amazing and famous soul.  Robin Williams was brought into our homes.  We were raised on his movies.  We connected with his characters.  We felt as if we knew him.  We aren't afforded that same opportunity with the veterans, with the teens, with the many people we lose every day to this horrible disease.   Most people connect themselves to what they know. They connect to things that are familiar.  Robin Williams was familiar. You don’t hear about the soldiers in the media.  You don’t hear about the teens we lose.  You don’t hear about your neighbor  down the street.   Get mad that THIS kind of information isn't a part of our national dialogue.  Get mad at the fact that we don't demand it. Get mad about a lot of things, but don't get mad because important conversation has started because it is a celebrity in the news.  

Did you know that our veterans commit suicide an average 23 times a day?  Did you know that suicide is one of the leading causes (top 10) of death in the United States?  Did you know the numbers continue to rise?  Every 13 minutes someone dies from suicide. EVERY 13 MINUTES!   The answer to most of those questions is a resounding NO.  Most people don’t hear those numbers, they don’t know those stats, and they don’t recognize the faces of those lost.  It isn't personal.  It just isn't heard or talked about.  So don’t be mad that the world is recognizing the pain of suicide because of a celebrity like Robin Williams.  Be grateful, that even in his death, there has been another gift bestowed on us by him………..that of opening a dialogue for the world about mental health and substance abuse.  Use the heartache, the sadness, and even the anger to make this a part of conversation and education.  It is the ONLY thing that will change these horrible statistics.  

Let me further add, that unless you know the whole story, don’t judge the person who is having difficulty or is emotional about the death of a celebrity.  Robin was a gifted actor, a brilliant comic, and a compassionate man.  He was someone I admired and respected, maybe more for the things that he did outside of the spotlight than on the screens of our televisions and theaters.  He always put others first.  Even during his own battles, he spent his time caring for other people and attempting to make them laugh.  Yes, I am one of those people who was touched by his death profoundly.  I cried a lot of tears last night.  I spent the better part of the night upset.  You see, I connected in the moment that I heard the news.   My heart ached for the pain that led him to such a decision.  Suicide has touched my life on too many occasions.  I've lost quite a few people that were part of my life; people that I loved dearly.  I don't know mean people that I admired from afar or someone I knew through someone who knew someone.  I mean people that were a very prominent part of my life, including several young men that were like sons to me.  People with the same qualities that Mr. Williams possessed:  compassion, a true desire to make other people happy, quick wit and great humor, and a smile masking their pain.  Robin Williams was a man……a human being.  That alone is reason enough to be affected, but I also respected and admired him immensely.   At the time of his death, he was also the representation of those that I have lost to suicide.   The hurt returns and the heart aches again.   You are reconnected to a darkness that is difficult to understand and to explain, but one that endures long after the death of the person you loved.   There are also countless others that might have connected because they too endure the agony of depression and substance abuse.  The day-in and day-out battle that never seems to end.  The weight that won't ever let up.  Maybe in Robin Williams they saw a representation of themselves and the hardships they are enduring with the beast that comes with mental illness.   They are forced to face the demons that haunt their lives.   The pain people are feeling, the outpouring of love, may not be about the "celebrity" at all.  It may be about a human being that they have connected with on some level because they identify with them.  

I have learned that the only way to cope with a death of this manner is to focus on the happy memories, be cognizant of your own feelings, and to TALK ABOUT IT.  It doesn't go away.  Robin Williams was loved by MILLIONS of people….and yet, he could not be saved from this horrible disease.  Think about that!   Keeping silent about it won't cure mental illness and substance abuse or rid the world of suicide.   Education and conversation are the only things that might actually change that.   So again, I ask you, don't be angry that people are talking about Robin Williams.  Embrace the opportunities.   Maybe we can save the people you think are being ignored by embracing the outpouring of love and dialogue we are seeing. 

My heart aches for Robin Williams.  My heart aches for his family. I will forever be grateful for the great joy that Robin Williams brought to my life and the lives of many in the world.  I will also be humbled by his ongoing battle with depression and substance abuse. I will remember him for the countless contributions he made in this world.  I will celebrate the life that he lived, I will forever enjoy his vast body of work, and I hope that I will continue to learn from the human frailties that he possessed as well.  Perhaps we can honor his legacy by enjoying life, spreading joy, laughing often, and by extending the conversation on mental illness.  

God speed, Robin…….and THANK YOU for enriching my life!  

Thursday, May 24, 2012

An Open Letter to our OKC Leadership and OKC Thunder Organization

To our Oklahoma City Leaders and the Oklahoma City Thunder Organization,

Unfortunately our city experienced an event the night of May 21st that nobody wants to happen.  We had a shooting in the Bricktown area of Oklahoma City.  If the world were perfect, this would not happen anywhere, but our city is not immune from bad judgment and violence.  Another unfortunate aspect to this event was that it happened right after what should have been a joyous occasion in our city; the OKC Thunder winning in round 2 in the NBA playoffs.  Thousands of fans gathered in what has become known as “Thunder Alley” to be a part of the excitement and festivities for a team that the fans adore.  National media saw and reported on both events.  

Our leadership has now decided to eliminate the broadcast of the game in Thunder Alley due to safety issues, crowd size, and inability to control the situation.  This saddens me, angers me, and gives me pause to reflect on what I’ve always been proud of in our city.   May I share why I believe this is the wrong decision?
  1.          The shooting did NOT occur in Thunder Alley.  It may not have any connection whatsoever to the area or the game.
  2.           The motto our city and the Thunder have collectively used has been “Rising Together”.  Much of that stems from the fact that our MAPS initiatives arose after the OKC Bombing and our city leaders had foresight to stand strong against terrorism, to build, and to become better.  Those initiatives were voted on by the CITIZENS, who agreed to be taxed to pay for the changes, which included the arena so we would have an opportunity to have an NBA team in our city.  
  3.      We, as a collective city, cannot condone violence, nor should we allow those who wish to cause trouble the perception that they wield the power to shut our city, our events, and our citizens and leaders down.  If they see us back down in this instance, what is to prevent them from opening fire at “Opening Night” or the Arts Festival or any other well attended event?  Are we going to shut those down too?  
  4.       This truly eliminates the lower income demographic from being a part of the festivities and joy of our NBA team and the successes we have reached.  Many cannot afford cable and cannot pay to take their families to a restaurant that MIGHT broadcast this coverage.  Nobody is entitled to this privilege, but we pride ourselves on being a collective community.  Let’s not take it away from people who don’t have the means…..or people who want to show support and can’t find a ticket to buy
  5.       National Media gave a lot of attention to the fan support in Oklahoma City.  During the game, the cameras focused on Thunder Alley many times and the broadcasters spoke of the support in our community.  What do you think they will ask when they come back for the next series and the fans are not there?  You cannot avoid media coverage on this situation, so we need to put a positive spin on it.  There is already talk of an “Occupy Thunder Alley” movement.   While not necessarily in agreement, I do see the point.  Again, a large crowd, but it will draw negative press.  We are better than that.
  6.       There has been much speculation and even adverse comments about Oklahoma City being able to handle an NBA team and becoming a competitor to the “Big League” cities.  We have proven them wrong time and time again.  The perception once again will be that we are not ready if we are not prepared to control large crowds and celebrations.  This is another opportunity for a community who knows how to face challenges to prove that we are prepared and we DO know what we are doing. Obviously it is true.  We do this every year with “Opening Night” and the Arts Festival.  It is about a strong law enforcement presence and the stringent enforcement of ordinances, laws, and regulations. 
  7.        Lastly, we have not eliminated the problem by canceling the broadcast.  There will still be crowds in Bricktown in the restaurants and clubs.  There will still be crowds filing out of the arena.  There will potentially be crowds that would have been (or may still be) in Thunder Alley that will be in the area.  The same number of people will still be in the area of concern.  The same scenario could very likely happen again.
Please reconsider your decision.  Don’t punish the very people who have supported our leaders and our NBA organization.  There are measures that can be taken (and truthfully should already be in place) to keep this from being difficult.  We realize it may require a little more money in the budget, but again, shouldn’t this already be in place?  Surely large crowds were an expectation with the draw of an NBA team.  Certainly there will be a parade and celebration if we win the Conference finals or go on to win the NBA Championship?  That crowd will be immensely larger and more excited.  

I would be remiss if I didn’t offer suggestions.  I’m quite certain you’ve thought of these, but as a citizen, I have spoken with many others who are willing to make concessions to be a part of this exciting time in our history.
  1. Keep the Thunder Alley Broadcast.  Set up a fenced perimeter or several areas.  Put officers or security /event staff at the gates.  Keep certain pathways open for emergencies and for pedestrian flow (easily done with concrete barriers).  Perhaps add a few personnel. 
  2. If necessary, eliminate alcohol.  Not a favorite choice of the responsible people in attendance, but one they would concede to.  There were people carrying 12 pks, coolers, and cases of alcohol the other night.  Not once did I observe an officer attempt to walk through the crowd or stop anyone.  If there are gates, they can be checked at the gate. 
  3. If the above is not available, why can we not set up a different location and stream the game?  We’ve done that in our history for other events.  If available, use the Ballpark or the Convention Center……maybe even the fairgrounds or Harkins Theater. 
I truly do appreciate your concerns for the safety of our fans, but this has now become an issue much larger than that.  You have had the foresight to make this city into something special.  You have had the foresight to stand against terrorism.  Whether it is at the hands of a group, an individual, or in one shooting incident, violence of any sort is terrorism when it used to diminish the quality of life or restrict the freedom of other persons.  Please don't allow fears to override the need for strength in this situation.  Once again, let's RISE TOGETHER and let our voices be heard. 

Angie Milligan,
Proud fan of MY city.....OUR city......Oklahoma City.....  and the Oklahoma City Thunder

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Out with the old

My heart smiles when I hear your voice
your laughter lighting my soul.
Your breath on my neck
stirs passion long since asleep.
My cries from the depths of my being
burning to feel your arms around me tight.
I melt into your kiss
the floodgates once again releasing
the river of love from my heart.
I long to see your face, to look into your eyes
but you are still my dream.
 I know your soul.  I long to see your face.
I have not yet met you 
I dream of you still.
And I wonder, Do you dream of me too?

My computer crashed recently and I've been unable to blog, so last night while in a reflective mood, I began to read. Old stuff. Real old stuff. The poem above I wrote in August 2007. In reading some of the writing from the past gave me a desire to dismiss the old and bring in the new. So, I'm going to get busy getting my computer fixed and really make an effort to start writing again. It may never be good, but it is therapeutic. :)

So, out with the old and in with the new.....very soon. *doing this ony cell, so if formatting is off, please ignore it this time. ;-) *

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Just a quick note

Recently delved back into the world of blogging and joined a group called GBE 2 (Group Blogging Experience 2).  However, I had been using a different name (or link):


I will begin using this page to blog instead.  That being said,  I am not going to move the first blogs from my GBE posts to this page, so if you want to read the first few, please check the above link. 

I don't claim to be a writer.  I'm just here because writing is sometimes a great release for me.  Whether I get attention or readers really isn't an issue for me at all, but if someone happens to enjoy what I post or gets something out of it, then BONUS!  :)

Look forward to making some new friends and reading some great new blogs in the GBE group.  Now if I can just find extra hours in the day.......