Thursday, June 10, 2010

Memorial Day

By S. D. Bruce>    I worked alone over this Memorial Day weekend, and I had some time to think. I'm a private investigator, which means most of my day is spent waiting for criminals to make a move, so I have an abundance of the solitude which is most conducive to reflection. I dedicated a few contemplative minutes to British Petroleum's parade of failures in the Gulf, a few more to Israel's penchant for shooting Islamist aid workers in international waters, and eventually I came back around to a topic which for me is a continual source of sad incredulity just as abundant and tragic as oil in the Everglades. Since you're reading on this blog I can assume you're already acquainted, at least in a limited way, with its focus: resistance to the mind control tactics of certain quasi-religious movements and the importance of rational thought to a balanced and fulfilled life. Nothing could bring these concepts to the fore more soberingly than the unconscionably sad story of a young man I counted as a friend for many years.
>     On this weekend dedicated to the memories of those who have fallen in the service of something larger than themselves, I'd like to call to remembrance the chronology of a young man who had the courage to live, and die, on his own terms. His life was cut short only months ago, and for many of us his passing is a wound which is still all too fresh and painful. But as we remember him there is also the hint of a great, dynamic life lived well despite it's short span. In his last days he dared to pursue his dreams, and while this may seem an unrealistic, frivolous pursuit to the more jaded among us, there is wisdom in a life lived with passion and with the courage to define it by stepping away from the dreary multitude and into the sun. Too many of us fail to risk anything in quest of our true selves because we fear persecution, ridicule, failure...or even success.
>    Jason Read Bacon was young, only 21 years old; he had rare musical talent and he was working hard to establish himself as a musician despite growing up in the same conformist, totalitarian theocracy as I did. He chose to rise above the limitations imposed upon him and labored to mold a career of his own choosing. I don't need to list the reasons this was a difficult transition, situated as he was inside the framework of the PCG's absolutist regime, but Jason handled it with aplomb. In partnership with his best friend, another young PCG member, he landed the first real gig of his career and they decided to celebrate in Las Vegas--a city Jason had wanted to visit for several years. Again, this took more courage than people without knowledge of the PCG's controlling policies would immediately assume. They went, and they LIVED; they celebrated their new found success and prospects, and they explored the city with the same exuberance and curiosity that Jason displayed throughout his life.
>     But fate is fickle and often cruel, and late one night close to 3:00 a.m. Jason went out onto the hotel balcony to get some fresh air. He overbalanced as he leaned on the railing, maybe to look down on the sea of flickering humanity below or to look up at the star spangled vastness of the Nevada sky; we'll never know the reason for certain, but in a matter of seconds his heady aspirations, his rising career and his former life were over.
>     Jason remained in a coma for days after plummeting to the concrete pool deck below his 8th floor hotel balcony; his spine was severed in the fall and his body was broken beyond hope of repair. Dozens of his friends and acquaintances, in and out of the church, told Jason's story and asked for prayers on his behalf. Jason's closest friend, who had been only feet away in the hotel bathroom when Jason fell, stayed by his side for a featureless eternity of seconds as Jason's life slipped slowly away in the hospital. Amidst this tragedy the response of the PCG ministry was shockingly cold; they had disapproved of Jason's recent choices, and they voiced the view that his tragic fate was the judgment of God against him for living his life without their sanction. They ordered Jason's friend to end his vigil, leave the hospital, and stay away from the funeral services; he reluctantly obeyed. Days later, as Jason's brain function faded to black, his family made the agonizing decision to take him off artificial life support. The last embers of Jason's dynamic life drifted into smoke on April 25, 2010.
>     Jason was laid to rest five days later, in a graveside service on April 30th in Westville, Oklahoma. Robert Brown, a PCG minister, presided over the service. But even as they stood over Jason's grave there was the foul hint of political machination at work; several of Jason's close friends and family who had left the PCG were told to stay away from the service, and Jason's father, who is in another splinter group, was allowed to come but was cut off again immediately after the service. A few PCG members from Edmond attended; more stayed away.
>    On the day after the service, a Saturday, a top-ranking PCG evangelist stood at the pulpit and reiterated his belief that Jason's passing was a judgment from Above because he stepped out of line; he berated Jason's friends and family for sending out prayer requests which were not 'authorized by the ministry', and callously capitalized on the opportunity by warning other youths of the dangers of disobedience, lest they share Jason's fate. In the aftermath many sat in stunned silence. A few had the courage to speak up against this outrage, but even those protests were guarded for fear of reprisal. Jason's family and close friends felt the strain most of all, and in the bleak wasteland of emotional ruin and spiritual assault by those who should have offered comfort, Jason's sister Crystal fell prey and (according to several sources) took her own life on the morning of Monday, May 3rd.
>     This story is without a doubt one of dark pain, betrayal and the icy depths of human suffering when a loved one is suddenly lost, but there is also the glimmer of something more. As I thought about it I came to realize a truth beyond the sadness and anger I felt: In his last days, Jason didn't just exist, he wasn't satisfied with complacent obedience or hollow shades of gray; he chose to LIVE, without conforming to the dogmas of those who wished to run his life, without apology, without regret. He died doing what he loved, exploring a city he loved, with a rising career stretching in front of him and his best friend at his side. No one can take that away from him, and none of us should miss the significance of his powerful decision to live on his own terms, free, in the last days of his life. I wish he was with us still; I wish I could hear the haunting guitar chords blended with flashes of cheerful melody he used to play at summer camp; but most of all I hope I'll live the rest of my life as well as he did. Memorial Day seems like a fitting time to remember Jason, not just because we are saddened by his loss, but also because of the memory of a life lived to the fullest despite the odds. May he rest in peace.

Afterword: If you're concerned or confused by the statements of several PCG ministers regarding Jason's tragic accident as a punishment by God for certain choices he made in the recent past, please take the time to read our upcoming article regarding scientific probability, "time and chance," and the rational analysis of these statements in light of the statistical facts. Hundreds of ex-PCG members, including the authors of this blog and many who supply information to us, have had unprecedented successes and are enjoying the best health and happiness of their lives thanks to rational decisionmaking and the freedom which comes with the honest pursuit of knowledge. We will explore the concept of divine retribution soon in an article titled "Time and Chance." We hope you'll read it and find greater peace as a result.