The Dignity of her Death

Dignity is an echo in the heartbeat of the people


Occupy Vancouver (British Columbia) has been much in the news of late; first, a mayoral candidate succeeded in making the encampment a municipal election issue for the city. Then an unfortunate person who drug overdosed (now recovering) in the camp, with the mostly predictable and pointless media response. Last Saturday, a young woman died at the site, apparently of an overdose, although the cause of death is not yet official. Mayor Gregor Robertson called for the camp to be dismantled, and the city is at this moment applying for a Supreme Court injunction to move out the tents. The death of the young woman has become a platform for people to rant about their opposition to Occupy Vancouver, a talking point for opportunistic politicians, a sound bite for the news.

The Tyee published a piece by David P. Ball today; you can read it here. The family and friends of the young woman don’t appreciate the fact of her death being used in this brutally insensitive fashion, and the Tyee piece is a respectful response, I believe. But I must draw your attention to some distasteful comments following the article also. I shall not deign to mention the ‘names’ they post under, as they shall be self-evident. It is these actions and comments I want to speak to, however.

For this is not a matter for politicking, or soap boxes, and most assuredly it is not a matter of ‘right’ or ‘left’, or any other political/philosophical orientation. It is a matter of a death, and how we respond to a death. We do not know her, we the public, but surely our first feeling must be sorrow. A range of complicated emotions might ensue – pity, fear, anger – but these are not the emotions one hears in these actions and comments. One hears the manic voices of those determined to impress their views upon others; the robotic voice of uniformity and conformity; the voice of corporate attack dogs. Perhaps I should say this is what I hear, in the metaphoric sense – a kind of horror image of a mechanistic world view arises – the film Metropolis is brought to mind.

And so I turn to you, my imaginary friend – and I shall ever after call Ashlie one of my imaginary friends – someone I would have loved to have known. Someone who seems to have been quirky, and interesting, and rather beautiful and whose loss I regret. Someone whose loss I mourn, for it is the natural human response. I cannot erase those hurtful, hypocritical, awful words and deeds, but I can assert that the natural human response still resides in some of us and we shall not forget the dignity of all humans, even in their death.

Her name was Ashlie Gough.