June 6, 2018

Sympathy and prayers today for the family of fashion designer Kate Spade. In a shocking and tragic story, housekeepers found her dead Tuesday morning in her New York City apartment after she hanged herself. She was 55. She left a note telling her daughter she loved her and “this is not your fault. Ask Daddy.” A police source said it was sparked by her husband wanting a divorce, but her sister told the Kansas City Star that Kate had suffered from depression for years and come close to committing suicide many times, and that she may have been planning this since she became fixated on Robin Williams’ suicide by hanging. Her sister said, “Sometimes, you simply cannot save people from themselves.”

Kate Spade was a phenomenal American success story who seemingly had everything to live for. She had a 13-year-old daughter and a husband who was her business partner. Her dream of designing handbags came true beyond her wildest imagination. She won countless design awards before leaving her first line in 2007 to raise her daughter, then later returned with a new brand that now has over 300 stores worldwide. Whenever something like this happens – and it does happen more often than you’d think – I always recall the old poem, “Richard Cory,” about the handsome, successful man who was envied by everyone in town, and who, “one calm summer night, went home and put a bullet through his head.”

Fox News’ Brit Hume must have had similar thoughts. He posted the story on Twitter along with these words: “Everyone you know is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.” He admitted he was stunned when that post drew a number of hostile anti-Trump comments. Why? Who knows? Maybe it’s just convenient to blame Trump for their own unwillingness to observe basic human decency. Or maybe they’re so angry over politics, it’s the only way they know how to react to anything anymore. Whatever the excuse, it’s another example of slimy behavior that the anonymous soapbox of the Internet has helped incubate.

Despite the rise of mass media and social media images that make us think we know all about a person, the lesson of “Richard Cory” that we can never know what personal pain someone might be going through behind closed doors is still as true today as it was when it was written over a century ago. Perhaps even more so, precisely because of the misleading images in mass media and social media.

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