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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 8/25/13

Antoinette Tuff and the Prevention of Suicide by Cop

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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) August 25, 2013: Recently the media reported how Antoinette Tuff, the bookkeeper at Ronald McNair Discovery Learning Center in an Atlanta suburb, talked a young man carrying an AK-47 with 500 rounds of ammunition into surrendering to the police instead of committing suicide by cop and in the process wounding or possibly killing her and others.


To be sure, like many school personnel around the country, she had received crisis training. Even so, her composure under pressure was extraordinary. Because she had called 911, her lengthy conversation with Michael Hill was recorded through the 911 system.


After he had told her that he didn't care if he died, she told him that she understood how he felt because she had felt like that after her husband had left her. Her story of her non-death loss impressed Michael Hill enough that he agreed to follow her advice and surrender to the police.


Her empathy for his situation moved him. For this reason, it strikes me as a fair guess that he himself is also experiencing non-death loss in his life.


In any event, failed mourning of non-death losses is the root condition that gives rise to what Erich Fromm refers to as the authoritarian character.






Erich Fromm worried about what he styled as the authoritarian character. As the antidote and preferred alternative to the authoritarian character, he advanced the person who has been liberated as the result of the optimal experience of psychoanalysis. Fromm's terms "authoritarian character" and "authoritarianism" are not widely used today. For this reason, I will not use them extensively in this essay.


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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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