|Matt Briscoe And Crowley during the Summer|
of 2017. This was their last visit and they swore that
there would be many more. (Matt Briscoe)
We often hear stories about the modern, liberal and “fake” news media. People on both sides of the argument try and constantly discredit and disgrace members of the “fourth estate” as propagandists and accuse us of being slanted. Well, I’m not here to argue with you and tell you that you’re wrong—because you aren’t and that is the modern reality. But behind every truth is always a little misperception, and in that thought process we can say that behind every important, meaningful and informative local news story there is a person who doesn’t care about the politics, doesn’t care how long you’ve called a neighborhood home or just how much you care about the community—or your own agenda. No, behind it all is a true blue local journalist who keeps a record of it all and serves as a mediator between the community and those who manage it. Some of us are better at that task than others—but that’s not why I came to talk to you at all.
Jason Crowley was a guy from Castroville, Texas who did this job right, but on a larger scale. Jason graduated high school and ended up going to college at UTSA. He spent time working in California working as a cameraman on television production crews but his heart was with small towns and telling their stories to the masses.
One night Jason had an idea that he wanted to produce documentaries on and shoot short films about rural life in Texas. So, like most of us storytellers and documentarians Jason sold everything he owned and invested it all in some decent equipment and he hit the road with little more than an idea and a dream.
Jason was a journalist’s journalist. He was hardworking, hard living and hard headed. Jason had a passion for his job and a love for his hometown. That passion was fueled not by a desire to bring people down or to destroy people’s lives who differed in opinion than his. He was driven by a passion to tell the stories and to get them right.
He didn’t look like a journalist or a clean cut news reporter. He wasn’t that. Jason was a quiet, thoughtful and deliberate journalist who took names and notes like nobody else. He didn’t deal in “alternative facts” or manipulated agendas—he just shot it as it was and he didn’t care if it validated your world view or not because in the end, it was what it was.
In 2007, Jason was diagnosed with HIV and like many in his shoes, he went onto live a very productive life without complications. But in the end, Jason knew all too well his likely fate. He would continue to produce documentaries and tell stories on what was then a still emerging realm known as social media.
But you see, this rough and tumble character was still a human being and deep down he was an unknown rockstar of his craft. But there was and is a darker side to this story that must be told for any number of reasons.
You see, Jason traveled his fair share and he had scraggly hair, an earring and tattoos. When he returned home to San Antonio could blend into society and live a normally quiet and peaceful life. But it’s when he left the city limits that he experienced true misunderstanding.
When he traveled home he heard the comments about being a “queer” or being a “fag” which he knew none were true. You see, to them it had to be true because only homosexuals have Aids. Once the secret got out, Jason’s family admitted that they were treated a bit different—but they never seemed to let Jason know. But somehow he knew.
Like so many in his shoes, Jason developed depression and for any number of reasons you can imagine why. He saw doctors and was put on medication to “help” him cope. To most folks who knew him it seemed to be working, but deep down it wasn’t.
In a Texas hotel room facing his demons and alone, Jason decided that the world would be better off without him. He had been talked about one too many times, rumored about enough and called a “liar” by subjects of his reporting one too many times. In the silence of a small, rural Texas town Jason took his own life a few weeks ago and the world is worse off because of it.
The month of September has been officially designated suicide prevention month and thanks in part to State Representative Todd Hunter and his work in the Texas Legislature, we are all at least a little more aware of the problem and the topic is becoming a bit less taboo and hidden. But there is still work left to be done and it starts in own little worlds.
I’m married now for the second time in my life and suicide hits home for me. To spare many of the details, my first wife ended up taking her own life following a case a very serious depression. It wasn’t from name calling or public scrutiny. Her’s was much more private, but every bit as personal and equally as tragic. The struggle for those who struggle is very real and very serious in nature.
As a society, I’d urge each of us (myself included) to be more mindful that words do hurt others and that the idea that “they are only words” is the most ignorant thought process that one could carry. But it’s not only words.
Somebody much smarter than I once realized that for every action there is a reaction. On the flip side of that, for every inaction lies a potential tragedy.
By working together on complex issues like these we can absolutely create a positive change and we can avoid the tragedies that often come from misunderstanding. I’m under the spiritual belief that those who choose that route are met by a loving and forgiving God who is perfectly just in every way. I believe that He understands them, their problems and us. But I’m also certain that the same God who recognizes those who have taken their own life as being ill also gives us the chance to help, encourage and console those who may visibly be struggling with thoughts of harming themselves. I believe he also gives us the sense to learn how to be part of the solution and not be the primary point of the problem.
So for to you and I, let’s work together and be more mindful of how our words, actions, deeds and even thoughts can impact somebody else. Let’s take the lead of Representative Hunter and so many others to be part of the change that might not only help somebody, but may very well bring them back from the brink of tragedy.
Be the change that matters—deeply matters.