Last night we watched the final episode in this year’s “A Place to Call Home,” a really good Australian melodrama. This was its fifth year and who knew we’d get all tangled up in an Australian melodrama? It’s their version of Dallas, sort of … but I like the people better.

In this final episode of year five, the Very Bad Girl of previous seasons eventually kills herself to implicate a Very Bad Guy. It is a sacrifice to all the evil she did in previous episodes. In the end, at least one member of the family feels it is wrong to let the Very Bad Guy go to the gallows when this family knows, even if no one else knows, that the Bad Guy didn’t really kill her.

It got me to thinking about life and death decisions … when you are obliged to save the life of someone who has done you wrong and  every fiber of you is screaming “let the bastard die.”

I believe most of us can’t do that.

Despite the fact that today, in this time and space, our country is being run by awful people who have no conscience and no sense of right and wrong — or good and evil — it doesn’t mean that we are the same. Have once been in that position, I couldn’t do it. Should I have done it? I sometimes wonder, though really don’t know. I was sure then and I’m reasonably sure now I would have regretted it. If I didn’t regret it, it would have changed me and made me into someone else, someone I could not recognize as me.

things we do, good and bad, alter us on a fundamental level. Technically — legally — no one is responsible for saving the life of someone whose death they did not cause. If you see someone trying to commit suicide, you are not legally obligated to stop them. You aren’t breaking the law if you let them jump from that ledge or take the poison. But your soul knows. Your conscience knows. Your gut knows.

The bad things we do never go away. They are little poison pellets that grow inside us. Forever.

That’s why looking at our so-called leadership, I wonder how these people can look at themselves in a mirror and not be struck with horror at what they see. I would like to believe that at some point, this will catch up with them and the poison in their souls will eat them alive. I don’t know it’s true and I have no belief system to prove it, but I want it to be true.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. I am retired and delighted to be so. May I live long and write frequently.


  1. In England, you are legally, as well as morally, obliged to try and prevent suicide. There have been a number of cases, including one where a widow was accused (and acquitted) of manslaughter for failing to call the emergency services immediately after her husband made the last of many suicide attempts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In the U.S., you are morally obligated, but not legally obligated unless you had some kind of hand in creating the situation. But there have been a lot of cases about this and juries swing both ways on it. It’s not a simple answer.

      Morally, though, I think it is simple. I think you have to try because what kind of person ARE you if you don’t?


      1. It is a complicated thing both in law and morally. How do we judge another’s suffering and by what right do we prevent them from ending a life that is too much for them to bear? Yet, I agree…we have to try. Even though sometimes, trying isn’t enough.


        1. I know. I lost a few along the way. You can try, but you can also fail. The failures, even though the deaths took place far away and I had no way to interfere still haunt me. Maybe if I’d done something else, said something else. Taken them into my home. The ones I lost are terribly sad because they were so young.


                1. Logic only takes us so far. I feel guilty about things in which I had no part and yet I feel I should have fixed them. Somehow. I recognize this kind of guilt is not subject to rationalizations. I’m VERY good at rationalizing, but I’ve had zero success with this. It’s a lot of years later, too. By now, I should have found a way around it. Instead. I have come to accept what I feel is just THERE … and it’s just part of me and will apparently always be part of me.

                  I do not have to like it.


                  1. I know. I did all I could… but I also know more was needed and I was ‘there’. And that sometimes, no matter what you do, it cannot be enough. And I don’t like it either.


                    1. This isn’t something I often talk about. Even 50 years later, it nags at me. If I had changed the answer to ONE question in ONE phone call, might that have made the difference? There are no answers.


                    2. You can’t know… and you did he best you could with who you were then… thinking it through now brings a different perspective when you have hindsight and years to work with. We couldn’t change things then, or how they are today. But I do understand all too well.

                      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m a firm believer that the only person’s actions I’m responsible for are my own (and my underage children, of which I have none), because the only person I can control is me. Say I was in such a scenario where I had information that might save a person’s life (like in your series). I would totally give that information to the right authorities if I had it, but after I gave that information, my obligation to that person is done.

    When I was a kid, about 16 I think… I briefly dated a guy who constantly threatened to commit suicide. Like all of the time. He didn’t flat out say, “I’m gonna off myself if you don’t talk to me.” more like, “I just don’t think I can go on anymore…” and that weighed heavy on me if I didn’t “talk him down.” from the latest funk. After, oh, the tenth time in so many weeks, I finally said, “I’m not your keeper, and I can’t keep doing this.” I was sixteen for god’s sake, and so not ready to be someone’s therapist, and I decided then and there that if he did off himself, well, I couldn’t stop him. I’d already lost two friends that year (one to suicide and one to gang violence) and the guilt trip he was trying to lay on me wasn’t helping.

    So yeah, the only person I have control over is myself. I can try and convince someone to do or not do something. And it’s in my nature to help someone I think needs help. But in the end, their actions are their own.


    1. That’s pretty much where I stand, too. Despite laws to the contrary, if you CAN stop a self-murder, I think you are obliged to at least try and certainly if you have exonerating information about somebody, you should report it. But that’s as far as it goes.

      I have learned the hard truth through the years that you can’t save somebody else. They have to want to be saved and they have to help in the process. You can’t fix everything, no matter how much you want to and that includes people you love as much as people you dislike. It’s got to be a two-way street or it simply doesn’t work.


  3. Excellent piece…and I agree. Having once been in the position of killing someone (they were breaking into my home and I had a baby to protect), I knew that if forced to, I would most certainly pull the trigger. BUT, I did not want to do it and knew I would be forevr haunted if I did. Lucky me, the police showed up in time. The evil people do gets easier over time and once a line is crossed, very few go back. I am fortunate to have a belief system, but we have all done evil in some form, and we, if we are not completely corrupt, can not continue to do so. The ones who do have so seared their conscience, that there is not a conscience left.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that there’s “you should do that bad” and “evil” and there’s a significant difference. I always wondered if I could kill someone, EVEN to save my own or someone else’s life. More likely to save someone else than myself, I think … but I also think it would be very difficult either way. The likelihood of my hesitating over the trigger is about 100% because I don’t seem to have a killer instinct except maybe about insects — and I am not sure that counts.

      I think the real evil we do does haunt us until, as you say, there’s no conscience left. Maybe that’s how the truly wicked survive: they have lost their moral center. And I don’t think you need religion to have a moral center. I think we ALL have it. It’s our birthright.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, there is most certainly a huge difference in bad and evil. And like you, killing someone to protect me would be much more difficult, but I also have a highly developed sense of self preservation. LOL My feet will be running before I even know i’m gone! I think most of us abhor killing. Most of us are not born with the instinct…thank God. Real evil doesn’t mind killing to achieve their goals…and it seems to be much more wide spread today thta in years past.


  4. I, too, don’t know how Trump and the deplorables in his cabinet, as well as the GOP leaders in Congress can look at themselves in the mirror each morning. They can’t sell their souls to the devil because they have no souls.

    Trump and the Deplorables would make a good name for a bebop group, don’t you think?


  5. I agree, Marilyn. If you have a conscience, you couldn’t let another die without trying to stop them. I couldn’t anyway. And yes, every act we perpetrate seers our soul. If I accidentally say something that harms another, I can’t forget it, it doesn’t go away. At some point the pang, the pain, the anguish revisits me and I feel it all over again. I think it is worse depending on the depth of the problem and allowing someone to die (when they aren’t responsible for the death of another even if they’ve commited many atrocities) would go against the grain and haunt me forever.


    1. I think this is probably true for most people. It is the human condition. I suppose what troubles me most is why this doesn’t trouble others? What is wrong with THEM and how did we come to be ruled by them?


  6. The people who abuse, rape, torture or otherwise infringe on the liberty of another person or child and that victim goes into a life of hell, whether they end it by suicide or any other form of self-punishment for not fighting back … those people should wear the weight of the deaths they cause, but I’m sure they walk right by and never even see them, let alone acknowledge their part in it.
    I was a foster carer to many kids, mainly teenagers, who’d come from a life of abuse, physical, sexual and emotional – not their fault, but they paid the price, not the perpetrator/s.


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