The Course of Reason

On Dominique Venner

May 24, 2013

Dominique VennerTrigger warning for discussion of suicide

My reaction to the suicide of Dominique Venner, the right-wing French historian who committed suicide by shooting himself in the head at the altar of the Notre Dame cathedral, has been one of incredibly mixed feelings. Venner’s views were hateful and downright repulsive; I find it difficult to mourn his loss. Yet he was still human and no one should be driven to take their own life.

Whenever a suicide happens people will ask, “Why? Why did they do it?” Apparently, it was in protest to a recent law passed in France legalizing same-sex marriage. One person even described it as a political act:

The suicide was described by National Front leader Marine Le Pen on Twitter as a political act.

“All respect to Dominique Venner whose final, eminently political act was to try to wake up the people of France,” Ms. Le Pen wrote on Twitter, the BBC said.

“It is in life and hope that France will renew and save itself,” the far-right party leader added.

Committing suicide as a political act isn’t a new concept though in this particular case I find it extreme in a very unsettling way. The implication of Le Pen’s words is that killing oneself in protest of same-sex marriage could be considered the right thing to do. First, that says something is very wrong with the mindset of Le Pen. Second, we don’t need anyone imitating Venner’s actions. My feeling is that Venner had more going on than disgust for same-sex marriage, though that’s merely speculation. I didn’t know him and I’m not a psychologist. Maybe he did kill himself simply because he hated same-sex marriage. This is the difficulty in asking, “Why?” when it comes to suicide. You can never truly know what was going on inside the individual’s head. 

Venner’s suicide has reminded me of all the times I’ve heard people say to others that they should go and kill themselves for one reason or another. The exact reasons don’t matter, but there is usually some disagreement or conflict that leads to a person to suggest another one commit suicide. I have no idea if anyone ever suggested that to Venner. If so, doing so was unacceptable. Never, under any circumstances, should someone tell another person to go kill themselves. Aside from being a rather harsh thing to say, you may be speaking to an individual who has gone through a suicide experience, has been contemplating it, or is facing some personal battles. The last thing they need is for their very life to be presented as something to be thrown away and disregarded. 

At the end of the day, this event was a tragedy. Someone took their own life. Such a thing should never happen.



About the Author: Chris Burke

Chris Burke's photo
Chris Burke holds a Bachelors in Environmental Studies: Honours Environment and Business from the University of Waterloo. Next he will be working towards a Masters of Environmental Studies in Sustainability Management. He's an active member of the Atheists, Agnostics, and Freethinkers of Waterloo student group. In his spare time he enjoys reading and playing music.




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