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Rodney King: Tortured Soul
Remembering a man who suffered throughout his life, and not just because of those four policemen beating him
When I recently heard that Rodney King, whose videotaped beating by those Los Angeles cops in 1991 and subsequent acquittal of those cops sparked one of the biggest riots in U.S. history a year later, passed away in his swimming pool, I was saddened.
Just like millions of others, I'm sure.
Over the past two decades, as King continued to get in trouble with the law and struggle with alcohol and drugs, going through rehab numerous times and even appearing on VH1's Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew to try and straighten himself out, I've often wondered exactly what it was, besides being a part of the Black underclass in America, that kept Rodney suffering and dealing with the issues that he was dealing with.
I found out the root of all his issues when I read his obituary in the Los Angeles Times, as it talked about how his father was a raging alcoholic who often beat Rodney as a child and induced much trauma in him, to the point where he started drinking in junior high school to undoubtedly numb the pain as well as act out by frequently getting in trouble during his school days.
When I read that, it made things crystal clear and explained everything; it made me think "No wonder he had all those problems."
It also made me realize that here was a man who, because of all he endured throughout his life - and not only that beating on that lonely L.A. road in March of 1991 - was definitely a tortured soul whose demons, addictions, and issues were, in the end, too overwhelming to overcome.
I was particularly convinced of this when I heard that according to his neighbors and his fiance at his Rialto, CA home, located about 70 miles east of Los Angeles, Rodney was loudly sobbing - wailing, really - in his backyard outside of his pool before he was found at the bottom of it.
Apparently he was in deep, deep despair and - yes, I will say it although I'm only speculating and have no way to confirm if it's true - ultimately decided to end his own life.
That's my guess as to what happened, and I full well know that it's up to the investigators to decide what ultimately sealed Rodney's fate, but my opinion was formed based on what I read.
Whether or not he indeed drowned himself, the one thing that I am strongly convinced of is that Rodney King was a tortured soul, someone who was desperately looking for a way out of his apparent misery in which no encouragement, no "You are blessed" statements would have helped him.
Some people will likely say that Rodney brought all of his suffering upon himself, that he didn't have to get into that car and drive that night in 1991, and that no one forced him to take drugs or pour booze down his throat or do whatever he did to get in trouble with the police in subsequent years.
Those folks would probably say that other people have overcome their poor beginnings, being beaten by their father and having addiction issues, to have a good life, and it's Rodney's fault that he didn't do so, which in the end made him a loser.
To them I say, how unsympathetic, judgmental, and just flat-out mean can you get?
The reality, at least to me, is that sometimes issues are too difficult to overcome, as if Mike Tyson (in his prime) were fighting Mini-Me from the Austin Powers movies; Mini-Me wouldn't stand a chance no matter what. And it's not like Rodney didn't try to deal with his problems.
The bottom line is, I feel that Rodney King's soul was too tortured to overcome his demons, that those demons won in the end, which happens; not everyone gets a "Happily Ever After" ending, no matter how hard they try to make it so.
In fact, there's honestly a part of me that, while I'm truly sorry that Rodney's dead, feels that at least he doesn't have to be such a tortured soul anymore - which he was.
I suppose the only thing left for me to say is this...
Rest In Peace, Rodney. You have certainly earned it.