The New York Daily News interviewed a neighbor of Mr. Constantino, who had a story to tell that is at odds with the Constantino family’s statement that his self-immolation was “not a political act or statement, but the result of his long battle with mental illness.”
John Constantino “didn’t like the government for some reason,” neighbor Joe Horner told The Daily News.
“He said they were a waste of time, effort and money,” Horner, 56, said. “He said to me, ‘They’re no good. They don’t look out for us and they don’t care about anything but their own pockets.'”
Horner said he saw his 64-year-old friend on Thursday and he showed no signs of being insane.
“He was his happy self,” said Horner, who lives on a few doors down from modest, two-story, book-filled townhouse in Mt. Laurel, N.J., that Constantino shared with his wife.
“There was no evidence, no sign of anything that would make you think he’d even be considering a think like that,” he said.
I can certainly understand the family’s desire for privacy and how that might shade their interpretation of events, and at the same time there’s no reason to assume that a neighbor would have deep insight into Mr. Constantino’s mental state or political views, but the degree to which this story is being downplayed or outright ignored continues to puzzle. If Mr. Constantino had been a Russian citizen who set himself on fire in front of the Kremlin, I feel fairly confident that our media would already be reporting details of his life, like his job, his political and financial circumstances, and his associations (the “family lawyer” who issued the “mental illness” statement bizarrely seems not to know any details of Mr. Constantino’s life whatsoever). We would be told that his self-immolation was a political statement, and we would know what that statement was. Instead, to the extent that our media is talking about this at all it seems content to chalk it up to mental illness and leave it at that.
If you’re on Twitter and this story is important to you, be sure to follow Al Jazeera English columnist Sarah Kendzior, who has been pushing it as much as one person can.