Sunday, February 19, 2012

on the death of Whitney Houston and how she is mourned.

Despite the photo I posted Friday, I hope it goes without saying that I think the demise of Whitney Houston is a sad thing and that it's natural that folks who felt particularly close to her music would feel a profound sense of loss at her death. I felt that way when Amy Winehouse died, but Amy was a little more frank about her struggles, and I think no one was surprised that she died. All the same, I tend toward optimism and I hope for someone like Whitney or Amy to come through the drug/booze haze and find a greater felicity and peace in their existence and live a happy and fulfilling life.

This brings me to the topic of an artist who created a poster (or art?) with a photo of Whitney and then a photo of malnourished African children with a caption indicating something to the effect that one dies/millions weep, 1 million die/no one weeps.

I find that sanctimonious finger-wagging to be arrogant and insulting to everyone. I do not number among them, but there are millions of people for whom Whitney is/has been/always will be on frequent rotation in their favorite music. My favorite music is woven into the very fabric of my life, and though it's not the same as a dear friend, music is profoundly meaningful and important to me, so if something bad happens to someone whose music is part of the soundtrack of my life, then of course I will grieve.

The sheer number of Whitney Houston fans is indicative of her importance in their lives. Her songs were played at their wedding receptions, probably for the couple's first dance as married folk. That they should feel a sting in their hearts and mourn her passing is entirely understandable.

On the moralizing about no one caring about starving children in Africa (or anywhere), the US government annually doles out around $60 billion in foreign aid. Millions of people give money to charitable organizations like Heifer International, which I think is great. This is not done because no one cares. Quite the opposite.

Anyway, the bigger topic to me is that people who love Whitney Houston's music are entitled to their grief, and though I don't think they should be rending their garments or doing the sackcloth and ashes routine, I think it's asinine and condescending for someone to try to point out the scale of other very real tragedies in life. Uh, hello: we need the escape of music and art because we are reminded daily of the hardship of life. We all have our burdens, and just because someone sheds a tear over a singer who never knew they existed does not mean that person doesn't care about starving children here or anywhere else.

Sheesh! Lighten up.


Jess said...

I had a switch on my television, which allowed me to avoid the funeral and sound bites.

The part always missed is the devastation of the family. Exposing this grief, or endless droning and conjecture never changes the burden of guilt and that feeling there was some magical phrase that would have pulled her off the path of self-destruction.

They have my respect. What will end in a few days for the media will last a lifetime for the family.

charlotte g said...

This is well said.