I embarrassingly blubbered my way through Marley & Me, get sucked into the back stories of Idol contestants and have to turn the channel when Sarah Mclachlan's animal cruelty commercials come on. I even got a little choked up this week when watching and listening to news stories about Jeremy Lin. I am generally a caring person who feels deeply for the pain of others. I found myself however strangely detached from feeling much of anything when I heard Whitney Houston had died this week. Whitney's music was a huge part of my childhood. Many of my junior high waltzes were danced to that voice, many painful rec room parties contained dramatic teen angst with Whitney's voice in the background. I, like so many of you, listened to 'I Will Always Love You' over and over and over and over again, to the point of saturation.
Cries that the voice was gone felt a bit hollow to me. That voice, one of the world's most powerful, began dying painfully about 20 years ago. It was a slow death, but also calculated and highly predicted. It was not an accident, but one that could have been avoided, caused by the literally thousands upon thousands daily decisions from it's owner, some small, some, but all equally potent and deadly.
Addiction is a serious matter. I remember distinctly my first drink (hated it), my first cigarette (hated it), my first joint (loved it). Almost every human alive goes through these first and almost every human being must then make daily, small and big decisions about how or if, to incorporate these vices into our lives so they don't move from occasional usage into habits then into addictions.
For an addict, the decisions often become quickly beyond their control. This makes it even that much more important that early choices be wise ones. I have great compassion for those who suffer from addictions, I have seen first hand the tole it takes on a person, their families, on one's body and most importantly one's spirit. But...there are those who had no choices, the young parent ravaged by cancer, the thousands of children in hospitals waiting to die, those struck dead so suddenly in 911, those men and women whose lives were cut so brutally short in distant lands fighting for our protection.
It is not that I don't feel for Houston, her daughter, her family. I guess I although my heart is huge and my compassion massive, there are so many people in my immediate life, so many innocents who have zero control over their circumstances, that it is difficult to stretch my boundless caring to a 48 year old mother, famous, a millionaire, who could not get her act together.
I know the pain must have been massive, but equally massive were something nost addicts don't have, her resources and ability to seek support. Most 48 year old addicts who succumb to their decease are not heralded. Most are judged, scoffed at and it is not rare to hear some say they got what they deserved.
What Whitney Houston deserves is respect for sharing her powerful gift, that voice that effected so many of us for so long. As stated though, her voice did not leave us last week, the voice, that gift, was thrown away a long time ago. Houston deserves respect, compassion and our appreciation. She does not deserve or warrent our judgement, but equally, I struggle with whether she deserves our praise. Her voice was perfection, her choices in life, like most everyone's, were often not.
Like with Michael Jackson and so many other celebrities, why do their flaws have to be either magnified or ignored upon their death. Why must we make them be good or bad. Why can't they in death, be the beautifully flawed beings that they were in life.
Ironically one of my favorite Houston live performances was Hold up the light featuring BeBe and CeCe Winans, an anti drug anthem from the 1989 Soul Train Awards.