There has been a lot of emotions and opinions floating around this past week regarding Whitney Houston's death. Some are praising, honoring and mourning the late singer while others are disregarding her death as just another unfortunate case of a celebrity succumbing to drug abuse and addiction.
I happen to fall in the latter category.
I wouldn't say I am or was a Whitney Houston fan. I loved a few of her songs - I Will Always Love You, Where do Broken Hearts Go, Saving All My Love For You - you know, the ones most of us like. I didn't dislike her, I just never went out of my way to keep up with what she was up to. You can't deny that she was an incredible talent and her voice was certainly a gift; whether it be from God, if that's what you believe, or life just dealt her a pretty damn good hand in that department. It is extremely unfortunate that Ms. Houston chose to go down a road of self-destruction that could have possibly led to her demise. I would never wish death upon anyone. She was important to someone - her daughter, her family, her friends - and my heart goes out to anyone who loses someone they love. It's definitely heartbreaking.
Then I read that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has ordered flags to be flown at half-staff on the day of Whitney Houston's funeral and while it may sound ridiculous, I certainly have an issue with this.
People die every day and every person that dies is important to someone. Not all of us were blessed with the ability to flawlessly belt out the National Anthem or send chills down audiences spines with our rendition of Dolly Parton's I Will Always Love You but we are all good at something whether the rest of the world knows it or not. A person should not be judged or remembered solely by their flaws or mistakes, but let's not forget that Whitney Houston did have those. So did Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Elvis Presley, Heath Ledger, Chris Farley and a plethora of other celebrities whose deaths have been linked to an overdose of legal and/or illegal drugs - be it accidental or not.
These people have all died due to the choice they made to use illegal drugs or abuse prescription medication and their death suddenly becomes the most important thing for media outlets to cover. We hear about it for weeks, if not months. People pay tributes to them, fly flags at half-staff, some of the most important people in the world attend(ed) their funerals. Their old songs, albums, movies and tv shows become best sellers before their body is even laid to rest. They are revered and honored by Presidents, Governors and Prime Ministers and for what? Sure, they all had a good run in the entertainment industry. They made millions of dollars and then they used that money to buy the cause of their death. And now we're going to order flags at half-staff for an entertainer?
I don't like for anyone to be put on a pedestal but there are SO many people who do much greater things in this world that do not even receive 1/4 of that type of recognition when they are the most deserving. Our soldiers who have died protecting our country, our firefighters who have died trying to rescue a newborn baby from a burning house, our police officers who have died trying to catch the guy who robbed YOUR house, the farmers who work 16 hour days to put food in supermarkets that go on YOUR table that are killed by their own equipment, and the list could go on and on. What do we do for these people? Does CNN cover their deaths? Does our society mourn the loss of people who work HARD every day to make your life a little bit easier?
What does that teach our children? It teaches our kids that it's okay to use and abuse drugs if you're a great singer, actor, athlete, etc because we will forget about all that when you die. You will be hailed as the "queen of pop"/"kind of football"/"greatest actor we've ever had." It's okay if you chased a handful of sleeping pills with a bottle of Vodka and passed out on the couch while your 10 year old daughter sat up with you all night long just to make sure you woke up in the morning. It's okay because you were GOOD at something and the world knew it. And you know what? If you're lucky, you'll get a movie made about your life because you were so great.
That is not the type of message I want sent to my child or anyone else's. No one wants to speak ill of someone who has died regardless or the reason. And we shouldn't. We shouldn't speak ill of people dead or alive because that person is someone's son or daughter, someone's mother or father, someone's best friend and someone's lover. That person was the most important person in the world to someone whether their life was full of mistakes and bad decisions or not and we should never want to add on to the hurt they already feel. But that doesn't mean we have to idolize that person to the fullest extent. We don't have fly flags at half-staff, or go out of our way spending time and money to dedicate news stories and movies about them. We let them rest. We teach our children and the general society that this person's passing was completely preventable. Instead of paying tribute to her at the Grammy's, maybe they should hold a benefit concert with proceeds going to drug abuse prevention programs. There are ways to honor the entertainer without condoning the bad decisions.
Drug addiction is a big deal. I have my own personal opinions on that specific issue due to my son's father's battles with it but that's a whole other story. Regardless, these people need help. These people need to be taught that they are 100% accountable for their actions whether they're strung out or not. Unless someone put a gun to your head and forced you to snort that line of coke, your addiction is your own fault. With the information and knowledge we have now regarding the effects of illegal and legal drugs, there is absolutely no excuse for anyone who abuses them. If for some reason your doctor is an idiot and your pharmacist is too, a quick Google search will give you a laundry list of medications you shouldn't mix with alcohol. The effects of using cocaine, meth, etc are no surprise any more. This isn't anything new but for some reason people aren't learning. Are they that ignorant? Or is it because it's disregarded as no big deal? I know that our society, as a whole, is not that stupid.
I will leave quoting Bill O'Reilly because I couldn't agree more:
"I don’t believe that anyone is a slave to addiction," O'Reilly said. "I believe it is a disease, it's a mental disease, but you have free will and you can get through the disease, as millions of people have chosen to do it."