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Friday, February 17, 2012

Whitney Houston

It's been a solid week of wall-to-wall Whitney Houston coverage. I've heard the Big Note from her hit I Will Always Love You enough for a lifetime and I hope I never hear it again. Luckily, all the bad stuff in the world like Syria or an American economy hurtling toward disaster took a break for a week so we could collectively concentrate on something far less important in our dull and empty lives.

Before you all start composing your next round of hate mail, let's just shut down our easily offended reflexes and quietly consider a few things.

We don't actually know what caused Houston's death. We might surmise, we might speculate, but we don't know. What we do know is the last fifteen years of her life were a colossal waste of precious life, regardless of the amount of talent she was blessed with. Because of her choices she ceased being a regular part of our lives years ago. To saturate our every waking minute with her death is dishonest.

Some people think she was on the road to a comeback, while others think her downward spiral was continuing. Nobody knows, and its none of our business anyway. Whitney Houston did not share her talents with us -- no artist ever shares their talents. Houston sold her talents to us and we bought them, it was a transaction both parties benefited from, and just because we may have had an emotional connection to her music doesn't give us the right to circle her coffin like the vultures. Her talents were a gift, she traded that gift for fame and fortune, and she squandered that gift on the trappings of escape. You can hate my words, but you cannot argue the truth.

As far as her drug problems are concerned, no one is to blame but Houston. She is no different than any other addict. Bobby Brown and Clive Davis are as responsible for her addiction as I am for owning a Whitney Houston album. She did not suffer from an incurable disease. To claim that is to insult the efforts of every addict who has overcome their addiction. The system did not fail her. To claim that is to claim the Lindsey Lohans of the world should all be cured after three weeks at a posh rehab facility. The last fifteen years of Whitney Houston's life were indeed a tragedy, but we should remember that was her choice. We should hate the reality but we shouldn't hide from it.

None of it matters anyway because none of it is our business. Now is the time for her family and friends to celebrate what they loved about her and lament what they could not help her with. Because we liked her music, or acting, or the way she looked, gives us no right to take part in her death.
 
Unfortunately, even though none of this is our business, the media needs big manufactured stories like this to keep the likes of Jeff Rossen, Perez Hilton and the other Rona Barrett's of the day employed. Celebrity misfortune, self-destruction and death is great for the bottom line. In 1977, the public shock at Elvis' death opened the media's eyes to the incredible revenue they could generate on the backs drug-addled and faded rockstars. There's just something about a truly gifted person who is way better than us in every way falling in a death spiral. It makes us feel a little less loserish I guess. I know lots of truly gifted people no one ever heard of who never honored their gifts because of addiction, but their lives and deaths were not worth less because they were anonymous. Whitney was just another addict who didn't help herself. Unfortunately for her loved ones, many of us feel connected to her and want a piece of the grief, even if just as a curiosity.

When Michael Jackson died, we weren't shocked, we were curious. It was such a compelling story we all watched and shook our heads and passed judgment. Sure Jackson entertained us and gave us the soundtrack to a great deal of our lives, but again, it was a deal we both benefited from it. Our lives were better because of Jackson, and his life was better because we purchased the fruits of his gift from him. He owed us nothing and we were entitled to no claim to his life beyond that.

Maybe the world was surprised and indeed saddened by Houston's death, but the simple fact is the world had been spinning along without Houston's active participation for years. Let her have her peace and let her family come to grips with her life and death, much like you want your family to be given space when you lose a loved one.

Our lives were better because we chose to purchase Whitney's products from her and the fruits of her labors are not changed by the choices in her life, but our claims to her life and death ended after our transactions with her were completed.

She didn't owe us an explanation, or more music, or a healthy lifestyle.

She owed us nothing. We are entitled to nothing.

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