Monday, February 13, 2012

Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston passed away on Saturday from what has so far been determined to be a lethal combination of alcohol and prescription medication.  There has been a media frenzy surrounding the 48-year old singers untimely death and, predictably, many people are using it as an opportunity to make a point.  This blog post will be no exception.

First, to all the people on Facebook who keep posting statuses about how everyone should care about soldiers dying instead of Whitney - give it a rest.  As human beings, we are all capable of feeling both empathy for Whitney Houston's family and sadness over her passing as well as empathy for the families of dead US soldiers and sadness over their deaths too.  I'm not a huge Whitney Houston fan, I think she was a very talented singer and she certainly sang some songs that were big hits, but I don't have any Whitney in my iPod and I'm not going to start collecting her music now just because she's dead.  However, I am an intelligent and reasonable enough person to understand that other people are big fans of her work and find her death to be a tragic loss to the music world and you know what, that's ok for people to feel that way.  It's not a slap in the face of our troops for the news to make a big deal out of Whitney Houston's death.  After all, she was a very big star and incredibly famous, in much the same way Michael Jackson was.  Spending some time paying tribute to a famous artist and actress doesn't mean you don't care that there are soldiers halfway across the world fighting and dying without any fanfare.  Yes, it sucks that our soldiers aren't more loved and idolized than they are, but you know what sucks even more?  The fact that they're fighting and dying halfway across the planet over some bullshit.  I would rather my friends in the military be home with their families, completely free of fanfare, than be the most famous people getting their limbs blown off by IEDs in Afghanistan.

Also, I agree, it sucks that the average soldier's pay is less than $40,000 a year while artists like Whitney Houston make millions and throw their lives away with drugs and alcohol.  I'm not condoning or defending Whitney's actions.  In fact, I think that anyone who can look at what happened to Heath Ledger, Britney Murphy and Michael Jackson (just to name a few) and still think that mixing prescription pills and alcohol is ok is a fucking idiot and they reap what they sow.  However, it's not Whitney's fault that entertainers make more than soldiers.  If you really have a problem with military compensation, then write your congressman and demand a substantial increase in soldier's pay.  Offer to pay a monthly bill of some kind to augment the soldier's income, the same way paying your cable bill augments an entertainer's income.  Or, if you want to split hairs and say that your tax dollars are that monthly bill, then write up a list of government services that you're willing to go without and get 51% of the voting public to agree with that list and go crazy.  Yes, I know that's total bullshit, and so is bitching about the fact that celebrities make more money than soldiers.  CEOs make more money than all of them put together, but you already know that because you posted the same status back when Steve Jobs died, only you changed the names and it said "made some computers" instead of "sang some songs" when you were trying to dismiss his impact on society.

Instead of getting on some soapbox whenever a famous person dies, just so you can post a snarky Facebook status and get a few friends to "like" it or reply with affirmation that they agree with your oversimplified, populist bitching - how about saying something about the soldiers - or anybody who's not rich and/or famous - when it's not going to result in you getting some attention?  How about just be intellectually honest enough to admit you care about those soldiers about as much as you care about Whitney or Steve Jobs or any other famous person, that is to say that you will talk about them when they die and otherwise they almost never cross your mind?

What you are complaining about, really, is the fact that human value is measured in wealth, not worth.

That's why a celebrity who works on a film, tv show, album, etc. for a few months out of the year can become a millionaire who is idolized all over the world and who lives a life of luxury and personal entitlement and is exalted above the rest of society, while a soldier who spends a year and half getting shot at in a foreign and hostile nation can't even get a hometown parade when he is lucky enough to survive long enough to see the end of combat and get to return home to his family.

Society has decided that the celebrity who made millions is a better and more valuable member of society than the young soldier.  Of course it's unfair and ridiculous, but that's the way you want it.

If you didn't, then why does it take the death of a celebrity to get you bitching about the deaths of our military men and women?  Where were your posts about how shitty things are for the troops a week ago? Like I said, the majority of people who are so outraged over the attention Whitney Houston's death is getting are only looking for some attention themselves.  It's sad, really.

Yes, I think it's bullshit that our soldiers make so little when they are asked to give so much.

Yes, I think it's bullshit that celebrities are so spoiled and entitled and recklessly irresponsible that they squander a life that most Americans can only dream of getting close to, let alone ever live in their lifetimes.

Yes, I think it's bullshit that the death of celebrities is front-page news and the deaths of soldiers aren't even televised.

Yes, I think that we have our priorities out of whack as a society when a drug-addicted celebrity dying is a national tragedy but an 18-year old kid getting blown away in Afghanistan is "Thursday".

But, I'm sure as hell not going to post some snarky copy/paste Facebook status about it, because the only thing that would accomplish is getting people to pay attention to me for a few minutes and that seems a little selfish and hypocritical.

For the people who truly loved and connected with Whitney Houston's music, this is a sad time.  Just like the fans of Michael Jackson, Whitney's fans have lost their hero and inspiration.  A lot of young women who are very successful and accomplished in the music industry today were inspired to get into the business by Whitney Houston and certainly they are not all drug addicts living on borrowed time.  Though she may have struggled with her own personal demons, Whitney Houston was an inspiration and a source of joy and entertainment for millions of people.  Her fame and fortune are a testament to that fact.  It is possible to both mourn her passing and acknowledge that there are many brave men and women dying every day in the service of our country.  The media frenzy surrounding Whitney Houston is not a slap in the face of our military, it's a tribute to a great talent who left a tremendous impact on the world of music and entertainment.  If you're still outraged about this a week after Whitney's not in the news anymore, then come talk to me.  Until then, get over yourself.


  1. What about the poor drug dealer who is now out a client and a weeks pay?

  2. This beautiful rant made my morning. Thank you for writing it.

    FWIW, $40K is a soldier's base pay, before all the tax-free allowances, and I don't believe they are underpaid. Cops, firemen, and truck drivers die every week at work, and no one gives them the special treatment they seem to want soldiers to have.

    Only a handful of people in the world have a talent like Houston's, so I'm fine with her being treated as a cultural treasure.

  3. Thank you so much.