On Whitney Houston

I am seeing a colossal amount of reprehensible garbage being written about Whitney Houston—and, although I am too jaded to be surprised, I am nonetheless discouraged, again, by the lack of empathy and the evidently irresistible urge to judge.

What bothers me most are the vicious, snarling, sanctimonious proclamations about her being "a crackhead," or various other sneering epithets used in the service of casting her drug use as moral failing, a weakness of character.

We don't even know why Whitney Houston died yet, but that's of no consequence to the victim-blaming vultures who pick over the (literal) carcasses of fallen celebrities on rancorous fault-finding missions designed with the uncomplicated objective of self-elevation via smug superiority.

So it is assumed to be drugs, and we are exhorted to ignore that addiction is a disease, not a personal flaw.

Whitney Houston's ability to manage her disease may have been a flaw, but that is a judgment I would never make on someone who experiences a level of fame, a lack of privacy, an amount of pressure, and an assumption that one's life is public property that most of us will never experience and cannot really imagine in any accurate detail. It's easy to say what we'd do differently in the same position, but I don't really think any of us can know that.

I don't really think any of us can know how the circumstances of international fame would affect us, or change us.

There is no substance to arguments about how she shouldn't have been famous, if she couldn't handle it; or she should have left the limelight altogether, if she couldn't survive in its glare. One can't know, not really, what it means to become famous, what it will demand. One can't reseal that genie.

And what does one do when one has a voice like Whitney's, a talent of that magnitude, and fame is an unavoidable effect of the career that maximizes one's personal potential? What does one do when one's gift is incompatible with obscurity, even if one's constitution is incompatible with renown?

It is not as simple as do it or don't do it. Few things are.

The public discourse doesn't favor nuance, and it encourages judgment. I can't abide either. Even with the comparatively miniscule bit of notoriety I have from my work, I am frankly amazed there are famous people who DON'T flame out. The amount of pressure, the entitled demands, the ad hominem attacks, the utter disrespect for boundaries, and the sheer grotesque creepiness one suffers in exchange for a public life is extraordinary, and all the good will in the world can't undo the simultaneous damage. I can't begin to imagine what Whitney went through in her life, the shit she had to process to which vanishingly few people can relate. There's no way I will judge her.

And at last there is just this: If one's mourning is contingent on how someone died, that says something about the mourner, not the deceased.

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