Hi All --
Had some big happenings this past weekend, so my blog is a little late. But here goes --
The passing of Whitney Houston was a shock, to be sure. Her passing left a sharp division in public opinion -- should she be acknowledged for the way she lived, or for the way she died?
Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, no stranger to controversy, injected himself into this issue last week. He issued an executive order directing the flags at all state government offices to be flown at half-staff in Whitney's honor. He caught a lot of flack for that from many people who thought that Whitney did not deserve such an honor. Veterans' groups got up in arms, because our honored war dead deserved such deference, while an overdosing celebrity did not. Others questioned how her conduct and habits, which may or may not have been in existence before her marriage, warranted such a display after her passing. And of course, many of our friendly neighborhood intellectuals pontificated, "why is the media taking up so much time on Whitney, isn't there any more real news in this country?"
As usual, the Governor had a good reason for his decision. He stated that he wanted to honor the accomplishments that Whitney had achived in life, and the wonderful talent she brought to this world, and not to deny her the same because of the manner of her departure. He wanted to show respect to her as a "daughter of New Jersey," and honor the contributions she made to the world around her. For someone who's admitted to being the "biggest Springsteen fan ever," it took guts for him to not only acknowledge the passing of another very talented musician from New Jersey, but also to acknowledge the strengths, and not the weaknesses, of a terribly tragic soul.
It's conveniently easy to blame her estranged husband for the manner in which her career suffered and her life ended. That's what her family did when they looked for and found reasons to convince him and his "entourage" of his own children to leave Whitney's funeral. It's also conveniently easy to say that she first began her addictions even before she met her estranged husband. It's even more conveniently easy to say that her marriage was a sham to begin with.
Instead, we're better served to remember the beauty and wonder of her talent. Specifically, her song "Greatest Love Of All" has special resonance with me. Granted, when we see a man singing this song to himself, we're expected to conclude that he's a narcissist or an egomaniac, and sometimes we're right. However, this song is meant to describe the beauty of self-acceptance, the joy that is found in self-reliance, and the fearlessness that comes with self-actualization. Regardless of what her ex-husband may or may not have done to her, or whatever it is she put into her body, this song, as well as her other hits, are how we should remember Whitney.
We should also remember the patriotism she stirred when she sang the Star Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl in 1991. Just try to YouTube that and see if you don't get choked up!
My point is that we are better served remembering the happiness and joy that people bring to this life, assuming they've actually brought some, than we are by reveling in the cause of their demise, or by criticizing the choices they made. Let's bury Whitney's errors, lapses in judgment, and bad habits along with her remains, while her voice and talents live forever. And let's continue to do likewise with all of those who may have lived imperfect and flawed lives, but nevertheless left behind love, smiles, and memories.