America’s preoccupation with popular culture in the form of music, movies, television, and celebrities is undeniable. As reality show stars are more widely recognized for doing nothing than scientists who have cured cancer and people seem to read more Hollywood gossip blogs than political news, the deaths of pop stars also seem to be mourned with greater fervor than for other lost heroes. The recent death of Whitney Houston has re-ignited the controversy over how we prioritize our memorializations, a debate which has found prominence various forms of social media.
Facebook has been flooded with pictures attempting to prompting us to visualize argument that as we recognize the life and death of Whitney, we fail to call attention to other deaths that have occurred recently, including that of soldiers who have died in the middle east. While the sacrifice that soldier’s have made (for what may be directly to our benefit) is cause enough to induce such sentiment, it is inherent in their job not to be as nationally known as somebody who was in the limelight for years. As soldiers join ranks of hundreds, they become part of one movement which is actually paid quite a bit of attention. The absence of knowledge of individual names should not be attributed to indifference, and the acknowledgment of the death of a music icon should not equate to a disregard for other national losses.
Another facet of the issue is the use of embellishment or misinformation to promote the point being made about how we allocate our sympathies. For example, a recent meme featured a photograph of African children with a caption saying “Whitney Houston dies and 1 million cry…1 million die and no one cries”. It is an obvious stretch to say that nobody cares about the issues of third world countries, given many fundraising and improvement endeavors for these places, as well as a supposedly high rating of general concern. While I agree that being cultured beyond what is considered “popular” or for the purposes of entertainment should be a prerogative of more Americans, denying people that celebrating a life they felt connected to will not improve more education in other subjects. Besides, wasn’t this meme, despite its negative connotation, just another way to pay attention to her?
Still, judgments of Whitney’s personal life come into play when discussing whether or not it is appropriate to immortalize her with recognition in statuses, televised memorials, and radio play of songs that are relatively old. With a history of drugs which may have played a role in her early death, some say that the singer is undeserving of celebrating of her life and mourning of the loss. While her mistakes were marked with neon lights unlike much of the general population’s, why should this eclipse her talents and accomplishments?
Whether you put up a status for Whitney Houston, Steve Jobs, Pope John Paul II, or your grandmother, you acknowledged some one who touched your life in some way. Whether you personally care or not, why invalidate anybody’s desire to do something to show they care, even if it’s small?