This is not going to be a popular post. It’s okay if you disagree with me. Really, it is. In general, I try to be somewhat agreeable on this blog, and in the rest of my life. I try to write about things that speak to unarguable universal truths. Love is important. Kindness is important. Gratitude is important.
Who would disagree with such obvious certainties?
But what I want to write about today is more complicated. It’s not so black and white. It’s not so flowery or poetic or joyful. Still, it needs to be said.
I don’t understand the sudden widespread connection between Whitney Houston’s death and the troops. I just don’t. People are sad to have lost a musical icon. They have expressed that sadness, and in return, have been met with an uproar of nagging “but what about the troops??” And I can’t stop thinking, ‘well, what about them?’
Of course they deserve attention and praise and gratitude. OF COURSE they do. But how does remembering and honoring Whitney Houston’s contributions to the world take away from that? How does the sadness for one death lessen the sadness we feel for others? Are we not allowed to care about more than one issue at a time? Are we not capable of supporting multiple causes simultaneously? If not, then we’re in trouble.
Whitman was right. He was large. He contained multitudes. So do I. So do you. Why limit ourselves to only thinking or feeling or focusing on one thing at a time? I can feel happy and sad all at once. Can’t you? Can’t we concurrently feel a variety of things about a variety of people and places and ideas? Isn’t it possible, maybe, that when we post a Whitney Houston video, we are not making a statement about soldiers? Am I the only one confused by this?
Of course I support the troops, even if I don’t support the war. Of course people who put their life on the line to defend and protect our country are more heroic than pop stars. OF COURSE they are. Even pop stars know that. To say that you love Whitney Houston is not a disputation of that fact. It’s just saying that you love Whitney Houston.
So let those who love her, mourn her. Let them feel sad for the loss of someone who meant something to them, even if she didn’t mean anything to you, even if you don’t understand it. Let them express that loss however they choose.
Why deny them that freedom? Isn’t that what our beloved soldiers are working so hard to defend and protect? Isn’t that what they’re putting their lives on the line for? Isn’t our freedom of choice and expression supposed to be what America is all about?
You have every right not to care about Whitney Houston. You have every right to believe that the troops deserve more media attention, and you have every right to say so. It’s a legitimate conviction, and one that I personally agree with. But I don’t agree that it should only arise when attention is being given to something else. I don’t agree that a celebrity death is in opposition to supporting the troops. I don’t believe that anyone, celebrity or otherwise, could legitimately claim that it is.
So why pretend that it is? If you want to raise awareness about unsung heroes, do it. Isn’t it possible to do so without taking away from something or someone else? Isn’t what they do, what they sacrifice, what they give us, honorable enough to deserve recognition without belittling others? Isn’t comparing their worth to the worth of pop stars missing the point?
It’s okay if you disagree. Really, it is. People fought and sometimes died for your right to do so. People fought and sometimes died for my right to write this. They deserve recognition and gratitude and praise. Of course they do. But so do the artists – the singers and dancers and painters and poets – who contributed inspiration to the world, who taught us how to turn the feelings and ideas we are free to express, because of the sacrifice of others, into something beautiful.
Recognizing one doesn’t take away from any other. I can support it all at once. I can be simultaneously grateful for both. I am large. I contain multitudes.