Sunday, July 24, 2011

to Grief

I wasn't expecting to find Grief yesterday; but when i logged on to the internet she was there waiting. My Facebook, Twitter, and G+ feeds were already awash in the stories of madness descended on a land of peace and order, and of a young woman dead before her time, her potential never to be fulfilled.

I spent the morning perusing stories about Amy Winehouse concerts and watching videos of live her performances, and to a lesser extent reading anecdotes about trips to Oslo and participating in conversations about the Nature of Evil. It was a somber morning, bittersweet. The joy of remembering good times gone by, and the ache of knowing that for some there will be no more times, good or bad. It was a sad morning, but the comfort of a Grief shared bouyed me up. And I wondered at the power of the Internet to unify.

But this was not to last. By the late morning/early afternoon the inevitable backlash had set in and folks all over the web were chastising others for their displays of sorrow for the passing of Ms. Winehouse. The Backlashers seemed to fall into three camps.

1: "She wasn't that great./She only made one album."

Which i'll deal with first because it is the line of reasoning that makes me the most uncomfortable. Are only the very talented or the very prolific worthy of our tears? Even if she she only made one album, even if she only had one song and she only sang it one time; if there was a moment where she impacted someone and made them feel understood and connected even for an instant, she is deserving of that person's mourning.

(and for the record, she made two albums.)

2: "Why are you wasting your grief on Amy Winehouse when she brought this upon herself?"

There is a lot of anger in this question, and I get it. She had so much talent, so much potential and she pissed it away. She could have stopped, pulled back from the abyss, but she chose to keep going. I don't know why she couldn't get her shit together. She had some pain she was trying to numb, or some hole she was trying to fill, or maybe she just loved to get effing wasted. I don't know. She's not the first star to do this to herself, she wont be the last. But the knowledge that there is no one to blame but her for her own death doesn't make it any less sad. What if it wasn't a drug overdose, but a suicide? Or what if she was mountain climbing and got her arm trapped under a bolder, but she didn't have the will to cut off her own arm to escape? Does weakness make you unworthy of grief?

3: "Why you wasting your grief on Amy Winehouse when you should be spending it on Norway?"

With the implication that the Norwegian tragedies vastly outweigh the death of one drugged out pop star and any sorrow shown on her behalf is a sign of cultural bankruptcy. This is the line of reasoning that makes the most sense on the surface. It seems common sense that many deaths are a greater tragedy than one death, that capricious murder is more horrific than self destruction. And as an abstract that logic is unassailable. But grief isn't about logic, and it can't be reduced to math. If my mom died the same day a meteor fell from the sky and made a crater out of New York City I would not shed a single tear for the citizens of the Big Apple. It's not as though the people who mourn the passing of Ms. Winehouse don't care about the events in Norway. Of course they care. We know, maybe more acutely than the peoples of any other nation, what it's like to see our children slain by madmen wielding guns. But it is somehow easier to process the loss of an artist who work moved you  (a person one might feel a very tangible connection with, despite not knowing them), it's more personal than it is the death of many strangers living in country you've probably never given much thought to.

But ultimately none of the above arguments i've laid out above really mater. Because when you get right down to it, a person's grief is their own, to feel and to express. And it is the height of unbelievable arrogance to presume to chastise another human being for feeling the feelings they feel.

1 comment:

Thalia said...

You're so eloquent. Everywhere I keep finding people bound to this limited resource model--grief is not a limited commodity, grieving for Amy Winehouse doesn't use up the available grief, thus robbing those poor folks in Norway of their rightful share.