Axe-to-grind mourning mocks public deaths
Published: Monday, February 25, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 00:02
For some reason the student body of my old high school has an unusually high number of fatalities. Simply type "Caney Creek High" into Google and the fourth auto complete option will be "deaths."
Sharing social networking sites with more than a few people from my graduating class, I can attest that when a former classmate dies public reaction can be dumbfounding.
These deaths are like miniature flu seasons except instead of vomiting and congestion everyone suffers from delusions and amnesia, apparently forgetting that they had never even spoken to the victim and instead remember them as being inseparable comrades.
Upon dying one instantly receives several hundred best friends they never even knew they had. And unfortunately, these "friends" will spend most of their time patting one another on the back.
This sort of pattern isn’t just something that effects one little Conroe high school. All across the country we find the public has a strange, opportunistic attitude towards death. Bare with me for a moment and allow me to explain.
Prime examples are the deaths of Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse. Both died of overdoses; Houston by cocaine and Winehouse by alcohol. They lived life irresponsibly and died predictable deaths (Houston famously abused cocaine for decades and Winehouse’s most famous song is quite literally about refusing to go to rehab), yet the world wept for both of them in droves. In New Jersey, the flags were flown at the half-staff to mark the anniversary of Houston’s death.
Meanwhile, Chris Kyle, one of the most accomplished soldiers in United States history, was unexpectedly killed this month by a fellow veteran who he was attempting to help cope with PTSD. His passing only had minimal media coverage and little acknowledgement from the government. Despite being the seemingly perfect candidate for national mourning, his death has been a notably quiet one.
This selective sympathy reached its apex with 15-year-old Amanda Todd, who committed suicide after nude photos of her were leaked to the internet. Todd, who voluntarily flashed strangers over webcam and knowingly had sex with a young man who was already in a relationship, was allegedly harassed by her classmates for these incidents. She has since become the patron saint of teen bullying.
Although dodging the torches and pitchforks is virtually impossible at this point, it is still worth clarifying that I believe all death to be a tragedy no exception. Amanda Todd’s suicide is an unfortunate event by any measure. That being said, it is still hardly a prime example of the effects of teen bullying.
According to bullyingstatistics.org, about 4,400 young people commit suicide every year, over half of which are a direct result of bullying. This was almost entirely ignored by our society until the Amanda Todd incident and shortly thereafter forgotten.
Should you hate Winehouse, Houston and Todd? Of course not. They are simply human beings who made foolish mistakes; there is no reason to hate them and there is no harm in honoring them with our time and attention.
Except that we don’t do it for them. We do it for us.
People love a free pass to cry (for themselves). More importantly, they love the free sympathy and melodrama attached to it. We are not as bothered by death and tragedy as we pretend to be. No, if we were, the candlelight vigils would never stop.
I can count on one hand the amount of public deaths that have given genuine reason for pause. I’d wager that most people feel similarly, even if their Twitter account would lead you to believe otherwise.
Amanda Todd, who behaved irresponsibly and was subsequently outcast (if in an unjustifiably harsh manner), is a terrible example of the torment thousands of youths endure each day for no reason whatsoever. Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse were not remotely shocking deaths--they were hardly even relevant ones. The several students of Caney Creek who have died in recent years were barely even aware of the existence of most people who are now using their names as buzzwords.
My point? Everywhere we look, there is an infuriatingly immature, disrespectful attitude toward human life. It is a selfish twist on the natural process of grieving, taking the tears shed for those who are no longer among us and making jewelry of them for our own attention-whoring.
Death is too big of a deal to be used like that.