My first reactions were pretty typical of me when it comes to celebrities running amok. I didn’t really care.
To me, it seems somewhat disingenuous to go on about how sad it is that this famous person died or suffered some other brand of misfortune. It also feels a little inappropriate to me when we pass judgement on the circumstances. While these people have indeed made the choice to live their lives in the public’s scope, we very rarely know who they really are. I support the idea that says people in the public eye (entertainers, politicians, and the like) should be subject to a certain amount of scrutiny. But there’s a limit to what we can see with the naked eye.
I do believe that Houston’s death, which we all pretty much presume was connected to her substance abuse issues, should be important though.
The reason being is that in America, all things related to drugs seem to be viewed through a rather strange lens, and that is perhaps highlighted by Houston’s struggles.
First, there’s the issue of illegal recreational drugs including, but not limited to marijuana, cocaine in its various forms, LSD, ecstasy, and heroin/opiates.
I won’t claim to know much about the short or long-term effects of any of these types of substances. Anyone who knows me will confirm that I’m a drinker. In fact, I’ve had some problems with that particular poison in the past and still have to monitor my habits rather carefully as a result.
What I do know as a result of spending the first 32 years of my life in America is that far too many people see drug use, abuse, and addiction as an issue to be handled by law enforcement rather than the health care industry. That is to say that they can’t differentiate between the highly illegal act of selling/distributing the drugs in question and the act of consuming said drugs.
And therein lies the problem. Addiction and/or substance abuse is a health problem and no rational person could, should, or would deny such a thing. But Americans seem content with the idea of allowing the justice system handle things, which is just ass-backwards. We seem a-okay with the idea of a vagrant junkie being sent to jail for the night only to be tossed back to the streets instead of getting he or she to a fucking hospital or some place where something resembling recovery can begin.
Hell, a massive chunk of American school children have been educated about drugs through the D.A.R.E. program, which uses law enforcement officers in lieu of health care professionals. Not surprisingly, D.A.R.E. has been repeatedly shown to be ineffective if not downright counter-productive.
And then there’s the issue of prescription drugs.
I’m no hippie. I don’t buy into the new-age voodoo that says eating linseed oil in your Cheerios, juggling crystals, and breathing through your eyelids will cure most anything. But I think it’s reasonably fair to say we’re a somewhat over-medicated culture.
And it’s common knowledge that you don’t really need to go to much effort to get your hands on some pretty powerful drugs. The problem of prescription abuse is also well documented, especially among teenagers. And it’s gotten significantly worse over the years.
So what does this all have to do with Whitney Houston?
Well, her whacked-out life should throw a spotlight on the fact that America is a bad place to be an addict. It shows that even a person with virtually infinite resources (not to mention the talent and avenues to gain infinitely more) can and quite possibly will fall through the cracks.
So what hope does the average person have?
For what it’s worth, I’m not trying to make out that addiction/drug abuse is a death sentence in America. I have few friends and acquaintances who were once ill with this kind of disease who have taken various roads towards a healthy or more healthy life. And I applaud them for that.
I’ve also known a few who never get better, and as a result ruin their own lives and leave gaping wounds in the lives of others as a result.
I won’t lie to you, reader. I don’t have all the answers. This is a complicated issue.
I just wish that more thought would be given to this problem when faced with glaring examples of our culture’s failings, like the tragedy that has been Whitney Houston’s life.
Instead, it’s likely to only serve as yet another act in our celebrity circus; glossed over in slick, sensationalist magazine pages, tabloid television, and the wastelands of the World Wide Web.
Image from http://www.stylecaster.com