fingerlakeswanderer

fingerlakeswanderer
Birthday
May 09
Title
cassandra
Bio
Lorraine Berry lives in the Fingerlakes region of New York, although it's her transplanted home. On weekends, she can be heard throughout the area, cheering on her beloved Manchester City F.C. When not writing at Does This Make Sense? or Talking Writing, she can be found hiking with her two dogs, hanging out with her two daughters, eating what her beloved Rob has cooked for her, or teaching creative writing at a small college in the area.

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JUNE 26, 2009 7:17AM

Why Do We Mourn Some and Not Others? (disturbing images)

Rate: 83 Flag

Pop!

Did you hear that? No? 

Put your ear closer to the suds of culture and listen more closely.

Pop. pop. 

Two more tiny bubbles of celebrity burst. Two people whom I never met have passed, and all around me, I'm watching folks mourn. 

Yes. I understand that if "I'll Be There" was playing in the background the night you lost your virginity, well maybe you feel some affinity to the singer of the song.

And if in high school, someone once told you that your hair looked like Farrah's, well, maybe you thought that gave the two of you a special bond. 

 

But what did you know of either one of them? You watched Farrah's 'documentary' about dying from cancer and you were moved. You've seen The Jacksons on VH1 so often, you know by heart the moments when Papa Joe blows a gasket and beats poor Michael. 

But what do you really know? 

Yes. It is sad when a person transitions from life to death. We, the living, call it mourning, we call it grief, we attend funerals and wakes and memorial services. But, in general, when someone passes, they are someone who has been part of our life in some tangential way. We spoke to them, we touched them, we held them, we gave birth to them, we made love with them, we teased them at the dinner table, we went for walks with them on summer afternoons. We formed real, emotional bonds with these people and we grieve when they are gone. 

What does it say about our culture that we are mourning people that the vast majority of us had no contact with whatsoever? What does it say that we are mourning one man in particular who was the butt of jokes, who, until 2:30 pm Pacific Time yesterday was a washed-up pop phenomenon who lived in isolation and who freaked us out with his constantly changing looks and his hooded or masked children, who always looked as if they were being held hostage by Shining Path Guerrilas? 

I listened to Michael Jackson when I was a teenager. I remember "Motown 25 years" and the moonwalk. I remember the ubiquitous poster of Farrah in her orange tank top and her mass of hair and perfect teeth. 

But they were not my friends. They were not people I could call in the middle of the night to say I was having trouble sleeping. I wasn't going to go sit with them when they were having a hard day. They weren't going to loan me money during a tight spot, or come with me on a hike. 

In a lot of ways, Farrah and Michael were abstract nouns. Since hearing of their deaths yesterday, I haven't shed a tear. Truth be told, I haven't even felt sad. 

But show me this:  Darfur2

A child dying of starvation in Darfur, or

santoro_2

A woman who bled to death from an illegal abortion, or

  20105263

women whose bodies were destroyed by rape in the Congo Civil War or 

dead_american_soldiers_iraq2

a young American soldier killed in Iraq

and I get angry. Or sad. Grieve. Cry. Feel called to action. Want to change the world. 

For those folks who feel that they have lost some genuine connection with the deaths of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, I say, "Let you find comfort in your grief." 

But for the rest of the world, that seems to be participating in some meaningless ritual of rending garments and leaving flowers and gathering together to mourn dead pop icons, I say, please find ways to connect with the real and the genuine. 

Make a difference in the life of a child.

Aid a woman who seeks shelter.

Provide an ear to a young soldier who needs to talk. 

Give money to aid organizations trying to feed and protect people in Africa. 

There are different ways of connecting us, one to the other. I cannot join you as you weep for voices you heard on the radio, or an actress you saw on a mid-1970's piece of schlock television. I can weep with you as we work to give aid and comfort to those who need it. 

Pop

pop

pop

Some bubbles are easy to hear as they burst. 

But listen closely: 

help me

feed me

I'm dying

Underneath the pop bubbles, real people are drowning. 

Update: 

The first couple of comments, by Cartouche and Mamoore, reminded me of something that was inchoate in this essay but which I neglected to bring out. Yes. Dead celebrities remind us of our own mortality, but in a culture in which large-scale rituals have pretty much disappeared, there is something about participating in these mass grieving rallies that must give some meaning to some people. Do they feel disconnected from culture and this helps them to feel a connection? I don't know. But I appreciate Cartouche and Mamoore for pointing out how someone dying--especially someone prominent and young--reminds me that I'm going to die someday, too. 

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What you say makes more than a lot of sense, Lorraine and I agree with you about us needing to make a real difference to each other. OTOH, I can understand (not relate) to the sense of loss, sadness or helplessness people feel about these "celebrities". I think there is a much deeper emotion going on that has not been identified. Sadness that a person of similar age achieved so much or entertained the world, reduced to an unmoving body, just as we all will one day be. It's called mortality.
Disturbing yes, but oh so true. I think celebrity deaths like Farrah's touch me because they remind me of my own aging and the idea that none of us are insulated from it. The starving child, dead soldier, etc bring me a different kind of pain -one of senselessness and a need to take action. Thank for reminding me that I have the power, the voice, to take action on these issues while I can not do anything to change the fate of Farrah and Michael.
Cartouche,
I hear what you're saying. When celebrities die, especially those who are close to our age or who were part of our own coming of age, it's a reminder that we're all going to die. I do understand that, and I appreciate you pointing that out. But why are so many people moved by the death of someone like a celebrity and not by someone who could just as easily be them in other circumstances? I just find it a puzzle, that's all.
And you're right. It does say something about our culture. I don't think it's something easy--like we're all shallow--but I do think it has something to say about our need to be part of a larger grieving ritual, to attach ourselves to other people through grieving in commnon. Maybe that's it.
Whatever the reason is, this is something that we need to know.
Bill,
I suppose there are anthropologists/sociologists who would argue that as we've lost connection with our small groups--families, clans, villages--and become part of a larger, less personal group--such as a nation--these types of events create a sense of "shared meaning." When Princess Diana died, the grief seemed real. The outpouring of flowers and the all-night vigils seemed spontaneous--as they did when John Lennon died. Now, it's almost as if these "spontaneous" rituals are themselves scripted. You hear that someone has died, you grab some flowers, and you gather some place connected to that person and then you and a hundred thousand others grieve together. I really am trying to understand it.
I agree, especially after my daughter lived in Africa for over two years. The things she saw, I can't begin to tell you. When she moved back home she couldn't walk into a grocery store for weeks. I understand why we mourn our celebrities but I do not understand why we don't live in a kinder world.
I built my Mother's coffin in a bent-kerf civil war style.
I wrote about it. The local historic society took photos.

It was harvested locally:`cherry wood. a computer table is leftover.
So, I remember:`Who built a coffin will be buried some day also:`
Who buries me will be buried one day, and all this in a 'brief' time:`
relatively.
Who do fools think they fool?

'Angels descending, bringing from above,
echoes of mercy, whispers of love. Fanny K. Crosby.
from the Blessed Assurance lyrics. Mennonites etc.,
They have a cottage meeting and always sing for you.
`
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby
some have entertained angels unawares -Hebrews
`
As he round earth's imagined corners, blow Your
Trumpet, angels, and arise, arise from death, you
numberless infinities Of Souls. - John Donne. 'Holy Sonnets'
`
Angels and ministers of grace defend us. - William Shakespheare.
Hamlet.
`
Powerful New Post.
It's really disturbing that I can't read part of your comment to Bill Beck because of a Google ad - just saying. This is the first time a "floater" has appeared for me, and I do not like it.

I'm on the fence - it hit me when you described how Michael Jackson was a perfect target for poking fun, or much worse, until he happened to die.I am uncomfortable that my response has been so much about his talent - forgetting that two months ago I was probably snickering about him. I've been making fun of him for years. And yet I posted two videos as a tribute to him.
So - thanks for making me think about spontaneous emotions that are sort of fake.
I really hate many displays of public mourning. If I never see a teddy bear under a white cross again, I will be happy. Last night I read about some of the spontaneous gatherings for Michael Jackson and felt...well, I felt sad.
I get it and I agree with you on many levels. but I also think I have to go with my feelings, and allow myself to "mourn" the King of Pop. I commented elsewhere that I am strangely eager to talk to my mother - she'll be the real deal on all of this.
I think it's strange and disturbing that public displays are now a neccesity. God help you if you have NOT put a teddy bear somewhere around the site.
I haven't "seen" anything yet - meaning I have only been on the internet. maybe reading the paper will ground me.
I've had a LOT of death in my life, some of which I have probably never fully processed. Maybe Michael Jackson is a symbolic way for me to purge all that built up stuff.
I'm not sure this rambling is even relevant, but I'm going to post it anyway.
Thanks, FLW.
Shopping.com seems to be having a sale on bereavement poems, at least.
Lorraine, love, the images didn't load for me, but I can still feel what I know you've posted. You have such a gift for interpreting what is real and what is not and much like you, I didn't even blink at the news (and felt a little guilty for my non-reaction). I wonder if I'm just too comfortable with the idea that eventually our bodies will betray us and life will end. On the other hand, every Sunday morning, I spend 10 minutes in the bathroom pretending to be cleaning after watching George S.'s In Memorim ... because seeing the name of an 19 year old child killed in Iraq while in service to this country makes me absolutely ill. I'm rambling ... but, xoxo. I know exactly what you're saying.
I have a similar reaction upon the deaths of most celebrities - it rarely touches me personally. But the mortality thing, yeah, I get it. Also the concept of "shared culture" - that's a part of it. There is so little in the way of shared experience that it doesn't surprise me that people reach for it. You make very compelling points, and you make them with eloquence and compassion. Well said.
I was unmoved by the deaths of MJ and FF; they really didn't mean anything to me. But I must confess that sometimes I am jolted by the death of some celebrity. In part it's the reminder of mortality, yes. When the deceased is a person of immense talent, though (say, Pavarotti), there's also a sense of loss of that person's creativity.
But, indeed, far more important are the millions of ordinary people struggling to get through life. Thank you for reminding us of them--and urging us to act to help them.
I'm so sorry MJ had a tragic life; I'm so sorry Farrah suffered terribly. But I'm with you. And note how the celebrity deaths completely blew the very real tragedy in Iran off the media map--where folks around the world actually identified with a people and a movement that desperately needed our attention. And so many other wrenching tragedies. On one of the newspaper front pages today, above the news of MJ's death was this line, "Missing Girl's Body Found." That's the story of tragedy and grief that I'm sure resonates in her family and town.
It was a swimsuit, not a tank top.
With all the shit that went on yesterday, after today i will not comment on these stupid ads or all these deaths that took up everybody's attention yesterday. I worked my ass-off on a two-part article yesterday, and then came so close to pulling it, that I almost did. But. I'm not here for the hits. I'm here to write, and if some people like it, then I appreciate it. But, I will not blogwhore, screw it. As far as the death of celebrities, give it a day, maybe of respect, then let it go. Too much death in a world of death to pound it into the ground. Great Post, FLW. (like my new Money-Eyeball?)
nice moneyball, scanner. Let me know when your two-part article goes up. I'll read it. Thank you to all who pointed out the other stuff: how this news took Iraq and Iran off the front pages; how SCOTUS made important decisions yesterday that went unnoticed; that people are getting blown to hell but we'll have to spend the next few 24-hour news cycles watching: reaction to MJ's death; results of MJ's autopsy; discussion of results of MJ's autopsy; review of MJ's childhood and the molestation charges against him; things finally being said about the Jackson family that people wouldn't say when he was alive; the funeral; and then, finally, when the news media decides it's time, "closure."
In the meantime, I'm wondering if Farrah's publicist is pissed that MJ took the focus off her. It was supposed to be her death day--it sort of reminds me of when Princess Di and Mother Teresa died in the same week.
To see and mourn the people in the images you've posted would mean for many that their picture of the world would lose it's lustre. To see pain and suffering and acknowledge it is to admit that the world is a harsh place and that the dreams of a perfect world full of love is a fantasy. Celebrity deaths are something that are at once both close by our familiarity and distant in the sense that the true pain of losing them as a person who you loved and was a part of your life is not present. Another thing is that these two celebrity deaths are showing many people of that generation something that they have been able to deny for the most part, their own mortality. That scares the crap out of people. Fame and fortune can't keep you alive forever. I think I'll choose to mourn the people that are forgotten. They need someone to remember them.
just imagine if the nightly news gave us 24x7 coverage of those babies in Darfur, the kind of coverage they have been giving Michael and Farah since yesterday afternoon. And imagine if the "Enquirer" and other tabloids did the same. I wonder if it would make a difference? Would it result in the kind of positive disgust that inspires change, or would it harden our hearts even more to the futility of our efforts? I wonder...
Procopius,
Good question. There are those who argue it was the constant showing of images from Viet Nam that sent the protesters out into the streets (that and the draft). It's funny--show us too much of this stuff and we get "compassion fatigue." But for the past several years, all I feel I've been given is bread and circuses. Bait and switch. Look there, not here. Mourn the dead celebrity, not (as in my small town) the woman knifed to death by her husband, or the kid beaten to death by his parents.
I think they should make a reality TV show in Darfur. That's evidently how you get people to care. Great post, Lorraine.
I'm so glad someone has had the courage to post something like this! I got an email late last night from a friend in CA who wondered when all this would finally disappear--and it had only just started! I think perhaps we as a culture feel we need heroes. If no one steps forward to fill that void we create our own. But we often only think about certain celebrities when they die--especially if they haven't been in the news lately. We have a strange dichotomous memory: very short sometimes and very long other times. We don't remember stars if they haven't done a movie or a video or a new CD lately. But when they die we seem to suddenly remember and try to instantly canonize them. But the media will remind us of their past indiscretions as you pointed out. Anyway, I'm not trying to steal your post but it's so timely that you wrote this (very well, of course) and, since I was thinking about this strange cultural occasion I wanted to share. And I'm in full agreement that there are deaths and atrocities happening every minute of every day that we NEED to mourn. Rated for honesty and gorgeous writing! D
Thank you. I just made the mistake of going over to reddit where I'm being roasted for daring to critique the gloved one, and for, of course, spouting liberal claptrap about suffering people in other places. Whatever.
Well ... in two words ... FUCK THEM!!!
Yeah, we create many touchstones because we have removed ourselves from touching real stones, if you will. It is interesting that you allude to the death of Princess Diana at this time. There are interesting similarities. What I remember about the death of Princess Diana is that the death of Mother Theresa closely preceded it. Much like the deaths of FF and MJ. I remember thinking at the time, no one will remember the death of Mother Theresa because it will get swallowed by Diana's celebrity. This is no knock on Diana, and this is no endorsement of Mother Theresa's politics. But the "authenticity" of the response to Diana was as pop culture driven and the eclipse of Mother Theresa's coincidental placement in history.
To answer your question, I think the answer is clearly that America values celebrity and money, more than it does people.
When Princess Diana died, I was amazed at the profoundness and sincerity of grief by people who wouldn't otherwise allow themselves to show emotion. When I lived in Bailey, Colorado, when a teenage girl was shot by a derranged madman at her highschool, again I saw an outpooring of grief even by those who ridiculed others for discussing any emotional topic.

I'm left thinking that celebrity death (or any real public death) allows people to mutally and unabashadly express their sorrow without fear of reprimand. I think another aspect is that, in the case of celebrity death, it also hits a mark as we see our hopes, dreams and admirations die along with that celebrity. They were someone we hoped we could relate to. In a sense, they were OUR celebrity. Regarding the murder in Bailey, it seemed in part that the community was grieving one of their own but also that it was grieving a shattering of innocence. Bad things didn't just happen down the mountain in Denver but also, sometimes, directly in front of our own eyes.

We immune ourselves to the suffering of the random others because we don't empathize, don't hold them to our ideals and in the case of those living in the 3rd world (in itself a term used to distance them from us), sort of expect bad things to happen. We expect God to answer our prayers when it's to pay our bills on time or make our team win. When some other person, especially one who doesn't look, act or pray like us has something horrible beyond the scope of humanity happen, well, God likes us better. It's about who we include as "us" and who will always be "them".
Brilliant.Speechless. xox
Thank you for this post! Rated.

I think celebrities are those humans who we have exalted to the level of symbolic icons and, in some cases, infallible deities (an unfortunate thing for both them and ourselves- in my opinion). Therefore, their deaths seem jarring in that such instances equalize the playing field, shatter our illusions of their divinity/power/stardom and remind us that- no matter our place in the public eye- we are all mortals, destined to die.

Again, thank you for the thought-provoking post!
Truly a very controversial and powerful post. As disturbing as the images are I'm pleased you posted them for us to recognize "the real"
tragedies in the world. Celebrities such as Farrah and Michael led very tragic lives. Farrah redeemed her self at the end and was able to share her very beautiful and poignant journey with cancer. She was very brave. Yet, before her illness her life was nothing short of drama and sadness. She was fortunate to have Ryan O'Neal enter her life again and nurture her until her passing. Michael and Farrah didn't realize what fortunes they had. Unfortunately, they let their fame mask their gifts. Both of them were naturally beautiful people and by the end of their lives they had given permission to people that really didn't care about them to control their body and looks, therefore, they became almost unrecognizable. If only they could have been happy in their hearts. When people say they could identify with them because they were of the same era I'm always a little surprised. I could never identify with either one of them. I could identify with their place and time. I use to listen to Michael Jackson's song, "I'll Be There" with my girlfriends. We carpooled to school and every morning it was a ritual to listen to his song. I saw his "Thriller" concert at the height of his fame and I was on the fourth row. It was one of the most exhilirating music memories I will cherish. As far as Farrah, her poster was in my college bathroom only because one of my college roomates was male. She was bright eyed and lovely. Basically, I think her fame fueled her insecurities. But in the end her loyal friendships and zest for life certainly were her greatest legacy. Again, we tend to gravitate to celebrity worship....when there are so many people dying every day. I remember a particular occasion when it was brought to my attention. When John John died and I was riding in the car with my brother. I was feeling a bit gloomy and my brother said, "Lolly why do we tend to mourn those we don't know that well when we need to be concerned about those we love"....they have those who love them and will remember them...I was aghast that he said this....how could he say that about John John...the little boy who saluted the soldiers as they marched down Pennsylvania avenue with his father the late President John F. Kennedy. Yet, he was right! There are so many people that need our attention. And sometimes, it is those that are right in our own back yard.

P.S. I am sending this post to my cousin. She has her PhD from Harvard and teaches English and I think she would enjoy this! Thanks for the very important message:)
Every one of us knows we will die, and we have a difficult time absorbing that fact. Do we cry when 250,000 people are wiped out in a tsunami? Or just feel overcome by a number? How about when we read of 2,000,000 deaths from war atrocities in sub-Saharan Africa?
I think we mourn celebrities, people who we know only through recordings or pictures, because they expose the truly personal nature of death, and we dont mourn in the same way fantastic numbers of deaths. Yet each and every one is the end of a life.
This is a beautiful and touching post. Rated and digged.
It feels very much as though you reached into my heart and soul and took out the words that have been festering there overnight. Thank you.
I sometimes wonder what is wrong with me for not feeling such a profound loss when all media (including this one) obsess on the demise of a celebrity or even the melt down of celebrities like Michael Richards or Brittney Spears.
The last occasion in my life when I remember "where were you when...." was in 7th grade when the principal of our junior school quietly appeared at the door to my geography classroom and informed us, barely containing her emotions that JFK had been shot in Dallas. We followed this event on TV--black & white--through the scenes of Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald and John-John saluting.
I agree, infanticide, genocide and the so-called "small" human tragedies are far more impactful because of what they say about us. They are occasion to grieve, even if only briefly for these are the portraits of our world. We identify with celebrity for unknown reasons, and yet these are symbols of our consumption rather than our contribution.
Perhaps that makes me the cynic. I wasn't morbidly curious when Michael Jackson was on trial several years ago. Neither am I very curious about his passing beyond a raised eyebrow, a quiet "wow", and a brief discussion with my wife on his life and music.
Thank you for this post and for making me think.
I don't blog; I signed up just to I could comment on this post. Lorraine, this is well written and you have made several very valid points; In my humble opinion stars...People in music, movies, TV, Dance...entertainment in general, give us a DISTRACTION AWAY FROM the harshness of real life...the images you posted and thepoints you have made... with their performances. for that brief period of time watching a movie or listening to a song, we have an opportunity ... to forget the shit that grinds our asses to the bone on a daily basis...and when a favored entertainer is lost to death, we...well I , for one, feel a sense of loss as if it were a family member because even tho we don't REALLY KNOW these people the have impacted and enriched our lives in some manner. I am not ashamed to admit i STILL TO THIS DAY mourn the loss of Heath Ledger...one of the FINEST ACTORS that ever lived...and I DO mourn Farrah and Michael because both were TRUE American Idols. But do not be mislead; I still see your glaring points and it bothers me greatly. Well written!!!
Celebrities are celebrities because we feel some kind of closeness to them. They express something in us that we need to express. Not every celebrity works this way for you or me, but in general I think that's the way it works.

Neither MJ nor FFM touched me this way. Maybe I was too old or too cynical or too intellectual, but they didn't touch me, but I know that other people were touched.

I think that probably they're also touched by seeing the baby starving or the woman who died following an illegal abortion.

That's the way people are.
This post (and the resulting comments) are very thought-provoking and resonate with me. I'm not a Michael fan myself but, in his defense, he did alot of charity-related things. In a success driven world are we perhaps mourning the death of accomplishment? I don't know, but I do know that last night I imagined how weird it would be to be an "ordinary" person at your mother or father's bedside as they passed, contemplating the end of a life of one so close, but in the same hospital as Michael's ... with all the celebrity hoo-ha going on outside and in the halls
I sat staring at the words - "type your comment below". I could think of nothing to add for a long time. Over 4000 "reads" and as I type it has been rated only 32 times.
This alone horrifies me.

A wonderful post, that can only truly add more meaning to the lives of those two celebrities, if, it focuses ALL of "us" on the deaths of our "unknown" brothers and sisters within our species.

Regardless of race colour or creed.

Thank you for your courage.
I believe we all mourn each of these losses, some silently and some outwardly. Anyone who turns a blind eye to any innocent person's death is inhuman.
Rated
You short circuit your own reasoning.

Did you KNOW the young child in that first picture? What was the name of that dead American soldier? What you're REALLY saying here is that it doesn't matter so much IF you die, but rather HOW, that determines if someone is worthy of your sympathy. Micheal and Farrah were no more or less human that the people in the other pictures on your post; they were no less real and no more important. But they both had money when they died, so I guess that makes them less pitiable to you.

To say that celebrities and artists are not "a part of our life in some tangential way" is naive and silly. Dick Clark has called music "The Soundtrack of Our Lives" and many philosophers believe that it's our ability to make and appreciate art that truly separates us from the other animals. To tell the people who appreciated "Thriller" or who were moved by "Extremities" or "The Burning Bed" that Micheal and Farrah didn't really touch their lives is to trivialize not only the work of two artists, but the people who bothered to enjoy that work.

As for your semi-rhetorical "What does it say that we are mourning one man in particular who was the butt of jokes..." the answer, simply, is that it says some (most?) people will still have the decency to give the dead their due. Richard Nixon spent the last 30 years of his life as a caricature for Politics gone evil. He was, at the end of his Presidency, less popular than Pol Pot and Hitler. But when he died, he was mourned as the passing of a President should be and reports focused on his terms successes, rather than the obvious failures. But then again, since I've never met any of the Presidents, your rationale states that I shouldn't care when any of them die.
"I just made the mistake of going over to reddit where I'm being roasted for daring to critique the gloved one"


just came from the reddit forums. your quote seems to be a blatant lie.
People still build their entire lives around guys who died almost 2,000 years ago. What does that say about the human condition?
Well done, Lorraine. As always.
(Skipping over the comments for now.)

We've been having a similar discussion in our workplace since yesterday afternoon. Some of us — and I am one — cannot summon any interest in dead celebrities when there is so much grief and need in our own community on a daily basis. Others of us are asking, "Does that mean we can't identify with people who are outside of our immediate circles?" I don't know, but I continue to be disturbed by our need to attach ourselves to the lives and deaths of famous people, and to define ourselves by the similarities we share with them and the differences we cannot erase.

I know I'm going to die someday. I've never doubted that. I may not have thought about the fact that the rich and famous would too. I may not have thought about them at all.
Fingerlakes, you just keep letting us know what goes on in the rest of the world! I will always visit, read, and rate your posts.
flw: Really liked this post. It reminded me of my frustration when my dad passed away. It was in 2002 and Bush was constantly in the news, and I was pissed that so many people would know that worthless little shit while my dad, who was liked by just about anyone who knew him, could charm people like no one's business, who had a moral and ethical center I envy to this day, was respected by everyone he was in business with from the stockboys to the president of his company, and would pass gently into that good night surrounded by family, yet beyond his family and a host of good friends his obscurity in death had little impact in the larger world. Meanwhile Bush and a host of other vile creatures are known the world throughout. Never made any sense to me.
I so agree wanderer. I so agree. The ridiculous mourning over celebrities while millions starve is a testament to the superficial mind of humanity
Sweet goddess . . .those photos make my soul weep.
All I know is that I am dreading Michael Jackson all day all night all the time for the next week until his funeral. This is a version of Hell.
I'm glad you posted this, there are many thoughtful comments here about the nature of grief. I am particularly interested in the comments about Diana's death - something that I felt utterly removed from, and was really astounded at the global reaction.

That picture of the woman dying from the illegal abortion - seeing that exact picture was a turning point for me in college. I saw it, and it activated something inside of me, and I became a pro choice activist, and joined NARAL. It was terrifying to me. It still is.
Thank you for this post - you've stated very clearly what I've felt strongly over the years. I'll no doubt make people angry for this, but case in point is continuing to mourn for John Lennon. Yeah, it sucks he was shot down, but people die every day. I haven't read the rest of the comments to see what others have responded, so I'll do that now. You gave me chills. Thank you again.
Does "We are the World" or "USA for Africa" ring a bell with you?
If that starving child in Darfur really mattered to you and caused you anger, you might consider saying a few respectful words to eulogize a man who has done something TANGIBLE for the children of Africa.
My guess is you don't directly know any of the people in the pictures you posted, either, though you may know their kin or their like. To me, those pictures are color splotches on a screen. And they are a thinly veiled attempt to trade on the very public death experience you're preaching against.

I and others like me support and give aid to thousands we will never meet. But I cannot directly know their suffering; it is an abstraction I can only recreate in the very limited theater of my own imagination. I may relate. I may feel. I cannot know. Yet somehow I experience. Much like I experience these public deaths. And here you are judging my experience of the passing of time and culture on my own terms, in my own way? What I do in the world may be (in part) your business. What I feel and how I express that is mine. Mind yours, Old, Tired Sanctimony.
This is a great post. I was going to write a similar one but I thought: what's the point? after I looked at the cover here and saw what happened to my post yesterday, which was bumped off the cover after a couple of hours. First: Sanford's infidelity takes up WAY too much newstime, and then Michael Jackson's death LEADS the news and gets more minutes than any war, anything else. It's all Michael, all the time, for hours. I think that that says a lot about us and our culture, that the untimely death of a pop star takes up so much time and space in the media and in people's minds. I just don't get it and I never will. Farrah picked a lousy day to die, and anything else of importance that was said or done yesterday has gone unnoticed. And there is so much wrong in our country and the world, yet people want to read read read more and more about a celebrity.
There are so any coments -- I could not read them all. But what you have written here is what I have been thinking for years. I was up late last night -- but I think I saw that the ENTIRE Today Show was dedicated to Michael Jackson? IS THAT REALLY NEWS???? What about Iran? What about the death of the young woman, Neda, that I just posted on? As others pointed out - up until his death -- Michael Jackson was a national joke...It is the cult of personality that this country is obsessed with. Needlessly obsessed, and whipped up by the media
Thanks for this essay. I've been having some similar thoughts but have been feeling like I'm the only one. I do agree with the ritual sadness thing (per first 2 comments), but I also think that mourning someone you don't know can actually be a way not to reckon with one's own mortality (or that of one's loved ones) but to "contain" death, so that it seems safer. Kind of like watching a horror movie to distract yourself from your real fears.
Like many others here, I've been having similar thoughts and thinking I was the only one.

To the detractors, it is not disrespectful to the dead to say you don't personally mourn them - so is the world not big enough for both your view and FLW's view? They both contain truth. Why can't our hearts and minds be generous enough to encompass both?
Death is a permanent part of reality. Those who have not ever had the life of someone dying in their arms, will never know. Icon's aside, we all will touch someone somewhere.
This should be read by everyone in this god-awful celebrity obsessed nation.

These reactions always put me in mind of the discrepancy in coverage that occurred when Mother Teresa and Princess Di died in the same week. The first was no mythological saint but what she did for humanity so overshadowed the second, that the worship invoked for Di was even more ridiculous.
I've never mourned for any celebrity from the world of entertainment. I've felt some sadness at the loss of some, but not grief for a person I've not connection to.

I don't understand how the news can be dominated over the death of Michael Jackson. I really, really don't understand it. Our priorities are very out of whack, to treat it as the most important news.
Lorraine, I am of two minds here.-

On the one hand, I deplore the way that Jackson's death has moved hard news off of the front page, except perhaps on C-Span and PBS. I became very irritated with MSNBC last night when they preempted Rachel and Oberman became the "Michael Jackson Memorial Show. (Side note - at least it gave me a chance to watch the first episode of the Tudors - thank you!)

On the other hand, I am rarely touched by the death of celebrities, but I have to say that I was moved by Michael Jackson's death. Whatever else one might say about him, art matters and Jackson was a musical genius who broke many barriers - therefore, I mourn his passing. The "News Hour" got it right, I think - gave Jackson his due without it eclipsing everything else.

Regarding why we are not moved by the photos that you posted, I am not sure that is true. I do believe that people are moved. The bigger question is, why are so few of us moved to action? I suspect that it has something to do with the way that our mainstream media presents them - like celebrity deaths, they become something to consume without any real analysis. And by analysis, I mean a discussion of the forces and structures that allow such injustices to be so common place. Without that deeper understanding, it can seem overwhelming - we don't, many of us, know where to start.

I feel a little like I'm rambling, so am hoping that some of this makes sense. Rated and reddited, of course.
Oh Goddess! I went straight to your post after coming to respond to a PM. I just looked at the OS front page - it's all Michael and Farrah! To the editors, I am not among those who complain about your choices, normally, but oh pleeeze! (Written slowly since I keep on having to bring my hands up to my face to cover my eyes - no, no, no, no, no....)
Although it sounds callous, we mourn people only to the extent that we are emotionally or psychologically invested in them.

More than 200,000 people die every day on Earth, the vast majority unnoticed and unmourned by any except a few family and friends.

But celebrities like Farah Fawcett and Michael Jackson are cultural icons and as such are symbols to many people. From a psychological perspective we use them as targets for the projection of our own unlived celebrity. And having invested part of our psyche in them, when they die it feels like a part of ourselves has died and we mourn - not for them, but for that unlived part of ourselves that died with them.

Anyway, that's my .02 on it.
I think it all goes back to when we all lived in small villages. We were part of close-knit communities and the people we knew were so much more real than those "outsiders" or "barbarians" from other towns.

Now we may not know our next-door neighbors, and our "village" is often created by mass media. We here on OS are just such a community.

It is much easier to mourn one person that we know than thousands who seem faceless, abstract to us.

I also read something -- I forget where -- about how often people connect more to fictional characters than real people. We feel as if Forrest Gump, Nancy Drew and Ebenzeezer (sp?) Scrooge are people we know because of the psychic closeness of art.

And that is where wonderful literature can make a huge difference, not just as art but as a vehicle of compassion. You are a writer capable of affecting people in this way.
In a way, I guess mourning their death would be one of the few respectful things we do for our artists. We are not kind as a culture to them. We don't ignore them, but the attention we give is not attention I'd want, or want given to my family.
I think to be fair that yes, there is the "For whom the Bell tolls it tolls for thee," part, but also culture.
Farah Fawcett's poster was on every 12 year old boys wall at one point it seemed, with the six million dollar man, so that the media driven childhood we have attaches them to us in a weird way, because in a mass society, the personal touch is lost somewhat.
I had been feeling pretty proud of being an American since Obama was elected. Since yesterday, I've been feeling ashamed again. Particularly when I had to try to explain to an Israeli colleague this morning why Americans think a has-been comic, a pinup girl, and a pedophile pop star are so massively important that we mourn them like they mourned Rabin, why the blow-by-blows of their passing takes up more print than everything still going on in Iran. All I could do was shrug and try to distance myself.
I applaud your consistent efforts in making one realize the true sadness. rAted!
Not sure what happened to my first reply, but I'll try again.

I echo your feelings, FLW, and I have been saying so at work today whenever anyone mentioned these deaths to me.

To all of you who replied with accusations of FLW being "sacrimonious" or whatever, let me clear something up (although I will say that I can only speak for myself and not for this poster).

The suffering of the innocent, the violence against those who can't chose otherwise, and the injustice of those crimes and wars and such situations that keep on happening--those things make me sad. They move me, and they make me feel lucky to be who I am, where I am.

I appreciate that many will miss MJ and FF, and that is appropriate. But they both (to some degree) chose their professions, and those professions brought them legacy, infamy, and a "comfortable" living if they chose. They had power to do good with their money and fame (whether they actually did so or not). So no, I'm not sad that they died--I'm only sad about their suffering. Because they *were* real, live people with problems.

I don't see those people in the pictures as abstract. They are someone's children, and that means I can't *not* care. I'm not naive about it--I know I can personally do little about most of it. Yet when I'm moved, I do what I can.

It's disturbing to me that some of you are more disturbed that this poster has the nerve to ask her readers not to get so wrapped up in this media circus that they forget real tragedies.

And I so admire those of you who admit this post opened your mind a bit. It clarified my own.
I agree; the news coverage has been overblown. As for the public gatherings, to each his own.
Everyone must grieve in their own way.

That said, MJ was a philanthropist who also gave greatly of his time. The best way to honor him in death would be to do something positive that reflects his giving spirit.

Our choices are not mutually exclusive. We can grieve; but we can also do something tangible to help improve the lives of those who are still with us.

@ AtHome Pilgrim

“When the deceased is a person of immense talent, though (say, Pavarotti)”

I will not deny that Pavarotti was an immense talent; but I take exception to your saying that Michael Jackson was not. He was a composer, singer, dancer and choreographer. Do you not consider his style of art worthy of appreciation, or do you feel he was undeserving of the moniker, ”The King of Pop”?
Mythic characters receive ritualistic treatment and whether we like it or not, these people had that status in our culture. Celebrities are our modern day gods and goddesses. Worship and devotion rituals upon death are the last vestiges we have of spiritualism on a mass scale - transcending religion, politics, geography. I think anything that gets folks in touch with their emotions and their own inner journey is ok.
This comment is mostly addressed to the folks who are coming over from reddit to attack me for being insensitive, sanctimonious, and someone who hates the arts. Oh and a Puritan. I'm going to respond to this once, and then I'm going to turn my attention to the community here at OS, the community that has been here for a long time, and who know that each and every one of those charges are projections.


Sorry, I've been away from the computer for several hours. It's not only thunderstorming here, but the all-Michael, all-the-time news coverage is disheartening.

I want to clarify something. I said that if people feel that they need to mourn for Farrah and Michael, I said that I hoped you find comfort in your grief. I'm not telling you that you can't grieve--I'm simply trying to understand why you're mourning the passing of an artist who made millions of dollars off your adulation. What about the people who you could be helping right now?
Yesterday, when I heard what Ann Coulter said about Dr. Tiller, I made a donation to NARAL. Last spring, I organized a teach-in and fundraiser for the women of the Congo. I have written many, many letters to my representatives about the shameful way we are treating those returning from the war. And, I'm supporting a child at an orphanage in Kenya. So, the photos may have been of people I didn't know, but they represented the real people behind the suffering that is going on in the world right now.
I'm not disconnected from the photos I posted. But, grief surrounds us. As many of you know, my lover died in my arms of a brain aneurysm. I lost a pregnancy. I've had friends who have been raped and brutalized as children and adults. I know soldiers and Marines who have returned from Iraq damaged by what the war has done to them. I know women who have opted for abortion and who have faced down protesters. I know women who helped other women during the time when abortion was illegal. So, while I used photos of people I didn't know in particular, I used them as representations of people I did know. And the child starving in Darfur? Most likely, one of the things that is killing that child is diarrhea. My youngest was hospitalized with rotavirus, a virulent stomach virus that kills hundreds of thousands of children in third world countries every year. It is only because she lives in the US, with access to medical care, and my health insurance to cover her several-day hospital stay, that she is still alive.
Some folks think I'm sanctimonious. Oh well. If caring about the human condition, calling attention to suffering in the world qualifies as sanctimony, then I'm guilty as charged.
And yes, the deaths of Farrah and Michael are pieces of the main; their deaths diminish me, just as all death diminishes us.
There are famous people, that, when they die, I will feel sad, and in some cases, I might even weep. But this need to be a part of the mourning for Michael and Farrah seems to me to be taking on drama that is not mine.
Last night, I heard a friend of mine talk at my daughter's graduation about her son, who died before his freshman year, and who should have marched with his classmates. That was a tragedy that touched me.
Have you thought about what's going on in the world while people are mourning Farrah and Michael? Did the protests in Iran--the ones that people were ready to go to war over 2 days ago--do they stop mattering now because we have to take a time-out to mourn the celebrities?
And yes, "We are the World" did a lot of good. But Bob Geldoff and Band-Aid began the story in England months before American pop stars jumped on the bandwagon. Michael Jackson may have been a philanthropist, but he was charged, repeatedly, with molesting children. How do you reconcile that? And what of the children he may have injured? What of that legacy? Or have we all conveniently forgotten that? Yes. I know he was acquitted. But he also paid out millions to keep the first kid quiet, and he spent millions on his defense in the second case.
It's funny that someone brought up Nixon. When Nixon died, it was as if he had suddenly become a saint. Nixon, a man who fucked with the Constitution and could have destroyed the government, suddenly entered the pantheon of great presidents. People forget.
As for those who are criticizing me about Jackson. How many of you never told a Jackson joke?
How does one gain cultural icon status in this culture? Do we accord that to our intellectuals? To our scientists and researchers and those who are improving the lot of human beings? Jackson and Fawcett made art. I make art, and art is essential. But Fawcett and Jackson were not struggling artists who worked two jobs to support their craft.

I'd like to ask those who are so wrapped up in the Jackson death: how much of it is because we all love nothing better than a juicy story and how much of it is based on a genuine admiration? Yes. You can admire someone and mourn them. You can shake your head and say, "what a shame." But when an entire country allows itself to be distracted by this, I shake my head in disbelief.

To those of you who have told me that I've expressed their feelings--thank you. I didn't think of this post as particularly brave--I still don't--but some of the comments on reddit accused me of posting the "same old" stories. I'm sorry that some people are tired of hearing of other people's suffering. But I'm not going to shut up about it. And I'm not going to stop doing things about it.
You know what? Michael Jackson is no longer suffering. Farrah Fawcett is no longer suffering.
It was Mother Jones who said, "Grieve for the Dead, but fight like hell for the Living."
That's what I'm doing.

Finally, for the person who accused me of lying. I've quit reading the comments at reddit. Some folks have accused me of being a Puritan, which is so fucking funny. The people here at OS, those who read my stuff regularly, know that I'm as far from being a Puritan as you can get. But if you want to get the gist of what's being said, because for some reason, my post has pissed people off, here's one single quotation:
"Who's to say we don't mourn for the people in Darfur? How can you even compare the two? Some people just need something to bitch about, however ridiculous it might be. Way to sound like a bitch when trying to sound like a self-righteous... bitch?"

That's me. The self-righteous bitch.

And to those people on reddit who say that I don't appreciate artists? You can go fuck yourselves. Seriously. You know shit-all about me, and you've projected your shit onto me. How many arts organizations do you support? Or do you think that buying one of Michael Jackson's albums made you a patron of the arts? That makes you a real Medici. Hooray for you.
I agree with being angry about starving children, and illegal abortions, and dead soldiers, but guess what? I don't know them either. What was your argument again?
I was working on a series of articles that was to examine whether the U.S. was really meddling in the affairs of Iran or not when I got the news Michael was dead. I didn't want to put down what I was doing but then I found this odd pull occur in me and all of a sudden I was uninterested in doing anymore research or writing for the series I was putting together for the people of Iran.

I tuned in to MSNBC and found it hard to look away from Keith Olbermann's coverage. He had Michael Eric Dyson come on who appropriately put Michael's life in perspective.

Olbermann put under a microscope the idiosyncrasies of Los Angeles and wall-to-wall coverage and he and the person he was interviewing characterized the transfer of Michael Jackson's body from the chopper to the coroner's van in a surprisingly poignant way.

Olbermann suggested that this moment would now be the summation of Michael's life---that in the end this pop icon is really like us. The moving of a body into a coroner's van is something we will all experience. We all will die.

I think that's what cartouche is getting at when she says, "I think there is a much deeper emotion going on that has not been identified. Sadness that a person of similar age achieved so much or entertained the world, reduced to an unmoving body, just as we all will one day be. It's called mortality."

We as a culture expect our musicians and movie stars and TV stars and comedians and talk show hosts to be receptive to us at every moment. We expect them to give constantly to us yet what do we ever give to them?

I mean, the sadness of all this is that we are once again as group projecting our views on to an individual (just like we did with Barack Obama.)

Many including myself are remembering and thinking about the loss of a talented musical artist and going through memories as if we don't realize that he no longer was the talented musical artist we love.

That's perhaps the saddest part about this. We are now learning he was probably addicted to Demarol.

How many of these fans defended Michael during his trials, during the times that he lost control of himself in front of the media and paparazzi? in front of celebrity gossip organizations like TMZ and Access Hollywood?

This event has given the news media one last hurrah---one final chance to talk about Michael, an individual they will dearly miss because he was a walking news story. Everything he did in the past ten years became a media event and it's no wonder he was a drug addict. The media probably had some role in turning him into someone who needed to turn to prescription drugs.

I'm rambling---

I think your post is right and I think the people who are upset with how the news media will devote so much attention to Michael instead of real news are right too.

The coverage of Michael should be reserved for MTV, VH1, and other entertainment channels. It should not dominate the news.

Can't we do both? Recognize the problem Americans have with pop culture in our daily lives and remember Michael?
This comment is addressed to those from the OS community, with whom I always have respectful dialogues.
Thank you so much to those who offered their support for my blog post. I had no idea when I wrote this that I was going to offend so many people. Seriously. It seemed obvious to me.

Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett were part of humanity, and as such, they deserve to be mourned. But does their status as celebrities give them more rights to be mourned? They were artists; anyone who knows me knows that I believe a society that shuns the arts is a society that will soon know extinction. In fact, I've written before about book burnings and such. The arts are essential.
And I also understand that some folks may feel a special connection to the two of them. I never said that people could not mourn. What I am bemoaning is the media circus this whole thing has turned into.
So many of you have clearly gotten what I'm driving at. I thank you for your support, your cogent critiques, your thoughts, your willingness to discuss this. I just wonder if all those folks who are out there defending the "arts" right now would be this worked up if someone like Toni Morrison, a Nobel laureate in literature were to die (knock wood). Would people take to the streets in public displays of mourning?
FLW -

I would mourn Toni Morrisson; but I would not deny Michael Jackson his place in the pantheon of great artists of the 20th century.

That being said, I do think the media (including OS) and the public is over doing it.
Truth often makes people uncomfortable.

(thumbified & dugg)
Meh. I don't know the starving child or the abortion lady or the soldier, so why should I feel anything? Seems your argument re celebrities works just as well for these other human beings. What do we really know of them? I mean really know? What does it say that we should mourn these people with whom we have had no contact whatsoever? Whose music we didn't even dance to? They are not my friends. I could not call them up in the middle of the night. I wasn't going to sit with them when they have had a hard day, and they weren't going to lend me money when I needed it.

They're just...how did you put it?...abstract nouns.

Pot, meet kettle.
I don't mean from my previous comment to take anything away from the excellent points of your post, that there are many deaths and greater tragedies that we seem not to mourn at all, and there are others who seem so much more deserving and in need of our feelings and outreach.

I just wanted to point out that at some point it's all arbitrary. We cannot attend to every death and every tragedy. We naturally focus more on those that have some personal meaning to us. And many times, superstars like Michael Jackson have an impact on an entire culture (or planet) that is visceral and beyond reason or common sense.

In an abstract sense, I agree with your post wholeheartedly. It's just that that's not the way human beings are wired. And that's a shame.

I hope this clears up what upon rereading sounded like an overly harsh comment of mine. My apologies.
I'm with '1IM' on this.
The images you show above,have a far greater impact
on me than any 'celebrity' ever could.
FLW, I am sorry that you got such awful comments on Reddit, comments you didn't deserve. However, I did notice that the votes are going 50/50 - not a bad thing - I believe that you actually did get some people to thinking about the issues you brought up. What astounds me is that so few of your detractors really got the point of your post. Last note - I don't think that you should feel the need to justify anything that you've said. It stands on its own, as do you. Nor do I think you need to apologize for making us think. With great love...
I tried to get through the comments, but I couldn't. So I will just say the celebrity obsession is at a feeding frenzy...maybe as a diversion from the problems you point out. They live on...the problems I mean, this other will be over soon.
Thank you for this. We all die. It's the suffering that we witness and ease that makes all the difference in our living.
Dana Douglas said, correctly, that "We cannot attend to every death and every tragedy."

Sadly, yes. But, sadly, there are those deaths we can do something about, but about which we do not shout loudly about. Starvation. Rape. Criminal injustice and torture.

There, I think, lies some of FLW's point. The MSM tends to, with hasty drama, ignore the simmering tragedies that lead to every-day-death...you know, the kind that engenders the photos she used in her article.

Too easy to say, "OMG, he was so great, and only 50 years old!"

With all due respect to family and friends, that, folks, is not the news of the day.

Not the way "we're wired?" Perhaps you're right. With all due respect to your fine post, I hope not.
May be, just may be, I am just throwing it out there. May be we are not the most civilized people. I agree with O'Really, but American culture is much more sinister than that. Incidentally, we are killing so many people around the globe, including our own soldiers in Iraq. We cannot mourn the people we kill can we?

Why does not anyone call American culture what it is. Why are all the COMMENTS beating around the bush. Stop vomiting sunshine and face reality.

More importantly, what we do to our living poor and weak in America is much worse than not mourning them when they die. Wake the fuck up.
Dear Lorraine,

Thank you for articulating so well the very concerns I expressed yesterday in a comment on one of Angelique’s posts.

This is pretty much what I would’ve said in response to your post, so I’ll go ahead and just repeat myself here:

These melodramatic media wakes serve a purpose, no doubt—although I doubt it’s ours. There’s always been something so disturbing about people who keen over strangers puffed to godly proportions, while ignoring the homely souls of their own neighborhoods as they died undignified and pitiful deaths. Every death diminishes, yes, but one death doesn’t diminish more than another’s, solely because they’ve lived a glittered life.

The topsy-turviness of mainstream values is probably best-illustrated by the treatment of Lady Di’s death versus that of Mother Teresa’s. Both died on the same day. Di’s death triggered paroxysms of grief worldwide, while the mother passed quietly in the shadow of the Princess.


—Melissa
My theory is that we have all become so wired to the media, all over the world and when someone famous dies there is this mass hysteria that grows like the snowball rolling down the proverbial mountain. With the increase in media communication around the country and the world this hysteria grows faster and to a higher pitch than ever before. Diana, and JFK jr. are classic examples of this.

It's the crowd psychology that has increased exponentially due to our ease in communications. It takes on a life of it's own and suddenly millions of people are feeling grief stricken as part of this huge collective, and not because of self generated emotion, but because joining in and becoming one with the crowd is seductive and impossible for many to resist. Just watch the old reels of the Nuremberg rallies, or a 60s Beatles concert.

If queried individually if they think the starving children in Darfur or the mutilated women in the above picture deserve an emotional investment from us most would respond in the affirmative, but the hysteria is not there.

For what it's worth. Excellent, thoughtful post Lorraine, as always.
Excellent, timely post Lorraine. Don't let the haters get to you. As someone else said, the truth hurts.

I was similarly attacked when Princess Diana died. I had the temerity to question why the death of a neurotic, manipulative, not-very-bright upper-class twit had the world in a tizzy. I received hate mail the likes of which I've never seen since. I even lost a personal friend over it. She told me that her sister was living in London and although sis and her hubby were on holiday in Ireland, they came back because of Diana's death. I questioned why anyone would do that -- I literally cannot understand that kind of reaction to a stranger's death -- and I was called heartless, a bitch etc. What happened when she died is an example of mass hysteria posing as grief in my opinion.

Being wired and living in an age of celebrity culture is one reason why these mass mourning events occur, but huge outpourings of grief occurred in the early 20th century for people like Rudolf Valentino and Enrico Caruso too. A realization of our own mortality is one factor, but it's far from the only explanation.
I couldn't agree with you more. I understand the emotions behind the sentiment....but it almost bothers me the big deal that is made for any celebrity.
I thought the same thing; I've actually been thinking about the subject for some time and posted about it. Ads are clicked on, btw.

http://open.salon.com/blog/1womansvu/2009/06/26/dying_-_and_mourning_-_in_public
Thank you for a superb post. Naively, I expect more posts on OS critically analyzing the grief about Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson.
In the time it took me to read this post and comments I could have made a dozen sandwiches for the hungry. God I suck.
You're right on the mark, Lorraine. I didn't feel sad or cry for either Michael, or Farrah. For some reason unbeknownst to me, I feel for Farrah's family.
Great post,Highly rated
What troubles me more than the allegations that Michael Jackson was a child molester is the parents who, presumably of “sound mind” and of their own free will, dropped their little boys off at the gates of Neverland..
So you are suggesting that we should stop mourning celebrities because we never knew them personally and start mourning for people on your pictures, although we never knew them either? Are you saying that celebrities don't suffer and don't deserve compassion? I am sure Farrah's family can provide you pictures of her in the hospital that will be no less disturbing. My point is we should stop telling people what to feel and judge them if they are. And, personally, I think that very often, when we mourn celebrities, we mourn the part of ourselves that was connected to particular movie or song, or time. What is wrong with that?
This article by Helen A.S. Popkin made me feel better.
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31571885/ns/technology_and_science-tech_and_gadgets/
It's unifying. An orange tank top? It was a red one-piece swimsuit. Using words like "inchoate" makes you sound like a frustrated journalist.
Ann Coulter is an anti-Semitic cunt.
I, as a human, mourn for people that have impacted my life on different levels. As recently as 20 days ago, I lost a family member. A younger cousin (to sudden cardiac arrest) that was as distant in my current life as a anyone could be. Did I cry more because I can recall changing his diapers? I doubt it, I'm sure I cried more at the fact that I would never have the chance to remedy a misunderstanding that I may have had about our relationship. MJ and Farrah had more impact on what has made me into the insightful woman I am today. I spent more time singing Ben than changing my cousins diapers.

I mourn their loss and I feel sadness at their passing because I have empathy for those left behind and the grief that is theirs alone. I shed a tear, not because the Farrah I "knew" was gone but because I understand the grief that Ryan is feeling. So my heart goes out as is always true of death, not to the person that has passed on but to those they leave behind. To the person that has passed, I am grateful for their presence on Earth and the impact, no matter how small, that they made in my life.
Because TV tells us what and how to mourn that which is public. It also teaches us that what is private must be made public. That is why even the deaths of private individuals made public by their deaths require a teddy bear fence memorial. Television has taught us that it is the only appropriate structure of mourning.
great essay, and very timely. you've raised poignant questions about who we are as a society, and we do well to ponder them seriously - something many of us [e.g. the posters of negative comments] are unable and/or unwilling to do. and the essence of these questions must be considered as social issues, in terms of social psychology, if you will, for what we're observing is a social phenomenon. in other words, we need to consider why WE behave in such a manner, as opposed to why I behave in such a manner.
I think the writer of the article might be missing her own point - she asks,"What does it say about our culture that we are mourning people that the vast majority of us had no contact with whatsoever?" and goes on to say, "They were not my friends. They were not people I could call in the middle of the night to say I was having trouble sleeping." She's making the argument that its silly to mourn people we have no physical or personal contact with - those we can't call for help or borrow money from. Yes Farrah died of cancer and MJ was an abused child, but "what did we really know?". Then she goes on to say she gets angry and grieves for the people suffering in those pictures. Those are people she had no personal contact with and certainly knows hardly anything about. We feel for them and grieve for them bsc we feel for their pain, as we rightly SHOULD.

So we should not only mourn people who we can call our friends. We should mourn those suffering and mourn what happened to them. But why draw the line for a troubled soul who was a victim of child abuse and why not feel a little sympathy for a woman who died of cancer?

Also, feeling for and fighting against the ills of the world is not mutually exclusive to mourning the death of a talented person. These people spent their lives entertaining the public and the public is rightfully paying their respects to their passing and the passing of their talent, their art and contributions to our culture and society. MJ brought people together, he bridged gaps, wrote inspirational songs, donated a lot of money to charity, united the world with his music, earned the title of "greatest entertainer of all time"....more than probably any of us will be able to do in our short lives.

I think its fair to say people are mourning a genius. Culture is a very important part of who we are. Of course we don't all have to "mourn him", the very least we can feel some sympathy, or pay some respect or even just hold back judgement.

But anyway, I do understand her point and its a very good point!!!!! :-) She says make a difference in someone's life and give to aid agencies in Africa, etc. MJ inspired people to do that. He beautifully sang about those very things. And thats what many people respect most about him. I completely agree that it would be a great way to celebrate his life and to carry out his legacy. And yes, his fans should do those positive things, as we all should:)

(btw I agree that we dont need 24 hour new coverage of their passing at the expense of other news, but we should give them proper respect. Also, what you are saying, is what MJ is saying in his song, "Heal The World" and "We are the World". )

I would assume that pple who care for world hunger and making a difference , would also feel sympathy for someone like MJ and at the least acknowledge his efforts in those areas, or just reserve judgement and be respectful!!!!
I think the writer of the article might be missing her own point - she asks,"What does it say about our culture that we are mourning people that the vast majority of us had no contact with whatsoever?" and goes on to say, "They were not my friends. They were not people I could call in the middle of the night to say I was having trouble sleeping." She's making the argument that its silly to mourn people we have no physical or personal contact with - those we can't call for help or borrow money from. Yes Farrah died of cancer and MJ was an abused child, but "what did we really know?". Then she goes on to say she gets angry and grieves for the people suffering in those pictures. Those are people she had no personal contact with and certainly knows hardly anything about. We feel for them and grieve for them bsc we feel for their pain, as we rightly SHOULD.

So we should not only mourn people who we can call our friends. We should mourn those suffering and mourn what happened to them. But why draw the line for a troubled soul who was a victim of child abuse and why not feel a little sympathy for a woman who died of cancer?

Also, feeling for and fighting against the ills of the world is not mutually exclusive to mourning the death of a talented person. These people spent their lives entertaining the public and the public is rightfully paying their respects to their passing and the passing of their talent, their art and contributions to our culture and society. MJ brought people together, he bridged gaps, wrote inspirational songs, donated a lot of money to charity, united the world with his music, earned the title of "greatest entertainer of all time"....more than probably any of us will be able to do in our short lives.

I think its fair to say people are mourning a genius. Culture is a very important part of who we are. Of course we don't all have to "mourn him", the very least we can feel some sympathy, or pay some respect or even just hold back judgement.

But anyway, I do understand her point and its a very good point!!!!! :-) She says make a difference in someone's life and give to aid agencies in Africa, etc. MJ inspired people to do that. He beautifully sang about those very things. And thats what many people respect most about him. I completely agree that it would be a great way to celebrate his life and to carry out his legacy. And yes, his fans should do those positive things, as we all should:)

(btw I agree that we dont need 24 hour new coverage of their passing at the expense of other news, but we should give them proper respect. Also, what you are saying, is what MJ is saying in his song, "Heal The World" and "We are the World". )

I would assume that pple who care for world hunger and making a difference , would also feel sympathy for someone like MJ and at the least acknowledge his efforts in those areas, or just reserve judgement and be respectful.

But thanks, the overall point, is a very important one! :-) We should definitely be moved to action and appreciate regular people who are making a difference in our world! ( "...there are people dying, if you care enough for the LIVING...make a better world for you and for me! " Micheal Jackson)
I think the writer of the article might be missing her own point - she asks,"What does it say about our culture that we are mourning people that the vast majority of us had no contact with whatsoever?" and goes on to say, "They were not my friends. They were not people I could call in the middle of the night to say I was having trouble sleeping." She's making the argument that its silly to mourn people we have no physical or personal contact with - those we can't call for help or borrow money from. Yes Farrah died of cancer and MJ was an abused child, but "what did we really know?". Then she goes on to say she gets angry and grieves for the people suffering in those pictures. Those are people she had no personal contact with and certainly knows hardly anything about. We feel for them and grieve for them bsc we feel for their pain, as we rightly SHOULD.

So we should not only mourn people who we can call our friends. We should mourn those suffering and mourn what happened to them. But why draw the line for a troubled soul who was a victim of child abuse and why not feel a little sympathy for a woman who died of cancer?

Also, feeling for and fighting against the ills of the world is not mutually exclusive to mourning the death of a talented person. These people spent their lives entertaining the public and the public is rightfully paying their respects to their passing and the passing of their talent, their art and contributions to our culture and society. MJ brought people together, he bridged gaps, wrote inspirational songs, donated a lot of money to charity, united the world with his music, earned the title of "greatest entertainer of all time"....more than probably any of us will be able to do in our short lives.

I think its fair to say people are mourning a genius. Culture is a very important part of who we are. Of course we don't all have to "mourn him", the very least we can feel some sympathy, or pay some respect or even just hold back judgement.

But anyway, I do understand her point and its a very good point!!!!! :-) She says make a difference in someone's life and give to aid agencies in Africa, etc. MJ inspired people to do that. He beautifully sang about those very things. And thats what many people respect most about him. I completely agree that it would be a great way to celebrate his life and to carry out his legacy. And yes, his fans should do those positive things, as we all should:)

So yes we should definitely be moved to action and appreciate regular people who are making a difference in our world! At the same time, I would assume that pple who care for world hunger and making a difference , would also feel sympathy for someone like MJ and at the least acknowledge his efforts in those areas, or just reserve judgement and be respectful.

(Btw I agree that we dont need 24 hour new coverage of their passing at the expense of other news, or become obsessive, but we should give them proper respect. Also, what you are saying, is what MJ is saying in his song, "We are the World" and "Heal the World" "There are people dying, if you care enough for the LIVING...make a better world for you and for me! " Micheal Jackson )
I know this is a fairly old post but I am just glad that someone else feels the way I do about celebrity death. Because we know so little about the REAL lives of celebrities, we sometimes imagine them to have the qualities we want them to have.
I mourned the death of Michael Jackson, not because he was a celebrity, but because he was a humanitarian. He did what you are asking in your article of all of us. He loved, he cared, he gave. Many don't know because they did not follow Michael Jackson, that he touched us where we connected with him. Sensitive souls, loving souls, souls that want to heal a cruel world. He was misunderstood because in a world where cynicism has taken hold to protect and shield the child in us who feels the injustice..many shut their eyes and ears to Michae's message. Many saw malevolence in his love, because they had been jaded by a world of corruption.
Look at what Michael Jackson did as a humanitarian. We will miss him. But his energy will live on.
This was not just about celebrity, many of us, who are also sensitive spirits lost a friend and a helper.
Well, I think they should make a reality TV show in Darfur. That's evidently how you get people to care... Great post !
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Garde d'enfant
Sorry I don't get it, I don't know any of the people you are talking about either and none of them are a part of my memory, but I mourn them through direct action when I'm aware of them. Michael I didn't mourn him even though we share a hometown he was just a little too odd and I'm not sure whether he molested kids or not. For that reason alone I can't bring myself to mourn. I didn't mourn Steve Jobs because I don't think his innovations are more important than the number of slaves who are making them. But I do mourn Whitney Houston because she hurt herself, her music was a part of the best times in my life, and because I don't see her as being different from the millions of people plagued by drug habits who unfortunately can't let them go to save themselves. So the idea that I can only mourn the deaths of "issue" vs "rich or accomplished" people doesn't quite square with me. I prefer mourning those who have touched my life in some way, and expressing my anger over the unnecessary deaths for those I'm made aware of through direct action. And I don't care for people questioning any of it.
I realize this was posted a long time ago someone dredged it up to try to make the same point thought I would respond to both of you here.
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