I’m going to use something posted in haste on Facebook, because it sums up how my spirit quivered from the shock of the news on Amy Winehouse. When I first watched the video from Belgrade earlier this summer, I had a sinking feeling the outcome would not be good. In a weird way, it felt – for wholly different reasons – similar to those days in the summer of 1993 when Reggie Lewis struggled to play basketball, while conflicted medical experts fought over whether his heart was healthy. It wasn’t.
I watched the Belgrade video again moments ago, viewing it through the lens of after the fact, comparing it to before the fact. It’s all there, how I feel. Anyway, I wrote this to the Liberal Mamas group on Facebook:
I know all too well people of less celebrity would be incarcerated, and that is a big part of my point. How we approach it all as a society does nothing to help and everything to harm, both those of celebrity and otherwise.
When I see Amy or Lindsay or Charlie or Robert, I also see the ghosts of those whose names are unknown to me, but who nonetheless fight against the mix of human potential for addiction with the societal propensity to use and exploit and even encourage through our insatiable media cravings for celebrity news, to judge, and on the other end, to deal harshly and do nothing to truly assist. I have no doubt that the pressures we apply pushed her to seek refuge in mind altering substances. It’s a coping mechanism.
I’ve lived with people incarcerated for years and even decades for involvement with drugs. I see who buys drugs, and know that the reason it all works this way is a society desirous of what drugs bring for us. We are the key to the supply chain, we make it possible, and politicians use the mess it creates to carve out space for themselves every bit as much as someone who sells the stuff.
In the 1960s to the mid 1970s, we moved toward emphasis on education and assistance. Then it was the Rockefeller laws that started the shift toward harsh punishment, one the right was only too happy to parley into catchy lines and ‘tough on crime’ stances that only served to exacerbate and not mitigate the issue.
I do not want the lowest common denominator to prevail by sucking celebrities down, I want them to be examples that we can all see and by extension understand there are millions more we see not who nonetheless are impacted. I want to save lives, celebrity and not, alike.
Do I believe we will take this as an abject lesson and change? No, I don’t. People will still touch the morbid by participating in meltdowns, rather than be a party to encouraging recovery. Think of those who are celebrities and on the cusp of that fall, and think of those who are anonymous yet nonetheless equally at risk. We’ll love to watch the famous fall, and we’ll care not, beyond a ‘that’s a shame’. It is a shame with those anonymous, too. The bigger shame is we built the framework that makes it so damn easy to fall.