How to Lose Respect
I have very little tolerance for anyone who makes a joke out of tragedy (Gilbert Gottfried, anyone?). Or, rather, who attempts to mock a tragedy. Humor is great. It’s a beautiful thing, and it often gets people (myself included) through hard times. But it should never be at the expense of someone who is suffering — or who suffered.
Let’s say someone died. You can say that everyone saw it coming. There was an illness. It was apparent, unavoidable. Not a matter of ‘if,’ but of ‘when.’ No amount of shouting ‘get off the tracks’ would’ve helped.
This person dies. No one can say, “Oh, wow, surprise!” But does that make the death any less painful? Does it lessen the gaping pit in peoples’ lives? Does it make the tears go away?
No, it doesn’t.
Now, let’s name the disease. If I called it cancer, it’s a tragedy. A horrible, messy awful blight. But what if I name the cause as…addiction. Drugs, alcohol. Even when a person gets clean, these things leave a mark — a physical mark and a personal one. It’s like trying to outrun your own shadow.
Addiction can kill you, even when you stop doing drugs. Even when you no longer drink. It does damage. It hurts your heart, your liver. Bad choices don’t disappear simply because you WANT to get better.
It’s the same with eating disorders. A person can be in recovery. A person can be getting healthy, eating, and taking care. But the damage may already be done. A heart problem may already exist.
So, someone died. Yes, I’m talking about Amy Winehouse. Yes, I know many people have written beautiful things about her and her talent (Russell Brand, Kat Howard and Amanda Palmer, respectively). Whatever you might think about her life, her death is a tragedy. It is a loss, plain and simple. Not just of talent — but of a human life. Snuffed out.
When you disrespect the dead, no matter the reason, you also disrespect the living — the people left behind. And in doing that, you might hurt yourself, because it shows a lack of compassion, a lack of decency. I’ve seen a lot of that on the internet, lately. I’ve seen a lot of easy jokes and misplaced humor.
It makes me sad. It makes me question your character. There’s no acceptable reason to belittle someone’s death. Life changes, always, in an instant. Don’t lose sight of that. When you do, you lose sight of so much more than you know.
“Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant.”
— Joan Didion (The Year of Magical Thinking)