Happy And Sad
This past weekend was something of a mixed blessing.
Friday was my birthday…I’m not going to say which one…I joked that it was the 29th…my second 29th!
I spent all day Friday working, but it was a good, full and productive day, and Friday evening some great friends took me out for dinner to celebrate, where we all had a great time.
But social media news travels faster than greased lightning, and I had, of course, also heard about the tragedy in Norway earlier in the day via Twitter, and watched in horror as the reports and details rolled in — first about the bomb in Oslo, and later the shootings on the small island of Utoya.
My heart goes out to the people of Norway and in particular to the friends and families of those who were impacted. It was encouraging to hear that over 150,000 Norwegians came into the streets earlier today to express their solidarity.
More stunning with the horrible tragedy, of course, was discovering the originator of the attack was one of Norway’s own, Anders Behring Breivik, a 32 year-old right wing extremist who inspires thoughts more of the Ku Klux Klan than Al-Qaeda.
Breivik’s 1,500 page hate manifesto published online quoted extensively from that most technophobic of terrorists, the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski. Ironic, considering that Breivik also spent hours playing World of Warcraft online, even using the game to help cover his tracks when he left town to work on his bomb.
If proven guilty, it sure sounds like another tragedy if Norway’s legal system can only put Breivik away for 22 years for such an imaginable atrocity.
We heard some other tragic news over the weekend — not nearly as horrific, as some in the social media compared the two, but tragic nonetheless: R&B singer Amy Winehouse’s untimely passing in London.
Though I wasn’t a rabid fan, I thoroughly enjoyed Winehouse’s music and first saw her perform on the Grammys in 2008.
Winehouse had a kind of “—- you” sensibility that I found refreshing, much like her music, a sound that always suggested to me sounds of a kind of evolved Motown. Winehouse’s music was new and old all at the same time.
Yet I think many fans sensed from Winehouse’s persona and media presence an unwillingness or stubbornness to reach out and touch someone, when she probably could have used all the help she could get.
She even sang about her reticence to do so on one of her most famous songs, “Rehab”:
“They tried to make go to rehab, I said “No, no, no.”
I think I speak for a whole bunch of her fans when I suggest we all wish she’d have said “Yes, yes, yes!”
This was entirely too short a life cut short by an entirely too tragic, and yet common and uncharitably characteristic, fame-laden music career.
One that, with the proper help and focus, maybe could have kept Winehouse from joining the so-called “27 Club,” a moniker I personally detest (and which makes reference to other great rock n roll greats like Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin, all of whom also perished from addiction- and/or depression-related deaths).
Comic actor and Winehouse friend Russell Brand blogged about Winehouse’s passing yesterday.
Excerpts from Brand’s post provide some thoughtful suggestions on how society moving from judgment to understanding could improve the opportunity for earlier intervention for addicts like Winehouse and which could also save both lives and money:
…Now Amy Winehouse is dead, like many others whose unnecessary deaths have been retrospectively romanticised, at 27 years old. Whether this tragedy was preventable or not is now irrelevant. It is not preventable today. We have lost a beautiful and talented woman to this disease.
Not all addicts have Amy’s incredible talent. Or Kurt’s or Jimi’s or Janis’s, some people just get the affliction. All we can do is adapt the way we view this condition, not as a crime or a romantic affectation but as a disease that will kill.
We need to review the way society treats addicts, not as criminals but as sick people in need of care. We need to look at the way our government funds rehabilitation. It is cheaper to rehabilitate an addict than to send them to prison, so criminalisation doesn’t even make economic sense.
Not all of us know someone with the incredible talent that Amy had but we all know drunks and junkies and they all need help and the help is out there. All they have to do is pick up the phone and make the call. Or not.
Either way, there will be a phone call.
The phone call to Winehouses’ parents this weekend is one that no family should ever have to receive…but which is way more common than any of us care to admit.