Whitney Houston Deserves Respect, Not Judgment

by on December 23rd, 2010
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COMMENTARY | Whitney Houston has been famous since before my first childhood memories were formed. In fifth grade, I caused my entire family to suffer through my many unsuccessful attempts to hit all the right notes in “The Greatest Love of All.” I sang the song for the school talent show that year. Needless to say, I didn’t quite sound like one of the greatest singers of all time. But I took from that song a message of self-worth that kids like me desperately needed to hear.

I was saddened over the years to see success lead Whitney Houston into a downward spiral. Her marriage to Bobby Brown made headlines; her drug use made headlines; her talent, it seemed, was completely overshadowed by her personal life.

When famous people die, there’s always of sudden resurgence of interest in the celebrity, in the person’s life, in the person’s work. But some people take to picking apart the person’s demise, the personal tragedies and the warning signs. From the comments that some people make, a certain bitterness seems to emerge toward celebrities who die before old age, as if their fame should have enabled them to live totally immune to the human condition.

But celebrities are just human, and people like Houston deserve to be remembered for their immense talent, for their contributions to their respective artistic specialties. They should not posthumously have their personal lives subject to intense public scrutiny. If for no other reason, people should refrain from publicly casting judgment out of respect for the family and the deceased.

Houston didn’t embrace a bad-girl image. She didn’t try to seduce the public with overly sexual themes. She didn’t promote drug use. She simply got caught up in a lifestyle that she wanted to escape. But as anyone who has friends or family who have battled those kinds of demons knows, the root of the problem tends to be deeper than the substance abuse. Hard drug use tends to be a symptom of a larger problem.

Over the years, fame took its toll on Houston. She eventually seemed to have forgotten her own message of how easy it is to achieve that greatest love of all that comes from learning to love yourself. She fell prey to a tendency toward self-destruction.

And though not all of us turn to drugs, self-destructive patterns — as we all know — are easy to fall into.

The Associated Press reports that It will likely be weeks before an official report reveals the cause of Houston’s death. Many people are already assuming, based on her past, that they know what happened. Others are speculating that it was prescription drugs. But instead of making assumptions and passing judgment, how about trying to develop a sense of empathy for someone for whom fame and money didn’t ease the pain of the human condition? Those who think it should are exactly the types who would likely experience the same disillusionment that has led to many a Hollywood downfall. Be wiser than that; fame doesn’t give celebrities immunity from temptation; it just creates more opportunities to make mistakes.

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