Hump Day: Amy Winehouse death: compassion doesn’t know any bounds

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

Last Saturday, popular-but-troubled British singer Amy Winehouse was found dead in her London apartment. To anyone who followed her life and career, her death likely came as no surprise.

Her drug and alcohol abuse were common knowledge. While she made a number of attempts at rehab, none of them stuck. When she was at her best, her voice and musical acumen were amazing. One look at the beehive hairdo and the tattoos and you recognized her immediately.

Clips from her last concert in Serbia on June 18 have been posted all over the Internet. The cheers from 20,000 fans (yes – 20,000!) soon turned to jeers as she stumbled from one end of the stage to the other and forgot her lyrics. Clearly, she was deeply under the influence of something – either drugs or alcohol, or both. The video is difficult to watch and wince-inducing.

She was obviously out of control. Why her handlers let her take the stage in that condition, I’ll never know. The spectacle caused her to cancel her European tour. Clearly, she needed help – and needed it right away. Being out of your mind on drugs and alcohol on your own time is one thing, but taking the stage in such a state of blotto-ness was a new level in her addiction.

When news of her death broke on Saturday, fans were devastated but not surprised. Her long spiral into addiction didn’t seem to have a logical end to it other than an early death at the young age of 27 – the same age many other musical prodigies were when they died, including Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.

Add to that, though, the vitriol from many online commentators that came out when her death announced. While fans offered compassion to Ms. Winehouse and her family, others spewed nothing but contempt, hatred and a judgment.

Many believed that when compared to the tragedy in Norway that pretty much happened at the same time – dozens of young innocent people shot by a madman or killed by his bomb – Amy Winehouse wasn’t worth more than the saliva mustered up to spit on her grave.

I never understood attitudes like that.

Are we not supposed to have compassion for people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol and who die as a result?

It’s true that they contributed to their own demise, but are we not allowed to say that we’re sad and sorry that they left us way too early just because a tragedy happened elsewhere?

Some of us can be compassionate about many things at once. Feeling bad about a certain singer’s early demise doesn’t mean the lives of those who died in Norway are worth less. In a perfect world, neither of the events would have happened.

What about people who smoke? When they die of lung cancer, should we snicker with glee while reading their obituary?

What about children old enough to know better and who run across the street without looking and get hit by a car? Should we go up to their parents and tell them that their child deserved it?

I felt very sorry for Amy Winehouse, her family and friends when I heard she passed away. I enjoyed her music and thought her premature death (at least by age standards) was a sad ending to a promising life and career.

I was also horrified to hear of the bombing in Oslo, Norway, and the mass shooting of all those young people trapped on that island. A complete and utter waste of lives at the hands of a mass murderer who – in his warped logic – believed he was doing the world a favour.

I’m certainly not going to apologize to anyone for feeling bad about the death of Amy Winehouse. If you don’t like it, that’s your problem. She wasn’t a mass murderer. Her music made people happy and she was awarded handsomely for her efforts, including several Grammys and millions of album sales. And what a voice!

But just because I feel bad for her and her family doesn’t mean I can’t also feel completely sick to my stomach about the peaceful people of Norway and the unfair, unfathomable, unimaginable terror they must have felt during last week’s attacks. It is humanely possible to feel bad for both.

What bothers me so much is that some people saw it as an “either-or” scenario. If you felt bad about Ms. Winehouse, then you were a monster because they automatically assumed you didn’t feel bad about Norway. Huh? I don’t know about you, but I’m able to feel bad about both.

Maybe I’m weird, but I don’t see the logic in not feeling compassion for one scenario because another one is of a (real or perceived) greater magnitude.

I found the amount of online viciousness aimed at Ms. Winehouse to be disturbing, to say the least. Just because she had an addiction problem was no reason to dance in the streets upon hearing of her death. I imagine that there were those who also lacked compassion when the other members of the “27 Club” died, many of whom who also had well publicized troubles with drugs and alcohol. Today, they’re revered.

There’s enough compassion to go around for everyone. People who die from their addictions are just as worthy of compassion as anyone else.

No one is perfect. No one!

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