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Houston problem: Craziness surrounds celebrity’s death

Morning, UP

February 25, 2012
By RENEE PRUSI - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

Today marks two weeks since the death of Whitney Houston and it still amazes how crazy the reaction to her passing was.

On one side, CNN and Fox News carried her funeral services live. On the other, some people were livid at those who mourned her death.

Craziness. Whitney Houston had an incredible vocal talent. She was not my favorite singer, but her abilities were undeniable. And her versions of "I Will Always Love You" and "The Star-Spangled Banner" will stand the test of time.

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She was just 48 years old and while she had been the target of tabloid headlines for years, Houston had just completed filming "Sparkle," a movie remake set to hit theaters this summer.

Of course, with the omniscient presence of social networks, the reactions of people from around the country were readily readable, including the 900-plus people who are my friends on Facebook. Immediately, dozens of posts went up with the news about Houston's sudden passing including one from me.

Amazingly, within the first 12 hours of the singer's passing, others on Facebook started posting various remarks seeming to want to shame those who were distraught about her death. The comments were basically of the ilk that people should instead be concerned about starving children or our military troops who have died in service to our country.

Because it has to be one or the other, apparently. If someone cared about Whitney dying, he or she obviously did not care about world hunger or our service members or anything else.

That's a curious thing to me in the Facebook era, the judgment and shaming that comes through posts. Of course, judgment and shaming have always been out there, but viewing these things for the world to see always sets me back.

Because, frankly, if one of my Facebook friends is a Justin Bieber or Nickelback fan, if she gives to earthquake relief in Haiti or he cheers for the University of Notre Dame, that's all right by me. Those are all things, by the way, that have drawn irate response from others in my Facebook experience.

Chastising others for having different interests/causes/beliefs is commonplace behavior on social networking sites. It's not a live-and-let-live environment.

The two radical sites of the Houston reaction were even wackier.

When it was announced the Houston family had agreed to allow her funeral to be streamed over the Internet, that seemed interesting to me. When CNN and Fox News chose to broadcast the funeral live, that was stunning. But it was for ratings sake and that's what drives so much of media coverage today, so I did something radical: I immediately turned the channel and watched something else.

On the other hand, the outrage over the tributes paid to Ms. Houston baffled me as well. While I don't agree with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's decision to lower flags in his state to half-staff to honor Houston, I don't live in New Jersey. And I didn't hear that reaction when flags were lowered recently there to mark the passing of saxophonist Clarence Clemons.

Someone should develop a moral-code scorecard to help decide who is worthy of that honor, it seems. In my humble opinion, flag lowering should be reserved for those who served their country in military or their community in fire or law enforcement categories, but that's not up to me.

Videos and photos of Whitney Houston from when she first burst onto the entertainment scene in 1985 make my heart ache for the young woman with the golden voice whose life went off the rails.

And my heart hurts a bit more when I think of the divisiveness surrounding her passing.

Whitney was not just a public figure, she was someone's daughter and sister and mother and friend. Those who want to mourn her because her music made an impact for them, should. Those who don't want share that pain shouldn't berate others who do. It has been a crazy two weeks, for certain.

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is



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