Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Princess, the Saint, and the Pop Star

12 years ago Princess Diana was killed in that automobile accident in Paris, and almost the entire world went into mourning. I remember seeing my own wife crying for someone she had never even met.

And yet, while the rest of us were mourning for her, so-called wiser heads looked down their noses, asking “What has she really ever done to deserve all the adulation she got in life and the outpouring of grief she’s getting in death?” “What will happen when someone truly important, like, say, Mother Teresa, dies?”

They got to find out five days later, when Mother Teresa died. And quite frankly, the attention given to her death was a direct result of that question having been asked five days earlier. Under any other conditions, Mother Teresa’s death would have been given all the attention as that of the Queen of Denmark – not much. But because the media felt guilty about how much attention they lavished on Princess Diana’s death, Mother Teresa got the star treatment too.

But let’s go back a moment to those deep thinkers who looked down the noses of the rest of us for seeming to pay more attention to Diana than Teresa, when the latter’s work was so much “more important.” Was that really the case?

I, for one, don’t think so. I think that they represented two different ways of doing good in the world, and two vastly different ways of living in order to get it done. Mother Teresa represented the kind of good you could do in the world if you were willing to live in a hovel. While we admired her for being able to do this, and supported her with donations, it is not something that most of us aspired to.

Princess Diana, on the other hand, represented the kind of good you could do in the world while still having fun. While having the kind of life we think we wish that we had. She brought our attention to causes that needed to be supported, and support them we did. This is because Princess Diana seemed like one of us. In fact, she was one of us – a regular person, a Cinderella, who got lucky (so we thought) and married a prince.

Princess Diana represented us as the everyday people we were, and Mother Teresa represented what we could be like if we gave it all away. Quite frankly, I don’t recall seeing any of the deep thinkers volunteering to give it all away as they looked down their noses at those of us who were mourning for Princess Diana.

This brings us, of course, to Michael Jackson, and all the attention being given to his death.

Again, the deep thinkers look down their noses asking why so much attention to this “mere entertainer,” especially when there’s a war going on and the economy is in the toilet. And if you must give so much attention to a recently deceased entertainer, why not give it to Ed McMahon? He at least served in the Armed Forces during World War II.

The answer here is deceptively simple. It’s the number of people he reached, all over the world, through his music. I know that I wanted to be like the Jackson 5.

In 30 years of being Johnny Carson’s sidekick on The Tonight Show, Ed McMahon didn’t influence anywhere near as many people as Michael Jackson. And I say this as someone who fondly remembers the Carson/McMahon years.

Yes, there are pressing problems in the world today, but every time that there have been problems, there have also been those who helped make those problems seem bearable by making us laugh, dance, or sing along with them. A Jolson, a Crosby, a Hope, a Jackson.

So, to the deep thinkers, I say, "Lighten up!"

1 comment:

  1. You know what? I wish that I could send this blog post to a now-former-friend. Her husband is in the military and we got into an argument over this very issue. She got on people's cases for mentioning the deaths of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett...people we had never met, never known personally, yet no one is mentioning the deaths of service personnel who are fighting for our country. I apologized to her saying that I don't know anyone personally who has died in the war, either. She has decided that because I argued with her at length about the whole thing, that I was no longer worthy of being her friend because I didn't share her viewpoint (and that I wasn't conservative enough in my thinking). She just couldn't wrap her mind around the fact that Michael Jackson was influential in so many people's lives growing up. She only sees him as a guilty child molester right now.

    So, I whole-heartedly agree with your blog post...people need to "lighten up!" Remember when the baseball players decided to continue on with their season after 9/11? They did it because that was a way for our country to come together and try to put aside the sadness and heartbreak even for a few hours. We can't just live life without that entertainment factor too!

    Anyway, just my thoughts.