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Monday, January 28, 2008

Caught Up

I’ve been struck by two things recently. One is Heath Ledger’s death. The other is some videos I came across for the first time, however it seems they are well known on the internet. Sally Anthony makes music and videos that relate to the Iraq war and political themes. I made it through a quarter of one. I feel they are probably one of the most powerful statements out there. But I can’t watch it. I can’t link to it because I would want people to understand what they will see if they click on one of her videos. Death, real death. Kid death. I just can’t go there, but in the few seconds I watched. I got her message loud and clear.

How are these two related? Well, so many people are shocked and distraught over Heath Ledger’s death. Me included. He seemed cool, artsy, familyish. What happened? The thing is, I don’t know him. That is the weird thing about celebrity. Due to the crazy media around “the beautiful ones”, not only do we see their faces over and over on the screen to the point that they feel familiar to us, but we are bombarded by personal information about them. Stuff I don’t even know about some of my own friends and family members who have died. I didn’t seek out this information. It is just everywhere. It is weird, for someone to be that exposed.

But in light of the pain and drama around one death, it is just as strange to see the flipside. The lack of drama around the (gory, horrible, lonely, painful) death of a child. I didn’t know her story, name, age, land, language, religion, family. But I saw a picture of her body and you can’t get more intimate through a computer. The contrast baffles me. Not as a statement about anything really. More in an existential way. Like, how and why is it like this? Why is it that the media hounds someone like crazy and we feed on that info, and then neatly avert our eyes at other stuff. It is all stuff that yanks us inside out.

I have a theory. It is magical thinkingish, but still, what if? We hear about the death of a celebrity we identify with and feel sad, a loss. We don’t hear about 600,000 other deaths that are possibly as tragic, if not more so. We don’t hear about them, but what if we feel them anyway? Maybe how we are connected as humans, the ways we can’t see - maybe this accounts for how depressed everyone is. How insomniac, workaholic, alcoholic, angry, road-ragish, foggy. Maybe we don’t know the name of the girl on the street in Iraq, maybe haven’t even seen her picture, but somehow we are feeling her death too, the same as the ones we hear about. If that was even partly true, wouldn’t it make it in our best interest to work harder at being nicer to one another?

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