Regular readers know I will always be first to acknowledge and honor the unimaginable sacrifice my uniformed brothers and sisters pour out daily in mud and blood. It is not a story enough people understand, back here in the day-to-day world of going to the office and planning dinner dates and hoping to find something good to watch on TV.
(In all honesty, it is not a story anyone here can understand, unless they have fallen in the same ditches, chewed the same grit, and feared the same primitive fears of imminent death. Nobody should be faulted for not knowing what he cannot know. Our schools represent our best attempt to structure optimum chunks of knowledge to benefit the optimum number of citizens, but in the end real understanding of people and life can only be gained through knowing them.)
While my brothers and sisters fighting in uniform today are paying a terrible and necessary price for the rest of us, that battle is not where they ultimately “belong.” Each anticipates the day he can step off an airplane, begin working in an office or on a farm, and make the first of many dinner dates….
Life is full, and complicated. Our dutiful warriors are not the only ones worth remembering; in fact, their status as soldiers at war is just a temporary and unnatural condition. I, as one among many, pray that we can continue to undermine the very causes of violent conflict itself. Children are never made war orphans, or mutilated casualties of war, where there is no war. Washington himself said, “My first wish is to see this plague of mankind, war, banished from the earth.”
So when I see messages around the death of Whitney Houston that jokingly overlay “Whitney who?” atop a photo of soldiers dragging a wounded comrade from the battlefield, I feel a lingering sadness. Whitney Houston did not serve the United States as a fierce, hard-bitten warrior with bullets whistling all around, but let’s be honest: many of those who share such messages have not, either. Most, to be completely honest. And I believe those messages inadvertently bring disrespect to the memory of a unique human being with a priceless legacy of enriching the life experience of millions…myself included. If all true art is, as I believe, some inspired (“breathed in”) sample of the perfect voice of divinity, then Whitney’s mesmerizing song is a most literal manifestation of that voice. We were given her gift for a time. I am grateful.
And though I can only speak for one old warfighter’s perspective, I will tell you this: when I was sweating and bleeding “over there,” I would not have wanted to be honored through the disrespect of another.
There is worth in honoring all of the citizens of our nation—and the world—whether they are fighting and daring in Afghanistan or faithfully mopping the floors at my workplace so I can enjoy my day at the office. This applies likewise to artists, who are blessed to bless the rest of us with a richer vision of life others can only “see” through the artist’s eyes…or hear through her voice.
May God bless Whitney Houston and all those hurting from her loss.