Cheryl Pappas


Archive for February, 2012

Whitney Houston and Rick Santorum: The Big Questions

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

This year’s Grammys featured the reality of Whitney Houston’s death as well as the Grammy President delivering a pitch for Music Cares, an organization that helps musicians in need. Repeatedly, he referred to the music community as being a family.

I say, with family like that, you really need friends. Real friends.

Was there ever a more obvious case of desperate need for help than Whitney’s? Everyone saw her decline.

She staged it for us, if we had the stomach to watch that hideous display of personal and professional suicide that was her 2005 reality marriage and family show.

Following that, there were consistent and extreme public enactments of self-annihilation.

The news of her death included the fact that no one is surprised to hear that she died.

Hers was a public, salacious self-destruction.

Was she flinging herself toward us, naked and begging for help?

Bill O’Reilly is railing against her for using drugs and enraged that she obviously wanted to “leave the planet”.

How dare she? Right, Bill?

Bill O’Reilly obviously has his own agenda on this matter, or maybe it’s the show’s ratings strategy du jour.

I believe it is a mistake to jump to judgment about taking drugs or leap into debate about legalizing drugs as a first response to Whitney Houston’s death. We then miss the most elementary point in the tragedy.

I’m talking about the erosion of real love and caring in our society.

When a public person acts out extreme self-destruction, what is our response as a society?

When does the media become cheerleaders for celebrity demise?

The media is not connected humanely in the story-telling of our public figures anymore. Ratings are driven by sensationalism, by audience lust for extremes, by the gamble of hot audience envy and enjoyment of the suffering of the famous; so many success strategies, so not about humanism. Maybe it’s always been this way, yet it seems newly bold, entitled, and normalized.

If Whitney Houston had not in her life been pared down to being a financial commodity, rather than the insanely gifted vocalist she was and growing artist she could have been, she may well be alive today.

Arguably, her musical direction may also have been wildly different.

A commodity she was. Commodities are traded, analyzed through the lens of futures and fortune. They are often favored for a while, suddenly devalued, deemed worthless without warning. The fact that artists are handled this way personally and professionally, those who are often uncommonly sensitive, is a soulless crime. It is a violent act by corporate and personal management with rich rewards; a commodification partnered by the public.

Fellow commodities (other creative celebrity talent) are apparently too busy being commodities themselves to take action on behalf of a fellow artist’s urgent need for support. In short, too busy, self-directed, or who knows what blocks their ability to step forward with care. They are themselves trapped in the manic effort to sustain themselves as commodity winners.

Yes, I know that every one of these celebrities has chosen to partake in this scenario.

The question of whether they knew they were signing on for the swap of life for fame, is a separate subject.

Certainly we are in times of extreme greed and obsession with depersonalization. It is both outrageous and surreal to read about the financial uptick that her death has created. People are authentically studying the business angle and monetary figures resulting from her death, as if her life and death were game strategies.

Similarly, in this political season, the countdowns, scoreboards, daily percentage rankings and horse futures continue to obscure the content, if there is content, of any candidate’s speech.

We find our country at its weakest, our politicians blankly transparent and empty, with the stunning absence of a public who demands that questions be answered substantially.

We are plagued with candidates like Rick Santorum.

Americans are enthusiastically triggered by an appetite for hate. Cowboy-hatted Santorum poses as patriotic, and he, too, is a commodity, albeit a toxic one.

The momentary thunder of positive response to Santorum is scary when you figure how much hate and misogyny the man is driven to deliver.

The prior media sensationalism of the mental sickness and now death of Whitney Houston, as well as the current rise of popularity of politician Rick Santorum, provides an unsettling snapshot of who we have become as Americans.

Tuned out, uncaring, deaf to our own hearts.

I’m told that the very hotel room where Whitney Houston was found dead in the bathtub is fully booked days after her death. I can imagine giddy visitors taking pictures in that very bathtub and posting them madly on Facebook.

The subject of the loss of personal caring in American society is overlooked and unpopular. We gather in Roman arenas—the modern media rooms– to see blood and gore as entertainment.

It is always telling how we respond to pain, not only towards people we know and love, but to the celebrities who seem to desperately broadcast the need for attention and help.

If we, and the media that serves us, came from the heart in response to headline news; if we dared to notice outrageous words and behaviors, and cared enough to question them; if we stepped away from the urge to tune out or in rabid envy, rip apart successful people in the artistic spotlight, this America we see in decline would have a clear chance for recovery.

As would the talent we have lost; as would we recover the American political freedoms we are losing more and more.

It is hard not to wonder, in Whitney’s case, whether all the current public expressions of care and love, had they been acted upon while she visibly struggled, would have saved her life.

Even today, it is curious that people are not asking what really happened to her.

What’s up with the bloody legs and scarred arm in those last pictures of her in Los Angeles days before she died.

These pictures have been sent around the globe. Apart from sensationalism, I do not know of any media inquiry to find the cause of these physical scars and what they say about the potential truth of her life.

Nor do I hear Santorum grilled on his curious passion against gays.

For the country, this is a sign of the absence of soul and mind.

That’s not a good sign.

Horse Racing or Presidential Election?

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Americans love sports. These following nine months leading up to the Presidential election appear sadly to be a sport for most Americans, a mesmerizing reality show competition between contestants promoted and funded by various conglomerates for our entertainment and our votes.

Which candidate will be the most popular, the most family identified, (yes, bring those smiling kiddies up on the stage). Who will be the meanest, the most funded, ubiquitous presence in the media, appearing on all sorts of television, invading to the point of becoming our regular programming? Who will have access to talk show titans, a la Obama on Jay Leno last week, or sit repeatedly with the entertaining women on the View, who do not consider themselves known for their heavy political acumen about the state of our country.

The Presidential race is a sport, no doubt about it. Are we Americans conditioned to understand or even have the bandwidth to listen to complicated national urgencies that the newly elected President will preside over? The answer is “no”.

The political strategy of candidate personality vs. the abilities of candidates to take the reins and work things out with opposition in government is a done deal.

Personality rules. And like any adolescent high school society, Americans are glued to the daily nasty name-calling fights between everyone in the political arenas.

This is what we have in front of us for the next nine months.

The political talk show hosts don’t even bother to pretend that it’s not a sport.

Numbers, polls, opinions on horses leading the group on any given day are discussed with rotating sports opinionators.

Chris Mathews emphatically uses “horse race” as shorthand for “political campaign”.

Rachel Maddow expresses open glee for the game of it all, as evidenced in her commentary pre-and-post the numerous Republican debates.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Rachel and her high intelligence.

I only wonder if she is being directed to approach this campaign as a giddy game for ratings, or whether she is independently drinking pitchers of company Kool-aid.

And then there are the inevitable distractions. Which group today hates the gay community more than anyone else? The winner seems to be a group that is a division of the American Family Association called, raging against Ellen Degeneres for being gay and hired as a JC Penny spokesperson.

Donald Trump is always a great distraction, no matter what he says or who he now endorses (Romney), as is Scott Brown, who is endorsing Obama.

There is importance and reality in questioning Mitt Romney’s authentic global, national, and social positions, as well as questioning Obama’s authentic positions. Both remain mysterious.

So many pundits with theories; so little solid information.

So much attention to candidates as horses, and horses as winners or losers.

The public has been conditioned to use no “intelligence muscles” to approach the election or to have true knowledge of anything else occurring behind the gold curtain having import to the country, and thus, to their lives.

The economy is naturally very familiar and essential as the key issue to the public’s interest.

Is any candidate supplying real plans or brainstorming for solutions?

While the daily flood of media distractions appears on the bottom television scroll, and the loud mouth opinions blast forth on talk television, does it matter that Obama may be planning a war with Iran? Yes, it does.

But what a superb time instead to theorize about which personality is presidential and who today is up a few points in the so-called polls.

In spite of the roar of the horse race blasting away our thoughts and voices, I will yell out on behalf of us all: If there is anyone out there fit to lead this country, announce yourself. Please.

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