Death’s a funny thing. We’re not that comfortable with it. We don’t know how to think of our own deaths, let alone someone else’s. Funerals tend to go one of two directions. Either a somber occasion where we sob sadly for the departed, or some kind of semi-raucous celebration where jokes are told and humorous anecdotes remembered.
Celebrity death is an even stranger beast.
I remember being surprised and appalled at my Facebook feed when Patrick Swayze died. There was this huge outpouring of grief from people who (I suspect) had never met him. “Oh Patrick Swayze, how sad! RIP! I’ll miss you!”
I wondered at the time if people based this crazy Swayze love on Dirty Dancing (a film that I was forced into seeing once by my wife and will admit, that of its type is not that bad). Had people’s knowledge of Swayze been based on his portrayal of a paedophile in Donnie Darko, I would hazard that there would have been less grieving.
When I thought about writing this post, I was going to write it about Margaret Thatcher’s death and how disgusted some people were at how her death was celebrated. It got me thinking: is it ever ok to celebrate that someone has died?
Osama Bin Laden was the presumed mastermind of 9/11. 10 years after that little world-changing event, he was tracked down to a compound in Pakistan and assassinated. In the USA President Obama triumphantly announced this act of state-sponsored murder at a Press Conference.People all over the country poured out of their homes and into the streets for an impromptu party. Wooh dead Arab! And I remember feeling a distinct sense of unease.
The September 11 Attacks killed 2,996 people so we celebrated his death. Is that the benchmark? 3000 people? Margaret Thatcher’s Government closed a lot of coalmines. Made a lot of poor people poorer; I can only speculate but I suspect some people died from any number of things associated with being in a low socio-economic status. So can we celebrate her death? Well only if there were 3000 deaths right?
Then this week we had the Boston bombings and ensuing madness as “suspects #1 and #2” were chased across town. They hurled freaking bombs out of their car at the cops. I mean this was messed up. And then the police gunned down suspect #1.
Nearly 24 hours later they tracked down suspect #2 and brought him in alive. And the internet lit up with people wishing the death of #2, while simultaneously celebrating the death of #1. The two brothers had allegedly killed four people. That’s well short of the 3000 needed.
So where’s the line in the sand? Whose death can we and can’t we celebrate?
I’m going to make it easy. None. We celebrate no-one’s death. Because we are a modern, civilised society and we should be above this shit. It is the hallmark of indecency to have any kind of positive celebration at the death of anyone. I believe in very few universal truths, but this is one I hold dear.