(Fred Weinberg/The Penny Press) – The best line at Whitney Houston’s funeral, last Saturday, came from Pastor Marvin Winans.
“I got a call from some lawyer asking me if I wanted to keep some property right in what I’m going to say today,” he said from the pulpit.
“I don’t know how I could do that because I’m just going to preach the Word.”
Amen, brother Winans. Amen.
His was both a difficult and a simple assignment.
Difficult, because Whitney Houston was an icon who left this world too soon.
She also, as Bill O’Reilly said—completely without malice—committed suicide. Whether it was intentional or, more likely, unintentional, she nonetheless ended her life at age 48 with a careless cocktail of drugs—both legal and illegal—and alcohol which reflected her lifestyle since she hooked up with Bobby Brown.
Winans job was made simple because there is only one person who, ultimately, is to blame and that was Whitney Houston herself.
As the good Reverend Winans quite correctly pointed out, the owner’s manual of a car doesn’t tell you where to drive—only how to get the best performance. You ignore the manual at your own peril.
And, Ms. Houston did.
As her costar in The Bodyguard, Kevin Costner, said, “I think Whitney would tell you, guard your bodies. And guard the precious miracle of your own life.” Unfortunately, had she given that advice, she would have had to add the fact that she did not take it.
That doesn’t make her talent—God given—any less or her impact on her chosen profession any less profound. It doesn’t mean her fans should stop being her fans. And it doesn’t mean that her music should stop being played.
But the facts here should resonate in an America which many times sees icons through a different lens than people who go to work every day, play by the rules, raise their families and pay attention to the preaching (and advice) of Pastor Winans and his many colleagues of all religions.
Is there anyone else to blame?
Not really. People who get to the rarified heights she did have many enablers around them who never say no.
But America is all about individual responsibility and the lesson to be taken away here, what O’Reilly actually said, is that nobody is going to live your life for you. You are solely responsible for your actions and if your actions lead to your death before you are 50, nobody but you is ultimately to blame.
The other part of O’Reilly’s rant which we in the media should take to heart is that too often we tend to glorify the very lifestyle which led to Ms. Houston’s death.
Wink, wink, hard drinking, hard partying, getting high, “bad boy Bobby Brown.”
There is nothing wondrous about people who wander around drunk or stoned out of their minds—no matter who they are or how much talent they have.
The truth is that we have glorified the lifestyles of Lindsey Lohan, Brittney Spears, Bobby Brown and the like until some people might actually think that sort of behavior is acceptable.
As Whitney Houston, with all of her talent and her close knit family just proved, it is not.