Monday, July 26, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 64, Issue 159

Cougar Comics Online
Whitlock on JFK,  Jr.

Staff Editorial

Editorial Cartoon


About the Cougar

Grief shouldn't be a public spectacle

Margaret Mitchell

I was getting a Saturday-morning oil change when I heard about the latest strike of the Kennedy Curse: John-John's plane is missing. Film at 11. And 10. And 9. And 8:30, and ...

I watched the wall-to-wall news coverage of this "event" with great bemusement, from updates from on-the-scene reporters reporting "no new information" to the endless montages of old film footage and the so-called "experts" speculating on speculations.

But what really got to me was every schmoe with a microphone asking people on the street how they felt about JFK Jr., his wife and her sister dying in a tragic twist of fate.

It is the dumbest question anyone could possibly ask: How do you feel about a tragedy -- any tragedy, whether it's Princess Diana's car crash or an apartment complex that burned to the ground or a child killed in the crossfire of a gang war.

It's a dumb question because most people feel sadness and sympathy when someone dies or when something bad happens to someone for no other reason than bad luck. Are they looking for a different answer? I keep waiting for someone to tell a reporter, "I feel happy! I am so excited that this tragedy occurred that I'm throwing a party at my house -- y'all come!"

So here we are. The prince of Camelot is gone, and thousands of people are mourning. They leave flowers, candles and notes on his doorstep.

They visit his parents' graves at Arlington National Cemetery because they "need" to be there. Why? I mean, they didn't know these people, and they probably never would have. What is their stake in all of this? Could it be because the dream of Camelot is gone forever?

Get real. Camelot wasn't even Camelot in Camelot -- King Arthur was more myth than man, and so was JFK (both father and son). Myth and mystique seem to neglect the realities and shortcomings of human beings.

It's no more real than any fantasies attached to photos of Leonardo DiCaprio or Pamela Anderson Lee in the magazines scattered all over your bedroom floor. And the closest you will ever get to Camelot is stepping on People magazine as you retrieve the remote from across the room.

What is real is death. Several months ago, an accident occurred on Richmond. From my 10th-floor office, I had an excellent view of the aftermath of a collision between a SUV and motorcycle and the dead body of the motorcycle driver on the pavement.

I didn't know who he was, and I probably never will. Although I am reminded of what happened every time I drive past the cross erected on the corner where the man was killed, it doesn't bring me any closer to the man or what his family felt.

Untimely death is something tragic, permanent and personal. It's not a chance to "be a part of history" or get 15 seconds of fame by being on TV. It's not about how you feel, especially when the victims are strangers.

The concept of "personal and private" was never illustrated to me more profoundly than when my father died many years ago. People would come to me and express how they felt. I just kept thinking that it wasn't about how they felt, and they didn't even know my father. What gave them the right to intrude on my grief?

Grief is not a circus, and it's certainly not a spectator sport. It's time to let it go, people. Let it go, because it doesn't belong to you. Let it go, because it's time to let those who really have to pick up the pieces in the aftermath do so -- and go on.

Mitchell, a junior political science major,
can be reached at smeggie37@csi.com.

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