In one week, just days apart, the world lost a actor and an activist – one to a horrific accident that caught us off guard, the other to prolonged illness we were all aware of. Following their transitions the world seemed to erupt in a fury of competition, comparison, and classification. Whether it was whose death should hold a greater impact on society or the hidden/white washed “truth” concerning character, everyone seemed to have a perspective on the politics of grief and how others should display theirs.
I suppose, depending on what side of the generation gap you stand on, it’s easy to relate closer to one individual’s life contribution over the other, or take offense at having your mourning trivialized by those who just don’t “get it”. Also, if you are so inclined to do so, I guess when faced with information opposite of personal identifiers linked to the individual, or those that seem deceptive, it’s understandable to want to shed light so others see the person in question as you do.
When I heard of the first death I was shocked by the very nature of the accident, the fact that the passing occurred just two months after the person turned the very age I am now, and that he leaves behind a daughter who’s just learning her own position on the world. Admittedly, when I heard about the second death which happened at the ripe age of ninety-five, I was more taken aback because it marked the “end” of an era I’m personally acquainted with because – like my mother and aunt during the Civil Rights Era – I grew up learning about the individual and the struggles against which he fought (both militantly and peacefully). It was not to say one death was more important than the other on my eyes, it was just that one was more profound to me because out had more of am effect on my life. That’s it. That’s all.
When it comes to things of this nature it’s very easy to jump on one side of the fence and condemn those who don’t feel as strong about a loss the way you do. For those fans of the actor who were “unaware” of activist, it’s easy to feel wounded when told you’re “what’s wrong with the world” because you mourned a cinematic “pretty boy” more than a man who’s life work was based on equality for his people. For proponents of the activist who may not have cared enough for the actor to know of the humanitarian contributions made possible by his celebrity, it’s understandable for you to feel as if your icon’s life was “mocked” by the outpouring of what you deem as shallow sympathies. But what’s not easy to see is why either death is being dishonoured by such division, which is in opposition to what both lives were about.