Anyone who's had to stand helpless watching someone they love consumed by addiction knows all about it.
Whether the source of that addiction can be found in your DNA, or your individual circumstances, or your history, or whether it's just that your will is somehow weaker than the next guys doesn't really matter when addiction calls.
That's why I want to take a moment to contemplate the latest heinous outburst of conservative pundit Bill O'Reilly. On his show on Monday O'Reilly referred to Whitney Houston's tragic death to claim the singer was suicidal and seeking her own demise.
O'Reilly fumed: 'Whitney Houston wanted to kill herself. Nobody takes drugs for that long if they want to stay on the planet. The hard truth is that some people will always want to destroy themselves, and there’s nothing society can do about it.'
How'd the moon get there, Bill O'Reilly?
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The question is how does O'Reilly know what impulses, conscious and unconscious, were driving a woman that he doesn't know? The answer is he doesn't. Critics claim it was just another slow night at Fox News and he needed hot copy for his program. And if he dovetails from her tragic passing to an equally inchoate attack on the legalization of drugs, so much the better for his ratings, right?
The casualty, as so often at Fox News, is the truth.
People who struggle with addiction usually start at a place of trauma, then quickly experience the growing shame over their inability to cope with the unruly emotions and the addiction they feed - and this can lead to depression too, which turns the lock on a self destructive spiral.
What people in this cycle do not need is a finger pointing blowhard stigmatizing them over and over again.
O'Reilly knew his words were incendiary, he may even have crafted them to be, and he knew the pain those words could inflict on those closest to Houston, but he went ahead.
Newsflash for O'Reilly: people pop pills or drink because they can't cope, and they want to cope, not because they're embracing their own demise. We don't even, at this point, have a report that clearly tells us what happened to Houston yet. So wouldn't it be better for your conscience (if not your ratings) not to rush to judgement?
People who are addicted to drugs are addicted to drugs, not suicide. Scolding and blaming Houston is a way of lessening the impact of her death (and blaming her for it) and it's also throwing a bone to the kind of people who have been burning up the Fox News comments pages since her passing.