Sunday, July 14, 2013

the music died: glee's cory monteith and #prayfortray

Well, you see, there's fashion, home decor, fitness, and food. Those are the usual themes of Chic Memphis. Occasionally, I write a heartfelt shout-out to my beloved city or the Memphis Grizzlies. Sometimes certain events happen that demand attention, and last night seemed to be full of those. I am at a wedding reception when I read the news about the verdict in the George Zimmerman case.

George Zimmerman.
Here's the skinny: I didn't follow this case closely. I remember when the shooting happened, and I remember feeling so devastated. I remember that #prayfortray became a household hashtag. When there is a trial with a lot of media surrounding it, I tend to abstain from following. Maybe I am still experiencing law school burnout, but I had no desire to know the ins-and-outs of the evidence. What I am not doing here is writing with my young attorney hat on. I am writing as a human being. I live, breathe, and emote. When I strip it down to the bare bones, there's a teenage boy who is dead and that death was avoidable. Maybe only God knows whether race was a motivating factor, but I know a large amount of people are convinced that it was. That isn't something to dismiss because it ripples into society and loosens the fabric of tolerance we have worked so hard to weave, generation after generation. The truth is that many families are having to explain to their kids how this verdict fits into our nation's racial narrative. I was perusing Pinterest, as I often do, and I came across an interesting Pin. Erika, a friend of mine, had posted a picture of two eggs. One of them had a brown shell and the other had a white shell. Both of them were cracked open, and unsurprisingly, the inside of each egg looked the same. It was Pinned as an exercise to teach students one simple thing: we are all the same on the inside. Things like this happen, and it refocuses our attention on the shell. And perhaps it should, I don't know. If we are still an America hung up on the shell, then I had seen the world more naively than I thought possible. I grew up with no concept of race aside from an appearance different from my own, and I learned quickly that "my own" is not better, more normal, more beautiful, or more worthy than anyone else's. With that context, I was raised by two wonderfully tolerant parents and grew very sensitive to racist ideas. It makes no sense to me, and it never has. I am not calling George Zimmerman a racist. I am not calling the folks who support this verdict a racist. I am not calling Trayvon's supporters racists. But because many people felt that their race and identity were under siege throughout this case, the fallout from the verdict cannot be ignored. These things tend to conjure up the bigger issues. I hope a healthy dialogue evolves from all the emotions, because far too many young men are dying ... and far too many could be avoided if we treated what is beneath the bandaid we place on our broken society. My prayers for all those involved and those feeling its rippling effects.

So, I get home from the wedding reception, and Andrew has to go to bed. I am still glued to social media news on the case. Then, all of the sudden, my Twitter feed narrative starts to change. You see, the five main things I follow on Twitter are sports, politics, fashion, diabetes, and pop culture. Politics dominated most of the feed for a while. Perez Hilton, a famous (or infamous) blogger started to tweet that Cory Monteith was found dead in a Canada hotel. Cory Monteith is one of the main characters in Glee, and he dates the leading lady, Lea Michele, in real life. The tweets became more abundant. Eventually he was "trending", and the rumor had been confirmed.

Cory Monteith.
When I first moved to Harbor Town, I kept hearing about a show called Glee. "Sure, it is cheesy, Jordan, but you will like it." My friends know me well. I bought all the episodes on iTunes of Season 1 and caught up on Glee. I will never deny that the show is cheesy, but I have always enjoyed it. I love the songs, the talent, and the pointed attempts to draw attention to real issues. I remember when Finn joined the Glee club as nothing more than a skeptical jock. I think they recruited him while he was singing in the shower or something like that. I watched the love saga of Finn and Rachel. I watched the  broken family saga of the fatherless character. I watched Finn embrace Curt has his openly gay stepbrother. He didn't sing quite as well as some of the others, but he sang great nonetheless. I remember reading about Cory Monteith for the first time. I learned he was actually older than a lot of the other actors, and he is a drummer. Soon, it became public that his onscreen romance was the same as his offscreen romance. As a sap, I love when that happens. Then, I see a headline recently that he has checked himself into rehab. Apparently, Cory has battled drug addiction and was endeavoring to get clean. The Hollywood and media crowds seemed overwhelmingly supportive and proud of his courage. I remember thinking wow, I wish more actors were self-aware enough to tackle addictions pro-actively...or even recognize that they have an addiction. So, I remember thinking he was courageous. Here's a guy playing a wholesome character on a wholesome show who is battling real demons. I smiled when I saw his first picture since getting out of rehab. I, like many others, assumed he was on the mend and likely feeling empowered. So, this news is an incredibly sad turn of events. Obviously, it is too soon to confirm a drug overdose, but that is the speculation. He was 31. Why do all the stories all include that detail: "he was 31." Because that's a big kick to the chest. The man had so much more living to do. Like the Trayvon case, bigger issues will crop out of this tragedy. It will be the "how many entertainers have to die at the hand of addiction" angle, and it is an angle worth visiting and revisiting. Addiction is real, and I pity the person who dismisses its power. I hoped that a compassionate support group combined with a will to change would be Cory's saving grace, but it appears that the addiction got the better of him. Whatever the substances involved, drugs are dangerous. The wrong quantity can kill you.The wrong quality can kill you. The wrong combination of things can kill you. Essentially, you physically gamble with your body when you take certain drugs whether or not they come with your name on the bottle. I am curious to find out how this happened or why this happened. But it happened, and I am still digesting that Finn won't be back on Glee. I am still digesting that I won't be seeing anymore cute Cory and Lea pictures on E! I am still digesting that there has been another death that could have been avoided. My prayers go out to his family, friends, and fans. 
image via parade

I don't have children yet, but death is something I will struggle to explain to them. I struggle to explain it to myself most of the time. I will have to explain violence, war, race-based violence, hate crimes, drugs, drug addiction, murder, and suicide. I will have to answer the "hows" and the "whys", and so often I am going to come up short in my explanations. Justice can be rough and difficult to attain. Bad things are going to happen to good people. And I am going to have to explain to them that "bad people" is a very difficult group to define, especially since we are not called to make those judgments. We are called to love others. Isn't that novel? We are called to be loving, compassionate, and tolerant people. If I can instill those values in my children, I will empower them to cope with times when the world as they know it seems altogether unfair.

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