Singer Whitney Houston, whose death echoes like a long-held high "C" note, died a hero.
On television, commentator after commentator tells us she "battled substance abuse." The commentators who want their mournful, yet stirring words to be remembered say she "battled her inner demons."
So, see, she "battled." Battling makes you a hero. Whitney Houston died a hero.
And on Facebook, a trend is emerging. Self-righteous post after self-righteous post takes us to task for saying ANYTHING about Houston's death, when brave American boys and girls are pouring their blood into the dangerous dirt of Iraq and Afghanistan. Sometimes the Facebook posts put Houston's picture next to a row of flag-draped coffins, so the illiterate can get the message, too.
The dead, my grandmother used to say in her broken mixture of English and French, are the lucky ones.
"They have no more trouble," she would say.
And they don't. Death, I think, is like a good nap on a cold Saturday in January, with the added benefit of knowing that my wife won't wake me up and ask if I remembered to go to the bank Friday — and, if I did go, what did I do with the receipt.
The noble dead. The honored dead. The foolish dead. The criminal dead. The inconsequential dead. The forgotten dead. The purposeful dead. The lazy, good-for-nothing dead. Dead junkies. Dead mayors. Dead mothers. Dead abortion doctors. Dead babies. Dead presidents.
We support the troops. We honor the dead. Or is it the other way around? It doesn't matter much, at least not to the dead. The armed forces are all-volunteer now. There is no draft. Death still drafts you, and all deferments are cancelled in the end.
And since everything in America has to be either liberal or conservative, then I guess Whitney Houston would be party people, drug abusing, entitled-to-everything liberal dead, while soldiers are selfless, heavily armed, brave hero dead. Choose sides, and get in line behind your dead. Support your dead. Use your dead to make a political point. The dead are without shame, so why should those of us left alive feel that antique and uncomfortable emotion?
As for the dead themselves, that vast army of the soon-to-be-forgotten, perhaps they are somewhere together. Perhaps they see us, perhaps they don't. Perhaps they welcome baptism as Mormons. Perhaps they don't.
And if the dead are in some cloudy country together, do they fraternize or are they strictly segregated by the manner and worthiness of their dying? Does the dead soldier who stepped on an IED sit on some green river bank with Whitney Houston, fishing or just watching the slow water? Does the middle-class mother of two who died of pancreatic cancer have a cup of coffee with the junkie who died in a puddle of his own puke?
If there is a country of the dead, surely there is perfect equality there, where there is no further ambition, no larger house to covet, no crack cocaine to smoke and no one is running for office.
Our heroic dead and our reviled dead have more in common than we admit, even if they are not still alive in spirit, even if they're just dead, their skin and bone envelopes rotting in a grave that is guaranteed to become nameless.
And Houston, autopsied in the public mind before her blood work gets back to the coroners, is like the dead boys come home from Afghanistan, dipped in the shellac of symbolism, lined up behind a party platform or a political philosophy, stood up straight and propped against the wall of our convictions, grinning a horrible stiff smile in happy support of our Facebook blather.
It's a hard life, but it's not so easy being dead, either.
To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.