This morning, I read an article in the Washington Post about the late Charley Pride, who recently died of COVID-19. Well, if I’m honest, the article wasn’t “just” about Charley Pride. It was mostly about the backlash surrounding Pride’s death at age 86 and how COVID-19 has been affecting musicians– country musicians in particular. Yes, the article did lead with Pride’s death on December 12, a month after he received a lifetime achievement award at the annual Country Music Association awards. There was also a picture of Charley Pride, who was notable for being Black and singing music typically associated with people who have southern accents and light colored skin (not that the only people who like country are “rednecks” from the South, or that everyone who is southern is a redneck).
As many people know, the CMA awards took place as usual this year, indoors and maskless. Charley Pride happened to die of COVID-19. Many people assume he caught the virus at the Nashville event, which featured lots of people appearing on camera without masks. Now… I sure don’t know where Charley Pride came in contact with COVID-19. It’s possible that he got infected at the CMA awards. Or, maybe he got it from somewhere else. The fact is, he got it, and he’s now dead. I saw quite a lot of people wringing their hands over Mr. Pride’s death, acting as if he wouldn’t have died if he hadn’t accepted his award in person. It was as if the CMA awards organizers, who have been putting on this event for as long as I can remember, had “blood” on their hands.
Folks… I get that COVID-19 is a terrible thing and we should all be doing our part to limit and even eliminate its spread. But Charley Pride was 86 years old. I don’t know how many years he would have had left if he hadn’t caught the virus, but given the average lifespan of human beings in 2020, my guess is that he probably wouldn’t have had a really long time. He was 86 years old. Eventually, he was destined to die, as we all are.
Would people be just as angry if Pride had had a heart attack or a stroke? Would we be angrily pointing fingers at his (hypothetical, since I don’t know anything about Pride’s lifestyle) decisions to eat fried foods, smoke cigarettes, and avoid exercise, complaining about how his decision to not live “the right way” led to Pride’s “untimely” death?
Maybe Charley Pride could have lived to be 87 or 88 years old if he’d just done the “right” things and lived the way the experts recommend? No… I don’t think so. 86 years is a good run, and Charley Pride was lucky enough to live the bulk of his life without a pandemic going on. I am sorry that Charley Pride died, especially since he did have such a groundbreaking career in country music. But what happened to him will eventually happen to everyone. It happened to be COVID-19 that killed him at age 86, but it could have easily been something else. The end result is the same, any way you look at it. He’s dead.
Furthermore, while we are all being asked to stay away from others and wear face masks when we can’t, the fact is, people are still getting the virus. Sometimes, they’re getting it even when they do everything “right”. I don’t think it’s helpful to point fingers at those who get sick. I think we should have compassion for them, for I have read that COVID-19 is NOT a nice way to go. I have been trying to do the best I can not to get the virus. I haven’t ridden in a car since October 4th. I haven’t left my neighborhood since then, either. I walk my dogs, and that’s about it. I am lucky enough to be in a living situation in which I can do that. Not everyone is that lucky. We all have to get by in life the best way we can.
The rest of the article pointed out that the masses are being pretty hard on celebrities who flout the COVID-19 rules. Musicians and other performers have been particularly badly hit by the virus. Nine months ago, they lost their main ability to make a living. At the same time, people who earn money as performers as are lucky enough to be well-known are being hassled about their choices. They are expected to “set a good example” for everyone, and people go fucking berserk if they dare to post a picture of themselves doing anything popularly deemed “wrong”.
Part of this phenomenon, I think, comes from people being really bored, and angry that they’re bored. So, when they see someone like Jason Aldean at Disney World with his family, taking a photo without a face mask, they go into outrage mode and leave shitty comments. Mr. Aldean recently got a keyboard lashing from some woman who was outraged that he’d dare take a family photo while unmasked. Aldean’s response was, “Chill out lady. They are in our pocket. We took them off for 5 seconds to take the pic. Believe me, Disney didn’t give us a ‘free pass’ not to wear them. We had them on all day just like everybody else.” Later, he deleted the photo.
The same thing recently happened to actor Wil Wheaton, who dared to post a photo of himself and his wife at a red carpet event that happened in 2016. Wheaton got shitloads of disapproving comments from his followers, which he angrily addressed the next day. Celebrities are people too, and I’m sure most of them don’t appreciate rude comments from random people who are just reacting to and criticizing a photo without any context. The pandemic has made it almost taboo to post photos indicating “normal” behavior, even if the photo is older than March 2020.
For some reason, people feel compelled to call out “bad” behaviors, especially in our hyper connected social media age. Everyone has a cell phone these days, and most of the phones are capable of making videos. So, even before the pandemic started, folks were taking pictures and videos and calling people out online. But now, it’s gotten epically bad. God forbid someone post a photo of a large gathering or a maskless face… or a child who isn’t properly and perfectly strapped into a seatbelt or a car seat. Someone will post a criticism. Hell, I changed my cover photo to one I took of our village’s annual Christmas market. The photo was taken in 2019. I felt the need to add a disclaimer, just to head off any negative comments about crowds and a lack of face masks.
Some people, celebrities in particular, have stopped sharing photos at all, because they are tired of people calling them out. Thomas Rhett, and his wife, Lauren Akins, recently posted photos on Instagram of a trip they took to Mexico. Fans were quick to chastise the couple with self-righteous comments like, “Wish I could be happy for you but the rest of us are not traveling to try to keep covid at bay.” Rhett’s response was to “take a break” from Instagram because he was sick of dealing with the annoying comments that completely lacked contextual awareness. I can’t say I blame him for that.
Personally, I don’t see the point of calling people out for their photos. It’s not like leaving a nasty comment is going to change the behavior in the moment. What good does it do to criticize someone for not setting a good example when the moment has already long passed? Telling off Jason Aldean for daring to pose for a photo maskless at Disney World isn’t going to change the fact that he took the photo. And why shouldn’t he be allowed to take the photo and share it without a bunch of critical bullshit from strangers? Can people not comprehend that a photo is but an instant of someone’s life? Can folks not understand that a video of someone is just a drop in the bucket as to who someone is?
But… I really think people are just bored, scared, frustrated, angry, and bereaved… and they’re lashing out, particularly when they think someone is “privileged”. And a lot of the people who are judging others for their behaviors and being “privileged” have appointed themselves as having the right to keep score. I’m not sure what makes someone qualified to judge others, but suffice to say, if you’re not in a group that is deemed oppressed or disadvantaged in some way, you’re gonna hear about it when you aren’t doing the “right” thing, especially if you also have the nerve to publicize it on social media.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I think COVID-19 is awful on many levels. It’s made things very difficult for so many. I have nothing but compassion for people who get the virus– yes, even the ones who got it because they were doing “wrong”. What is now considered “wrong” wasn’t even on the radar a year ago. We all miss our lives, and most people really are just trying to get through this epic shitshow. Yes, some people could be taking the virus more seriously. Some people are egregiously taking risks that I wouldn’t take. But I think they must have their reasons for doing those things. It’s entirely possible they’re doing it because they’re selfish, but it’s also possible that they have other reasons that I don’t know about. And personally, I try to give them the benefit of the doubt, whenever I can, because trying to believe the best about most people brings me more peace than simply assuming they’re selfish assholes (even if they actually are). I have enough problems with depression without assuming that everyone who isn’t doing what experts deem “the right thing” and not “setting a good example” is a jerk. I’d like to think that more people are good, than inherently bad.
In any case, I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, for now. I don’t mind. But that’s just me. I don’t know what someone else is going through or what will make living through this strange time easier. And it’s just easier to let people do as they will. A judgmental comment from me isn’t going to change anything. On the other hand, when it comes to spelling and grammar, all bets are off. 😉