I promised myself, when I first started writing columns this year, that I would keep the number of completely serious articles to a minimum, since I'm a bigger fan of laughing than of lecturing. The death of Tupac Shakur has, temporarily at least, convinc ed me to break my vow.
For those of you who are unaware of the event about which I speak, Tupac Shakur, recording artist, died on Sept. 13, from a cardiac arrest which resulted from having a significant amount of metal pumped at high velocities through his chest in an almost cl assic gangland-style hit. Tupac was 25.
I could use this as a lead-in to a discussion of the circularity of Mafia-mentality violence, or the desperate plight of America's inner cities, or even about racism, all of which are topics about which I strongly feel. Better men than I, however, have al ready said much more on those topics than I can. I would actually rather say something considerably simpler: Let the man rest in peace.
We in America, and I dare say the West in general, have a tendency to idolize, and thereby objectify, celebrities; dead celebrities take on a macabre life of their own. If you don't believe me, consider the cult of Elvis that keeps Graceland in business, or the public mourning accorded Kurt Cobain when he gave a handgun-influenced twist to Impressionist interior decoration. Whether or not Marilyn Monroe was murdered is still the subject of the occasional made-for-television special. John F. Kennedy has be en at Arlington National Cemetery for over thirty years, and the obsession with him and those around him lives still.
Shortly after Tupac's shooting, the media was swamped with stories that basically read, "Tupac was shot and brought to the brink of death by the culture he glorified." His body was not yet cold when social advocates, including certain ministers of grace, began elegizing him as a martyred civil rights spokesman; others were already gloating that Tupac's violent death was the just reward of a man who was anything but a saint.
Let me set the record straight on this: Tupac Shakur was a man, not an angel or a devil. He was born, he lived, he died. He did some things right, he made some mistakes, sold a few million albums, and made friends and enemies along the way. In short, he w as a human being; to say that he was anything else objectifies him and demeans his memory. He was no saint; saints do not serve time for sexual misconduct. He was no archetypal villain, for evil turns upon itself, and villains do not stand by their friend s (such as Calvin Broedus) in moments of trial.
And, for reference, a man who writes "If I Die Tonite" and "Death Around the Corner" is not glorifying a life of violence and paranoia. To say, Tupac died at the hands of the culture he glorified is akin to saying Christopher Badeaux died today, stabbed through the neck with a fountain pen, dead at the hands of the art form he glorified.
Get over it, please. We may all be under some sort of compulsion to objectify our public figures, to gilt them or cover them in pitch rather than to simply remember them, but we are reasoning beings; we should be capable of recognizing that a man is more than his facade. Glorify Tupac if you will, vilify him if you must, but do so for the man himself, rather than the image the world would accord to him. Shakur's probably getting a laugh out of the whole thing, wherever he is.
In closing, I would like to paraphrase Mr. Shakur, at the end of a performance of "California Love" on Saturday Night Live, in what was originally a reference to Snoop Doggy Dogg: "No justice for [Tupac], no justice for anyone. Peace."
Chris Badeaux is a junior majoring in English and biochemistry. His column, 'Cynic on Parade,' appears every other Friday.