But maybe these kind of lines between tragedy and the tragic can't be drawn. Maybe it's wrong to talk about Amy's mental illness and physical addiction in terms of a fatal flaw as if it's a conscious choice. Well, OK. What if it weren't drugs? What about adrenaline junkies. What if I told you it was a 38-year-old father of three who just had to hang glide constantly? Or only enjoyed life when he was base jumping or free-climbing mountains? If he fell to his death, would you grieve for him the same way you would that young dad who was hit by a bus? I don't know. I don't think I would. Is it wrong? I'm not sure.
"Just let me get a few more feet, and then I'll be sure to buy some life insurance for junior."
Or maybe I'm not comfortable forgiving the mental illness that leads to suicide because it's too close to forgiving the mental illness that leads to murder. Wouldn't we call that Norwegian terrorist, that Brooklyn child-murderer and Mark David Chapman mentally ill? These aren't rhetorical flourishes. I'm asking. I don't know where to draw lines. But I do know dark humor will always rise up to meet that kind of moral discomfort.
Some people aren't plagued by this uncertainty. For some, it's because they are just better people with larger hearts who have room for both tragedy and the tragic alike. Others haven't asked the questions. And some are just lying.
But Amy's biggest fans, the ones who call her a true genius of unique talent, seem to be the most forgiving. (Personally, I don't think those have to go hand in hand. I still haven't forgiven Greg Giraldo, one of my comedy heroes, for overdosing and I'm pretty sure given some of his Heath Ledger jokes he wouldn't mind me making fun of him for it.) But these fans do forgive her and although they haven't written Facebook statuses bemoaning the loss of a million other people who have succumbed to addiction and mental illness (albeit without musical ability), they say it's a tragedy that such an artist had to die in this way.
And I'll agree it is sad that people succumb to addiction and mental illness. And it's not hard to find compassion for that condition in the abstract. In fact, it's not hard to sincerely wish that no one had to suffer such things. And I do. I wish that whatever chemical or biological or environmental affliction that trapped Amy into a death spiral of heroin addiction didn't exist. But without those influences, she probably would have been some completely different person. Someone who wouldn't write a hit song about not going to rehab. And if that were the case, Amy wouldn't have had the pain that so many of these fans loved her for. And they wouldn't be changing their profile pics to her face, lamenting the "27 club" and urging the world to see the tragedy.
We see it. And it is a tragedy in every sense of the word.