Friday, August 31, marks the 10th anniversary of the car crash that claimed Lady Diana’s life. The event sparked an unprecedented level of mourning across the globe and all but silenced detractors of her character and haircut.
Now, with a barrage of retrospectives and memorials fast approaching that are sure to be sad in more ways than one, it’s time for us to take a moment and reflect on what the world has learned from losing “the People’s Princess,” as she was endearingly called by the industry that killed her.
First and foremost, I think we can all agree that her death was the most tragic thing to happen in the course of human history, ever.
Sure, there have been countless instances where more people have died at once, and countless others in which people have died in grislier ways. But judging from the millions still personally devastated by Diana’s death, one can glean that those other deaths weren’t all they could’ve been.
That’s not to say they weren’t sad, mind you; they just weren’t ballad sad. You don’t see Elton John reworking “Get Back Honky Cat” to memorialize the hundreds killed in northern Iraq’s recent suicide bombings, do you?
Sure, half a town got obliterated, but were any of them princesses? Were they ever involved with JFK Jr.? Did they do the landmine thing and hold hands with AIDS patients? No, they were just plain, old, boring people that lived plain, old, boring lives, and pretty soon, they’ll just be a big digit in last week’s newspaper.
That’s what makes Diana’s memory so special; she’s like a great, glittering banner draped over our nation that announces to the rest of the world “you must be this white and famous for us to give a crap.” And oh, what an invaluable thing to have! It has circumvented so many awkward conversations with Africa.
None of this is to say she was without fault.
For one, the hair. For another, once in a BBC interview she was quoted as saying she wanted to be known as “the queen of hearts,” a remark so self-aggrandizing it’s equaled only by Michael Stipe’s late-’80’s claims of superman-hood and Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s embarrassing “Call me Mad Dog” phase.
But despite her flaws, she has continued to mean something very special to those who have kept her memory alive in their hearts.
You see, every demographic has their tragic figures to bereave. Sports fans have Lou Gering. Revolutionaries have Che. Rockers have Janis. Bad comedians have Jon Ritter.
Diana is the martyr-in-residence of those who aspire to niceness. That is really her one prodigious quality; she was pleasant. But therein lies a strange paradox – she attained this messianic pleasantness by caring.
People that still cry over “Candle in the Wind” certainly care about Diana, but only as an idol, not an example.
The manner in which she cared for people is warmly admired, but rarely aspired to, meaning those that will be inconsolable this Friday have decided it’s better to mourn the loss of a humanitarian rather than actually be one. Which makes crying over her death an ultimately empty gesture.
So this Friday, let’s all swell our hearts to ten times their size and glut grief and compassion upon a poor, fallen, insanely rich woman that once tried to help the embattled and unfortunate. Who are all still out there struggling, never in short supply.
Too bad caring is as pass/ as seatbelts.
Ryan Nowell is a junior English major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org