Courtesy the fellows at Creative Minority Report, I’ve watched an audition tape for a 16 year old girl called Maddie Curtis. I liked Maddie so much that I thought I might try to follow this season, so I googled and got to the official website to look at start dates and what have you, and couldn’t help but click to watch Maddie’s audition again. And from one video follows another, and now I’ve watched all the featured auditions currently available, and a couple of other auditions stood out.
All three (including Maddie) have great voices. They also had great stories and great personalities. They were complimented on their honest, authentic performances, which were not carbon copies of the original artists but expressed themselves.
I think a lot of that has to do with the lives these three have lived. Many people are close to their grandmothers; not many 16 year olds spend their free time hanging out with grandma, or are, like Katie Stevens, prepared to talk about singing for her and winning for her before she can’t remember who they are anymore. Seventeen year olds can’t vote or smoke or drink; and yet at that age, Jermain Sellers began taking care of his sick mother. And while, despite the huge efforts of parents of kids with Down’s in the last 40 years to mainstream them, many struggle with the idea of having a person with Down’s in their family, Maddie Curtis is proud of her four brothers with the condition.
American Idol and shows like it are great at introducing us to people with great talent and interesting stories. But I imagine that many other people also found these three stories particularly touching, and these three talented people endearing. And I think it’s because these three people have close relationships with people whose lives are very different from the norm– people who, either from their very nature or from their current condition, have their “quality of life” questioned. There are people and places who would allow or even encourage the snuffing out of these lives simply because they involve pain, or won’t be able to take care of themselves, or can’t live up to “normal” standards. We already know that rates of Down’s in the US has fallen where statistically it should be more likely (given older motherhood)– I don’t think it’s a stretch to infer that has something to do with babies with Down’s being aborted.
And yet these three most likeable contestants all come from families where the “abnormal” was their normal. And that’s why all three were complimented not only on their voices, which, with training, are essentially received or not received, but also on the honesty of their performances. They’ve experienced, at a young age, life’s breadth, with includes difficult illnesses and disabilities and all the rest.
And all of this is a long-winded way of pointing out that without Jermain’s mom’s suffering, Katie’s grandmother’s slow deterioration, and Maddie’s brothers’ “abnormality” we don’t get the wonderful Jermains, Katies and Maddies whose compassion, honesty, and lack of self-absorption not only make for compelling television, but enrich our communities. Jermain’s mother, Katie’s grandmother, and Maddie’s brothers have been good, strong influences on these people, and they have been loved: that sounds like an excellent quality of life to me.
I don’t doubt that, while sinister influences are at work in some, many people who support abortion, euthanasia, and the rest of these “solutions,” do so out of a misguided compassion that thinks they’re keeping people from suffering. But death isn’t an answer to suffering or difficulty; it’s only an end to our interaction with those people. There are places where these individuals, in pain, deteriorating, or with a perceived low quality of life can be excised from the picture– and those places are poorer for it.
It’s not compassion or love or self-sacrifice that drives “mercy” killings which are anything but. And it won’t make us a more compassionate society. What it will do is leave us with a future made up entirely of people who met some imaginary, ridiculous, and completely arbitrary idea of what constitutes a life worth living; we will be a population of the most well-intentioned but least able to actually be compassionate executioners and survivors. That’s a quality of life we can do without. There’s a lot of talk about the value of diversity, but the diversity that’s truly dying out isn’t cultural or ethnic– it’s a diversity of experience which requires people to suborn their own interests for someone else.
I don’t know if I’ll be able to follow Idol from across the seas, but I can tell you I’ll be rooting for these three– they haven’t just got talent; they’ve got heart.
Watch videos of Maddie Curtis, Jermain Sellers, and Katie Stevens at the American Idol Featured Auditions page.