The value of privacy

Rachel Chistyakov

Voices Editor

My mom’s passing was a very difficult time for me and my family to go through, and all I wanted was a bit of privacy from the Milken community and greater Jewish community. Although I appreciated all of the phone calls, emails and visits, it was something I preferred to go through by myself and, most importantly, I wanted to keep my private life private.

Within the first hours, I was hit with ten different rumors about her death, none of which were true. I asked my friends and classmates to give me some privacy during such a difficult time, but rumors still spread even when I was not at school. Even now, years after her death, I still encounter a rumor every now and then concerning my family. I thought that perhaps this was just how Milken worked; since we attend such a small school, gossiping is almost inevitable. Yes, it hurt my feelings to a great extent to know that rumors about my family life were running throughout Milken, but I thought that it would be better to keep my emotions in check and at least keep the truth for myself. People find things interesting and they gossip about them – it’s an inevitable cycle that even I could not escape.

But as I got older, I noticed this problem inflating. With every student or teacher that leaves Milken, dozens of rumors instantly spread around campus. Whenever a student or a faculty member experiences a death in their family, every student knows about it before the school day ends. It’s gotten to the point where if you hear about an expulsion even an hour after it has happened, you are already behind on the news.

It then extended to celebrity deaths in the media, and after the media frenzy concerning Whitney Houston’s death, I became fed up with the lack of privacy that occurs not only at Milken but throughout the world.

As I watched the coroner’s report concerning Houston’s death, I couldn’t help but to think, “Why am I watching this?” and, “Who needs to know this besides her immediate family?” Why does information concerning the types of drugs that were in her room and why she was in a bathtub concern the general public? Why can’t we be satisfied with simply paying homage to a great singer who had suddenly passed away? Why does her death need to make up her career and basically bring her back into the limelight?

As I considered this trend, I realized that many people that I look up to, including Marilyn Monroe, are mainly known for their controversial and mysterious deaths. The media is always hungry for more evidence concerning Monroe’s mystifying passing, digging for details in the most inappropriate places. Michael Jackson’s death was completely publicized, from the substances found in his apartment to the humiliating trial of his doctor. To make matters worse, many people only began to hear of Jackson and Houston’s songs after they passed away; the same applies to the late Amy Winehouse. Personally, many of my friends didn’t even know my mother’s name until she passed away.

Let me present another pop culture situation for the readers to mull over. Lindsay Lohan has always had a prominent role in the social media, whether it’s her ridiculous intake of drugs, her numerous visits to prison or her several house arrests. She’s a child star gone bad and we can’t help but to watch this train wreck spiral out of control. Many people state that Lohan should be “ignored” or “forgotten,” since her example is a bad one for teenagers who keep up with the news. The same was said about Winehouse before she passed away.

But what would happen if Lohan were to, God forbid, pass away tomorrow? Would the critics who said that she needed to be erased from the media’s scrutiny cheer over her death? Would we still see her as the “bad example” that she is now posing? Or would we see reruns of all of her famous movies being displayed on television? Would her albums, which were disasters when they were first released, suddenly reach the top of the music charts? Would the gossip magazines suddenly turn sympathetic to the pop star whose life had to end so early? This situation parallels the aforementioned celebrity deaths; Houston, Jackson, Winehouse, even Monroe were seen as stars who were going down the wrong path in life. Suddenly, when they were no longer here to scorn, we began to appreciate them more than ever before.

My question is, why couldn’t we show them this love and support when they were still alive?

Perhaps we, as Milken students, should first begin by looking at our own behavior. When a student is sent to the office or is asked to have a meeting with the head of school, privacy should be the best policy: Instead of circulating ten different rumors around campus as to the means of their meeting, we should let things play out for the student – who knows, they might just be having a nice chat with Mr. Ablin.

The most popular source of rumors has been the event of a teacher leaving Milken; this sort of event causes a great stir on campus that seems to never fade out. Whenever this topic comes back up, I can’t help but ask: Why does this matter? If a teacher, especially a very popular and well-liked one, leaves campus, we should feel remorseful but eventually move on. Going back to unproven rumors and creating more buzz benefits no one and it only keeps us plastered in the past. Friends, teachers and faculty come and go – the important thing to do is to appreciate the lessons they have given us and to move forward into a brighter future.

Words hurt. Gossip hurts. I know this personally, along with the majority of students in high school. Therefore, I believe that at Milken, as well as in the greater community, we need to start decreasing the amount of Lashon Harah that occurs. As we have learned in our Jewish studies classes, Lashon Harah creates no progress. We must learn to appreciate what we have now for what it is worth, whether it’s a teacher or a pop star, because they will soon be gone. Ruminating on the past and keeping ambiguous rumors alive is unnecessary and hurtful to the community. Appreciate your teachers and your friends now, while they’re still here for you at Milken, and continue that appreciation even when you are no longer with them. At Milken, our community is all that we have; let’s not jeopardize the strong connections we have through Lashon Harah.