Weekly Wire
Memphis Flyer The Passing of a Princess

SEPTEMBER 8, 1997:  In the wake of ex-Princess Di's untimely death last weekend came unseemly cries of Kill-the-Messenger, attempts -- even on the part of some TV talking heads who should have known better -- to blame the tragic automobile crash in Paris on the media, on the notorious "paparazzi" photographers who stalk famous frames and faces both at home and abroad these days and who were, in the first wave of news reports, said to have been hunting down Di and her male companion after the celebrity pair had departed the hotel where they had dined.

We now learn that the substitute chauffeur who drove Diana and Dodi Fayed to their doom in a cramped Parisian tunnel was at least six sheets to the wind (with several times the amount of alcohol in his blood system necessary to declare him legally drunk) and recklessly cavalier to boot. "Catch us if you can," he is alleged to have said by way of chiding the panting paparazzi before zooming away at some 120 miles an hour.

The media were not the culprit, in other words. But that is not our point. Even if the photographers' chase of their quarry had been extreme and even if Diana and her escort had merely been trying to tiptoe away in peace, the chorus of blame would still have been misapplied.

The fact is that Princess Di had willingly -- indeed, willfully -- chosen a way of life for herself that guaranteed a maximum of exposure. And -- to say the least -- she has not exactly betrayed an unwillingness to be noticed. (Why else, to be blunt, would she have married that surly Prince of Wales in the first place?)

More to the point is that it is still legal, in places like France and the United States, for people to take pictures of other people -- especially people who, like Di, base their identities in large part on their recognizability and on their relationship with society as a whole. There is no right to privacy in public places, as one commentator aptly put it.

We, too, mourn Diana. But part of her charm for us -- and the reason that she became the all-time magazine cover-pic champion -- was her disdain for fugitive and cloistered ways and her free and unashamed love of the limelight. She lived virtually every minute of her life for the public which adored her, and the much-maligned photographers who followed her were merely servants of a sort, fulfilling her needs quite as much as our own.

Needed: a Remedy for a Remedy

Whether TennCare Partners, the state's controversial attempt at privatizing mental health care, will save either money or face remains to be seen. The social cost of the health-care experiment has been grave, however. Under TennCare Partners, mental health workers have lost their jobs and mental patients have lost coverage. The fact that many of the latter end up in jail should be no surprise to anyone. Without medication and treatment, an otherwise harmless mental patient can turn into a malingerer, a disturbance to the peace, even a petty criminal.

Although advocates have been fighting to keep mentally ill people out of the jail for years, officials have long denied the severity of the problem. Finally, in the eleventh hour, the county has committed itself to finding a solution. It's about time. Now when is the state going to wake upand fix TennCare Partners?

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