The glut of network news coverage came to it's crescendo yesterday as Michael Jackson's public memorial service was held before a live audience of 20,000 adoring fans in Los Angeles' Staples Center. Millions watched live all over America, and the world, as the departed star was glorified by one celebrity after another. Every news cast we have heard over the past week or so, has led off with the story of the King of Pop's passing.
During the same time period at least 20 American servicemen have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Young men. Cut down in their prime. Sacrificially serving their country. Dying on a foreign field, half a world away from their 20 devastated families.
Where is the news media?
Where are the platitude spouting celebrities?
Where are the adoring masses?
Where is the hero worship?
Was Michael Jackson a great entertainer? Certainly. We watched him grow from that cherubic little 10 year old, fronting the Jackson 5, to the megastar of the 80's. We also watched his grotesque transformation through numerous plastic surgeries, skin bleaching, curious marriages, strange behavior, Sgt. Pepper outfits, and child molestation accusations. The cause of his death at age 50, while still not announced, may well be connected to the plethora of powerful pharmaceuticals found in his home.
In life - and death, Michael Jackson was a tragic figure. In our culture of celebrity he had become a superstar. Therefore his death was newsworthy. But was it worthy of the obscene glorification he has received at the hands of the news media? Was it any more newsworthy than the heroic sacrifices made by the twenty service men who have perished since the time of MJ's death?
I think not.
What is wrong with us as a society when a man like Michael Jackson is nearly deified by the media coverage of his death, while the bodies of true American heroes quietly come home from God forsaken places in simple, flag draped coffins with no news coverage and no public outpouring of grief?
Michael Jackson seemed to live for self. These men lived for others.
He lived in opulent splendor. These men lived in tents and spartan barracks.
He dined sumptuously and drank "Jesus Juice" on his Neverland Ranch. They ate MRE's and drank bottled water in hostile climates.
MJ was serving himself. They were serving their country. They were in harm's way because they had answered the call of their nation. Whether or not you personally approve of the war going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, these men were there serving us. Fighting for freedom. Battling terrorism and trying to provide security for folks who may (or may not) appreciate their service.
Michael Jackson brought other people's children into his bed. These dead servicemen brought protection to the children of other cultures, while their own children were so very far away in their fatherless homes.
Michael Jackson moonwalked across gaudily lighted stages before thousands of adoring fans. These men walked miles of dusty roads in combat boots, watching for snipers, suicide bombers, and hidden IED's.
Michael Jackson's family stood in sunglasses in the spotlight of the Staples Center. The families of these dead heroes, stood by open graves in cemeteries all over the country, with no media coverage - no blubbering celebrities - no adoring fans. Only family, friends, and community support were there for these families.
What is wrong with this picture?
When will we ever learn who are the real heroes and role models?