If you can, think back to a year ago this week. Michael Jackson died on June 25th. He was 50 years old. On the same day, Farrah Fawcett died after a courageous fight against cancer. Earlier in the week, Ed McMahon died at age 86.
While the families of Ed and Farrah were no doubt grieving terribly over their losses, apparently the entire world – if not the universe – was mourning the death of Michael Jackson. Broadcasts were pre-empted on the 25th to cover his death. My home page was filled with articles about him. The television showed “fans” all over the world wailing and gnashing their teeth over his death. In the weeks following, we were subjected to minute-by-minute updates regarding his death, his lifestyle, his children, his autopsy, his family, his funeral, his burial, and on and on and on. Even last week, it was reported that a settlement has been reached as to who will pay for his memorial service!
A year later, I still don’t understand the mass hysteria which surrounded his death. The man lived a bizarre lifestyle resulting in numerous questions about his financial excesses, his mismatched marriages, the paternity of his children, the Neverland Ranch, as well as the disturbing charges of child molestation. Aside from all that, in my opinion, Michael Jackson was so disturbed and full of self-loathing that he spent his later years trying to transform himself, through plastic surgery, into someone unrecognizable from his original self and was so plagued by demons that he could only sleep if he was anesthetized which, ultimately, caused his death.
During that same week last year, Dr. Jerry Nielsen, age 57, died after her continuing battle with cancer. Again, how many people remember this remarkable woman’s story? In 1999, she was stationed in Antarctica with a 41-person research group, and discovered a lump in her breast. With the help of her non-medical crew, who practiced using needles on a raw chicken, the lump was biopsied and then by herself administered chemotherapy which was flown in for her. Other than a brief clip on CNN, I saw nothing else on my home page regarding this brave woman’s passing. How many people outside of her family and friends were mourning for this woman? How many people even knew of her passing?
In the week prior to Michael Jackson’s death, countless of people died in the streets of Iran in protest over a bogus election and for freedom. Just this past Sunday, marked the anniversary of the death of 26-year old Neda Agha Soltan, a beautiful young woman, who was shot in the streets of Tehran and who we watched die before our very eyes on video. She never sold a record in her life, she may or may not have been a great dancer, she never starred in a movie, and up until her untimely death, she probably didn’t do anything to capture the attention of anyone outside of her circle of friends and family. Yet, how many of us actually watched this innocent beautiful young person – who I’d bet never hurt a child in her entire life – die before our eyes because all she wanted was something we all have in this country – freedom. How many wept for this young woman? How many of us have thanked God for being born in our great country, a place where so many of us take freedom for granted. I was happy to see that Neda’s story has not been forgotten and that HBO will be presenting a documentary on this remarkable young woman’s life and death this summer.
I don’t get why so much emphasis is placed on the lives and deaths of celebrities. I do hope we’re not subjected to another media frenzy surrounding Michael Jackson’s death this week. I’ll continue to honor and mourn the loss of those people who die fighting the good fight against cancer and tyranny. I’ll continue to mourn for those brave men and women of our Armed Forces who have volunteered to fight and who have died keeping us safe here at home. Those people deserve our respect, admiration and grief. The Michael Jacksons of the world do not.
On a lighter note, every cloud does have a silver lining. Amidst all the hoopla surrounding Michael Jackson’s death last year, there was one bright spot during that week: we weren’t subjected to pictures of Kate and Jon Gosselin on every magazine cover. Unfortunately, that reprieve was short lived.
And if you get it, God bless you.