Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Absence of Michael

Isn’t there any celebrity out there who can do something really terrible so that we can spend the next months (years if we’re lucky) obsessing over it?I know that poor missing girl in the Bahamas is trying to help, but even if she’s found (alive I hope), my guess is she won’t have sustaining star power. Look how quickly Terri was pushed to the side. I give it to Russell Crowe for trying to save us, but despite apparently being able to throw accurate punches as Cinderella Man, he can’t seem to be as lethal with a telephone. He’s also apologized, ouch! Thousands of reporters were sent out to California to cover the, let’s see trial of the century has already been used, oh perhaps not in this century. Well any way, thousands went and we really shouldn’t be surprised. Frank Rich would ascribe it to the age of the mediathon (his coined term), and of course that’s exactly right. But I think there are two other things at play here. First, covering these celebrity extravaganzas is safe. I don’t know anyone who was blown up by a suicide bomber or fired upon covering Michel, Robert, Martha or OJ. Second, they are all in English, stupid. Neither we or the reporters involved have to deal with one of those quaint foreign languages.

I guess that’s why, relatively speaking, things like Darfour, pandemics in Africa and generally what’s happening out there in the world get virtually no media time. Given where we are these days, and most specifically where we are as a country, I truly wonder why things like the Jackson trial merit even a paragraph in print or a mention on broadcast. Sure what happens there is important to those involved, but it has absolutely no relevance to your life or mine. On the other hand, genocide (which is something families like mine know something about) and the spread of AIDS matter very much and at some point and time will catch up with our futures, a fact that apparently nobody wants to share with us. Speaking of sharing, do you think Dr. Frist will be sending any sort of apology to Michael Schiavo upon learning that his video diagnosis of Terri was established as totally inaccurate (if not absurd) by the autopsy results released today? Maybe he should also apologize to his colleagues, the neurologists who haven’t given up medicine for grandstanding faith-driven politics and actually examined her before sharing a real (and accurate) diagnosis with her loved ones.

The other night The News Hour, once again showed the photos and stats of another seventeen service personnel killed in Iraq. They do this in total silence and I always stop whatever multi-tasking may be at hand and pay total attention. It never ceases to move me, all those young faces. As it happens that number 17 had an aura of symmetry because on the same day the total lost of US forces hit 1700 more than half of them in the past twelve months (long after the mission was accomplished and "we got him") and a very large percentage of them since that election about which we congratulated ourselves. Things certainly haven’t gotten a better nor are they likely to do so. I just finished reading Reza Aslan’s excellent book on Islam, “No god but God”. What is clear is that followers of Muhammad have little patience for colonial powers, all of whom did them dirty over a couple of centuries. Perhaps we have short memories and can abide only instant gratification, but people who see their land as being invaded don’t and they won't stop fighting until they have recaptured it. You can talk about terrorists and outsiders all you want, but in the end, we’re facing people who simply want us to get out of their home and return to our own. And why shouldn’t we, it’s so much easier to report on things we know – Michael and where he goes from here, for one. Now that's a story worth knowing about!

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