Standpoint – 06.30.09 – Why Some Death Is More Important Than Others.

Depending on if you trust the source or not, since Iran’s “election” the death toll is around 19. (It’s most likely higher.) This month, 11 US soldiers have died while serving in Iraq, 38 have died in Afghanistan. That’s a total of 68 people.

68 people were killed, fighting for notions they believed in. It’s altogether possible you couldn’t care less about election fraud half a world away, or you’re staunchly opposed to the idea of our troops occupying the Middle East in the first place. But 68 people were killed, fighting for notions they believed in.

I’d wager less than 5% of you knew that statistic before reading this. Truthfully, until a minute ago, neither did I.

And why is that?

As likely as not, we’re unconcerned about those 68 people because exactly none of them recorded a #1 hit song, or energetically pitched cleaning products. Sadly, we’re uninterested in them because neither of them were Michael Jackson or Billy Mays.

Unless you’ve been asleep with your headphones on under a lead blanket in a remote cave for some time, you already know that both Jackson and Mays passed away in the past week, three days apart. Both mysteriously and suddenly died at the age of 50. Both were icons in their own right. And, predictably, their respective untimely demises are all anyone wants to talk about.

Michael Jackson was the most successful recording artist in the history of music. He was the King of Pop. Also, it’s most likely he was a pedophile. In recent years, he’d become a walking punchline due to (a) a series of unsuccessful comeback attempts, (b) numerous accusations of child molestation, and (c) multiple plastic surgery procedures that transformed him into the world’s oddest looking human being. Realistically, Jackson hadn’t done anything of merit musically in about 20 years. But, right now, nobody seems overly concerned about details. Most people are more moved to share their “first-time-I-heard-‘Thriller'” moments. No one wants those memories diminished by the idea that something from their past, something so cherished and poignant in their recollections, was created by a mentally unbalanced man who may or may not demonstrated an unhealthy sexual desire for young boys. No one cares he might’ve ruined dozens of kids lives. Instead of facing that truth, we’ve decided to get into our time machines (via our televisions, computers and iPods) and go back to a time where Jacko actually mattered. As tends to be the case when a washed-up musician dies, nothing matters but the hits.

Billy Mays was a professional pitchman and, admittedly, an outstanding one. In the arena of pushing household cleaning products, the man was without equal. But most people would probably agree that if, instead of yelling about OxiClean on your TV set, Mays was a guy at a party, yapping with the same intensity about…well, anything at all, everyone present would be counting down the seconds until it was time for his boisterous ass to leave. But as long as he was boasting about some cleverly-named cleaning solvent’s ability to rectify some highly implausible stain scnerio, while on the screen of a device we could turn off at any time, Mays was seen as a lovable bear of a man with nothing but thoughtfully loud advice on your domestic uncleanliness problem.

In the scheme of our day-to-day lives, both Jackson and Mays were irrevelant. We’d be hard-pressed to find anyone, outside of both men’s families and close friends, who could offer one legitimate way life has drastically changed since Jackson and Mays respectively stopped drawing breath.

Jackson wasn’t going to make another “Billie Jean.” Of the two, Mays had a better shot at recording a hit song.

We don’t care that 68 people were killed, fighting for notions they believed in. Notions like human rights and civil government.

We do care that two men died suddenly. Men whose existence was based primarily on pushing a product they needed us to believe in.

And it sucks but it worked.

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