In case you haven’t heard the really big news: Anna Nicole Smith died on February 8, 2007.
Of course you probably have heard all about it. A quick Google news search of her name and the word “died” indicate over 3,000 hits at this time, 8 p.m. Eastern, Feb. 9.
In other news, 33 Americans were killed in Iraq, 50 wounded as of this month. It’s not possible to find numbers of Iraqi dead in the first 8 days of February, but a quick news review indicates at least 50 reported deaths just yesterday alone. No one seems to collect information on Iraqi wounded.
There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with a passion for celebrity news, but I do worry when we’ve reached the point when the death of a someone like Ms. Smith is front page excitement while the number of US dead and injured in Iraq is, well, let’s say, not front page. I don’t think people are small-minded. But I get afraid that thinking about numbers of dead and wounded becomes so difficult to face on a daily basis that we build up psychic scare tissue, we let the numbers pass before ours eyes like a partial score of a game that’s gone on too long in a sport we never cared for anyway. But if we don’t pay attention nothing will change for the better.
In 2004, during the worst of the siege of Fallujah, someone asked Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmit about the images of death appearing daily on Iraqi TV. He replied: “My advice is to change the channel.” Cynical, inhumane, a disappointment for those of us who believe our military leadership requires ethics; nonetheless, his statement is based on a bitter truth about people, and bread, and circuses.
I’m guilty, I admit it. So I’m going to try to be aware of people behind the numbers, and think about the men and women lost or grievously injured, and about the futility of those losses and my place in all this. And only then will I turn the page, click the link or change the channel. As T.S. Eliot pointed out, “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.”
Anna Nicole Smith is dead. I wonder if Paris will be at the funeral.