Darrell Huckaby - 07/12/09

Americans are a curious folk. We are completely in charge of our own government, according to the Constitution, but most of us pay very little attention to what are elected officials are doing.

Millions of us become obsessed with which low-life will be booted out of a communal home or which would-be survivor will be voted off the island and when it gets down to the nitty-gritty on "American Idol," Katie-bar-the-door and don't you dare touch that dial!

A lot of really serious stuff has been going on in the world for the past couple of weeks. The Congress of the United States - that same fun-loving group of men and women who passed a gazillion-dollar stimulus bill without even taking time to read it last winter, is now debating a cap-and-trade bill that has such serious ramifications that I can't begin to list all the potential pratfalls in this space - and probably less than 1 percent of Americans have any idea what cap-and-trade even means. Maybe less than 1/10th of 1 percent.

The deranged midget - no offense to midgets (or deranged people) - who is in charge of North Korea is still tweaking our nation's proverbial nose at every opportunity. His latest threat is to fire a missile toward Hawaii, just to prove he can - although he probably can't. His record with missiles, so far, is not too stellar, but still.

The nut-job in charge of Iran is still trying his best to join the nuclear club and Israel is getting closer and closer to doing something to end his quest prematurely - and if they do, who knows what will happen in the volatile Middle East?

Here at home the economy is still dragging with unemployment rates inching toward 10 percent. And in Georgia, the state is celebrating "improvements" in our CRCT scores, even though almost one-third of eighth-graders statewide failed to reach minimum levels of competency in math, science, and social studies. A third, y'all. Minimum levels of competency.

And, we are number three in the nation when it comes to raising obese children.

Oh, yeah. And war continues to rage in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So what have "we the people" been focusing on for the past two weeks?

Michael Jackson killed himself with illegal prescription drugs.

A huge percentage of us don't know or care what is going on the halls of government or in our schools or in our military - or in our children's digestive systems - but we have time to sit in front of the television for hours and hours and hours, taking in every word uttered and every inch of footage broadcast about a 50-year-old entertainer who could not handle his own fame and fortune; a man who was estranged from his own family and could not face the world without benefit of all manner of pharmaceuticals, both prescribed and not-prescribed - and I won't even mention his other problems.

Thirty-one million of us watched his funeral, which cost the city of Los Angeles millions of dollars, primarily because they had to prepare to deal with the mobs of people who never materialized. Certain people are demanding that Michael Jackson be immortalized immediately by having a postage stamp issued in his honor and a Congresswoman has caused a stir by introducing a resolution honoring him for being a great humanitarian.

Give me a break!

I saw Michael Jackson perform in the Charlotte Coliseum in December of 1970. I was in the Queen City as a member of the UGA basketball team - I was a manager; the SEC hasn't changed THAT much. We were participating in the Charlotte Invitational Tournament. One of the perks was tickets to the Jackson Five concert that was being held the night before the tourney began.

Michael, who was 12 at the time, was easily the star of the show. There is no doubt that he was tremendously talented and he would eventually use those talents to entertain millions - and with his moon walk and robotic dancing and the like he would revolutionize popular music, to a degree. And I get that he had a lot of fans who grew up with his music.

But I do get the lionization of Michael Jackson that came with his sudden and unexpected death and I don't get the media infatuation with all things Michael. Enough already!

On June 25, the day Michael Jackson died, 1st Lt. Brian Bradshaw was killed in Iraq. He was 24 years old. He died when a makeshift bomb exploded next to his Humvee. On that same day, Spec. Joshua Hazlewood died in Iraq. He was 22. Since that day, while so many of us have been mourning Michael Jackson's passing, at least six other American soldiers have laid their lives at the altar of freedom. Not a single one of them ever stood trial for child molestation. How much attention have they received?

Yes, we Americans are a curious folk. And don't get me wrong. I realize that we are free to pursue happiness in any way we so choose, and if that pursuit of happiness means fawning over a fallen pop idol, so be it.

I just hope that somewhere along the line we'll take time to remember those who have paid for our right to do so.