To the point week of 7-9-09

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LIKE MOST OF THE REST of the world, I’ve been overloaded with coverage of Michael Jackson’s death and memorial services over the past couple of weeks.

Being just a few years younger than Michael Jackson; I’ve also “grown up” with him, in a sense. The Michael Jackson that millions mourn today is not the Michael Jackson whom I remember.

The Michael Jackson that I remember was the lead singer of the Jackson Five. He sang hits like “ABC” and “Oh Baby, Give Me One More Chance” and “Going Back to Indiana”.

He even made a hit out of singing about a rat. In fact, “Ben” was one of his biggest hits.

As for me, there will never be a bigger Michael Jackson song than “Rockin’ Robin”.

But that Michael Jackson isn’t here anymore. He left long before the news spread of the “King of Pop’s” untimely death.

He left long before the plastic surgeries and the pet chimp and the sequin glove and the house with the Ferris Wheel in the front yard.

I have mourned the loss of Michael Jackson for many years; although he remained active in the music business, to me the entertainer that I listened to has been gone for sometime.

My mother was a big Elvis Presley fan. She had all of his records and she still speaks of going to one of his concerts.

Her Elvis was young and vibrant and the star of stage and screen.

My Elvis was a big, fat, drug addict who was more the focus of pity than adulation.

But my mom always loved him right up until the day he died.

I guess I know how she feels, now.

When a person like Elvis or Michael Jackson passes away, I think what really hurts is that each of us sees a part of ourselves passing, too.

It’s something that we can’t get back. For some strange reason, as long as Michael Jackson was still releasing records, I was still partly that kid who listened to him and his brothers.

Now the past couple of weeks has been overhyped beyond anything that we’ve ever seen; and for those who watched the “funeral” (I didn’t, but my daughters have it DVR’d) it’s hard to imagine a situation where the choreography of the Grammy Awards choreographs your funeral.

What I have seen are images that race through time. Back to a time when things were much simpler, and Michael had a real nose and normal hair.

There have been reports that millions of people all over the world stopped to pay their respects and to mourn with the family and the nation; and one has to ask – was he really THAT big a deal?

In 1999 I traveled to Europe and spent time in the Czech Republic, formerly Czechoslovakia.

In the capital city of Prague, up on the hillside was a huge metronome, which counted down the time until the city would pause for a huge celebration.

The guide on our trip told us that during the time that Czechoslovakia was under communist rule, there was a huge statue of Joseph Stalin at that site.

When communism fell, the people of Prague celebrated by pulling over that statue of Stalin. They wanted something else in its place.

They wanted a new statue that represented freedom and a new beginning for their city and their country; so they erected a new statue on the site as a tribute to someone who embodied all that they dreamed of.

Michael Jackson.

Seems funny, doesn’t it? That a kid from Gary, Indiana (did you know that there was once a movement to have Michael Jackson’s face on Indiana license plates?) could impact people all over the world and bring entire countries to a standstill with his passing.

It was also funny that the city of Los Angeles has set up a website and is asking people to contribute toward the cost of the security and other things that the city had to pay for as part of the funeral service.

What’s even more thought provoking are the words of Martha Gillis in a letter to “The Washington Post”.

She wrote out of the pain of loss. Out of her deep mourning at the loss of someone whom she loved deeply and wholly.

But she didn’t write about Michael Jackson.

She wrote about 1st Lieutenant Brian Bradshaw of Washington – her nephew.

It seems that on the same day that Michael Jackson died; Brian Bradshaw also died.

He died when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle while he was serving with U.S. forces in Kheyl, Afghanistan.

Since June 25th, the day of Brian’s death, 13 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan. Martha Gillis wants to know why those soldiers aren’t being hailed on television stations and in newspapers as the national heroes that they are.

Why has Brian Bradshaw’s death at 24 years of age gone virtually unnoticed?

At some point the media coverage surrounding Michael Jackson’s death will cease; and all of us will move on to the next story and the next tragedy.

But as we do let’s always keep in mind that we have heroes falling all around us for noble causes and commitment to duty, honor, and country.

As we mourn Michael Jackson; let us never forget Brian Bradshaw.