Losing Sight Among Anna Nicole Mania

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Anna Nicole Smith died at the age of 39 on Thursday — as if you needed a reminder from me. We in the media went nuts that day, and the ratings show that most of the country did as well. The saturation coverage rivaled the death of a president.

I'm not saying I was above it all. I had an interest in Anna Nicole, especially when she was temporarily gorgeous in those Guess Jeans ads in the early 1990s. But the reaction Friday seemed a little over the top to me, even for someone like Anna Nicole Smith who had lots of what some people value more than anything in this country: fame. Doesn't matter how or why you're famous, just be famous.

In her case there was no particular accomplishment or talent, save for making a spectacle out of herself. Even those who loved her called her life a "train wreck," and it definitely was fascinating to watch the "Anna Nicole Express" come off the tracks. Like that time when she was 20 and working as a stripper in Texas, she met and married an 89-year-old billionaire and former Yale Law School professor. The professor's kids, of course, didn't like it when he left her all his money in his will, and the court battle kept us entertained. But that was about it. Her short-lived reality TV show was a bust. Beyond that all I ever saw her do was blow kisses to the cameras.

I'm sure she was a nice lady to those who knew and loved her, and I felt bad for her when her son died. But really, I have my own problems to worry about. And watching the coverage it was easy to forget something: that Anna Nicole Smith wasn't the only person who died last week.

According to the Department of Defense, 20 United States Marines, soldiers and sailors died in Iraq last week. Most of them much younger than Anna Nicole, who at 39 died way before her time.

Now in war, people die. We know that. The troops know that. But how many of us who don't have a personal relative or friend fighting over there can recall the name — just the name — of a U.S. service member killed in the war last week, or last month, or last year. I'm ashamed to say when I thought of this my mind drew a blank.

We all support the troops. Just sometimes, like on Anna Nicole Friday, it's hard to tell.

That's My Word.

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