This has been a tragic week.
If the events in Iran and with North Korea weren't enough to keep us mindful of the news, the rash of celebrity deaths escalated all week: Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett and then Michael Jackson. In the midst of all those stories, the stunning admission of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford that he had traveled to Argentina where he was having an affair.
I found myself wondering if maybe that as a culture we have dehumanized people in the spotlight so brutally that we forget that, behind the headlines, there are tragic human stories about people who really aren't that different from the rest of us.
In spite of Michael Jackson's unparalleled ability as a singer, choreographer and songwriter, he was still a human being like the rest of us. His often bizarre and strange behavior may have made many feel that he wasn't like us. But beneath the often outrageous behavior, could we not all see a child who never got to grow up in a normal way and longed to be the kid his career kept him from being? It matters to find out if there are others partly responsible for his death, but there are some things that none of us need to know or really have a right to know. It's simply none of our business.
There are benefits celebrities enjoy, especially the financial ones. But when we treat them as commodities and public property instead of as fellow human beings, we not only dishonor them, but we dishonor ourselves by revealing ourselves to be interested more in who we meet in person and not enough of how we treat each person.
We do more than dehumanize them; we dehumanize ourselves.
In the old days, people would take off their hats and bow their heads and say they wanted to "pay their respects." I still like that approach more than selling t-shirts and buttons. Every fellow human deserves respect; Michael Jackson included.
The simple rule would be one of the olden and in fact golden ones: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
That's my view, I welcome yours. E-mail your comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org