Within a week we’ve seen the untimely deaths of two cultural icons, the sentencing of our most heinous Ponzi schemer and the reversal of the Ricci case concerning discrimination against white firemen in New Haven. The overwhelming hype over Michael Jackson is spearheaded by the two most famous race vultures in America - Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton - two unelected demagogues who never miss an opportunity to glom on to someone else’s celebrity and cheapen any cause they touch. In this case, they’ve chosen a talented, even trail-blazing performer who was a drug-addicted anorexic at his demise but in life, clearly suffered from numerous other mental problems including pedophilia, body dysmorphic disorder and compulsive spending that surpassed the stratospheric bounds of hundreds of millions of dollars in income. It is unimaginable that this confused person should be held up as a tribute to anything other than musical talent. Michael Jackson didn’t see himself as Black; he changed his skin color, his hair, his facial features and was the custodial father to white children who had no biological relation to him. Yet the reverends Sharpton and Jackson have insinuated themselves as pallbearers to some implied black martyrdom with presumed racial overtones.
The fomented frenzy over Michael Jackson has all but eclipsed the sad death of Farrah Fawcett, our eighties pinup who had the virtue of looking athletic, clean-cut and sexy all at once. Until she posed for Playboy at 50, she was a sex symbol who showed surprisingly little skin, who got by without breast implants, tattoos or body piercing and whose dazzling smile and windswept hair belonged to sunny days at the beach as opposed to torrid nights in the bedroom. In less than a generation, her type would morph into its most vulgar polarity in the person of Pamela Anderson, a synthetically modified Barbie doll accompanied by the de rigeur package of sexually explicit videotapes. Farrah Fawcett will be remembered as the last avatar of the American cheerleader, radiating the wholesome look of good health and congeniality, traits that were desirable without being slutty.
As for Bernie Madoff, his day in court made me wonder why a confessed swindler who has ruined countless lives, destroyed numerous charitable institutions and created havoc in families across the world deserved to be dressed like a proper gentleman to hear that he was sentenced to 150 years in jail. Wouldn’t a prison jumpsuit have been more appropriate? Why was he given one last chance to be dignified in public? His criminal behavior extended over decades, stimulated suicides, robbed his victims of their nest eggs or the simple luxury of having a roof over their heads, yet some protocol dictates that he should be dressed as a solid citizen before carting him off to incarceration. It’s equally not clear to me who decided that his wife was entitled to two and a half million dollars to live on - a sum that many Madoff victims would be thrilled to have in hand.
But finally, some proof that rationality has not been totally lost in American jurisprudence surfaced in the Supreme Court decision in the Ricci case. White firefighters who studied hard and passed the test for promotion only to see the city they give their lives for disallow their accomplishment because no black firemen passed the test, appealed all the way to our highest court and deservedly won their case. Though this will never get the media blitz that freaks and scoundrels generate, the case is a rare tribute to an America that often does reward persistence, integrity and a just cause. The Ricci case is further proof that common sense can overrule political correctness and the contrivances of racial engineering. Not since 9/11 have firemen taken center stage and it’s shocking to consider how few years passed before their heroism was discounted to suit arbitrary racial quotas and the conceit that reverse discrimination should be legitimated. Did anyone count whether an equal number of black and white firemen die in the line of duty? The answer to unequal test results is to help minorities prepare better before the test, not to punish the achievers after the fact. Ultimately, the hullabaloo over Jackson and Madoff will dissipate but the Ricci decision will have a far-reaching impact that should help restore merit and fairness as the standard bearers in American life. Perhaps it will help us to reflect again on our true heroes who work anonymously without the benefit of press agents, handlers, demagogues and corporate merchandisers but who are the bedrock of what is best in our national character.
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