Flags flew at half-staff this week in California's state Capitol. No, not for Michael Jackson. For Private First Class Justin Casillas.
Pfc. Casillas died in a suicide bombing attack on his Army base in eastern Afghanistan on the Fourth of July. While Americans enjoyed fireworks and Hollyweird mourned the "king of pop" with wretched excess, the family of Pfc. Casillas learned that the 19-year-old paratrooper with the U.S. Army's Alaska-based 509th Airborne had given his life for his country. His father told the Woodland (Calif.) Daily Democrat that Justin just "wanted to do his part."
The family has a legacy of service: Casillas' grandfather served in the Pacific theater during World War II; his father served in Vietnam. But the death of Pfc. Casillas didn't make front-page headlines. His funeral won't receive wall-to-wall coverage on cable TV.
Instead, it's been all MJ, all night and day: Nurses! Nannies! Doctors! Drug raids! Custody battles! Casket rides!
Jacko fever spread to the Beltway, where the House of Representatives held a moment of silence for the entertainer. President Obama sent a highly publicized letter of condolence to the Jackson family. And topping them all, Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas, drafted a 1,600-word congressional resolution that "recognizes Michael Jackson as a global humanitarian and a noted leader in the fight against worldwide hunger and medical crises; and celebrates Michael Jackson as an accomplished contributor to the worlds of arts and entertainment, scientific advances in the treatment of HIV/AIDS, and global food security."
Jackson-Lee laundry-listed every charitable act and donation by Jackson in the House resolution -- and would have included all the times he said "thank you" and "God bless you" if there had been more room. Is it too much to ask our lawmakers to restrain themselves from acting like "Entertainment Tonight" spokesmodels and Tiger Beat correspondents?
I stand with GOP Rep. Peter King of New York, who rightly skewered these celebrity-worshiping warped priorities as "an orgy of glorification." Jackson could sing and dance. But he was no American hero. In a YouTube video over the weekend, King lambasted the media circus: