Tragedy a sad commentary on society

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 10, 2007

Anna Nicole Smith first entered popular culture as the hot model of Guess Jeans. Then she bared all for Playboy to become a permanent fixture of the entertainment industry.

She found fame &8212; or infamy &8212; through her public battle with obesity. Then her wild lifestyle &8212; complete with drug-induced, alcohol-enhanced fits &8212; became the voyeuristic offerings of a reality television program.

Whether she was marrying an elderly billionaire, fighting her in-laws as a widow or doing battle for custody of her children &8212; Smith&8217;s life was lived in the public eye and smothered (or covered) by the national media.

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Her death two days ago of mysterious causes has now captured the national attention. Newspapers splashed her face and story across their front pages while television news stations have played clips of her public life over and over and over.

Truly, her death is a tragedy. She leaves behind an infant child who will grow up without a biological mother. And much of Smith&8217;s life was a tragedy, as well. But we as a society fed off of it. We watched it like a slow-motion train wreck that mangled all in its path.

What kind of commentary is it that the death of a former nude model whose popular reality show featured her most drug-induced years is the top news of the day? It is almost as sad a commentary as her television show being so popular.

We are a society who has lost its identity. We are voyeurs who now no longer have to be busybodies to keep up on the gossip. We can merely turn on the television and see the garbage first hand.

And we cannot blame the television production companies. They would not produce such filth if society did not demand it, pay for it and make it so wildly profitable.

As for Smith&8217;s death, it is impossible to separate her public persona from the tragic loss of a woman whose life was both tragic and triumphant. And so long as Nancy Grace, Larry King and E! Entertainment News exist, the Anna Nicole Smith&8217;s of the world will continue to get more in-depth press than the Brian Browning&8217;s of the world.

Pfc. Browning died in Iraq this week. He was from Astoria, Ore. He was 20 years old. His parents are Paula and Perry Browning. He is one of 3,100 U.S. military men and women who have died since the Iraq war began.

May God bless his loved ones and the loved ones of troops we have lost and of those troops still fighting. And may God bless the loved ones of Smith as well.