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anne_mikolay_120According to an email circulating the internet, actor Denzel Washington and his family recently visited Brooks Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. BAMC treats soldiers, mostly burn victims, evacuated from Germany, and allows their families to stay at the Fisher Houses for only $10.00 a night. During his tour of the Medical Center, Denzel Washington allegedly inquired about the cost of building a Fisher House, and wrote a check for the entire amount needed right there and then.

Nice story, but only partially true.

The incident in question is hardly recent. Though Denzel Washington made a sizable donation to the Brooks Army Medical Center after his visit in December, 2004, he did not, as alleged, whip out his checkbook, and write a huge check for the entire amount required to build a Fisher House. The discrepancy in the story is not important. The fact that this good-will incident was not widely reported in the news back in 2004 poses a troubling question: exactly what do we consider newsworthy these days?

Trivial fluff reported in the news daily has somehow usurped more important issues. Michael Jackson's death, for example, dominated the late-night news shows for weeks afterward, as did Kanye West's recent public “dissing” of country singer Taylor Swift. What does our obsession with celebrity and materialism say about ourselves? What's wrong with an American public that is more interested in Dancing with the Stars or American Idol than President Obama's plans for the troops in Afghanistan?  Would the Brooks Army Medical Center incident have made the news if a more “trendy” celebrity, perhaps Beyonce, had visited? In large part, our value system has deteriorated such that we allow the paparazzi and celebrity gossip shows to determine what is newsworthy. Have we become that lazy, that dense?

Perhaps we are just tired...weary of our post 9/11 world, and thus understandably turn to trivial fluff for a much needed escape, sort of a mental R&R. And there's nothing wrong with that. But we must be mindful that these trivial things that so capture our attention do not truly matter, and have no bearing on our “real” lives. Whether or not celebrities like Beyonce, or Denzel Washington, are present, important events happen everyday. While we are enjoying our R&R, we must keep our eyes, and minds, open.

Fluff is a nice place to visit, but we shouldn't be living there.