Society seems to mourn wrong losses

Published 9:59 am Tuesday, July 14, 2009

On Thursday, June 25, Dave McGuire passed away at Jo Lin Health Center.

The 71-year-old writer and editor for The Herald-Dispatch left behind a legacy to not only his family, but those whose lives his writings touched.

On the same day, 24-year-old Army Lt. Brian Bradshaw was killed in an explosion in Afghanistan. The Steilacoom, Wash., native, a former youth counselor, had hopes of helping people in other countries while in the military.

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Also on June 25, the members of God’s Holiness Mission Church in Ironton were reflecting on the loss of a leader who had gone to meet the Lord one day earlier. Pastor Kermit C. Webb passed away at the tender age of 55.

But on June 25, nobody outside of their immediate families were thinking of the above-mentioned people or the thousands of difference-makers whose lives on Earth expired that day.


In case you’ve pulled a Rip Van Winkle the past three weeks, that’s the day Michael Jackson died.

Oh, and this might blow your mind, but so did Farrah Fawcett. If you’ve been watching the news and still haven’t heard about the passing of the former Charlie’s Angel and pin-up model, you probably aren’t alone.

Two days later, I was searching the Internet for news about North Korea and its “I’m a third grader with a really big bottle rocket” mentality. The top seven (seven!) stories on the CNN Website were about … aw, go ahead and guess. I’ll give you a hint: He bleached his skin, wore one glove, had a plastic surgeon on speed dial and wore a mask in public.

That’s when it dawned on me that, come next election, Jerry Springer should run for president.

Real news, events that alter our lives in intangible but nevertheless drastic ways, doesn’t really affect our mentalities at all.

We need mindless entertainment and we’ll give all of our support to those who provide it.

Is this who we are? Does a reportedly drugged-up narcissist who happens to be able to dance really define our lives to the point that a nuclear threat becomes insignificant news?

Do we give that much more respect to an entertainer than to, say, Brian Bradshaw, who died defending his country?

And in what ways did Michael Jackson earn such respect? Were we drawn to him because of the positive impact he made on our lives; or because he was so weird, like a wreck on the highway you can’t help but slow down to check out?

Not weird at all were Dave McGuire, Brian Bradshaw and Kermit Webb. They weren’t entertainers. They were real people who made a real difference in other people’s lives.

But if you hadn’t read this article, you wouldn’t be thinking about them at all, would you?

By the way, John Mullins, Jr., a West Portsmouth native, also died on June 25. His obituary listed him as a retired Norfolk Southern Railway worker.

In his lifetime, he might have made a huge difference to somebody else.

But we’ll never know.

All we know for sure is that he didn’t sing “Billie Jean.”

Billy Bruce is a freelance writer who lives in Pedro. He can be contacted at or by visiting his website,