Thursday, May 29, 2008

Lessons from WWI and the R. Kelly trial

On Memorial Day 107-year old Frank Woodruff Buckles was honored for being America's last living World War I veteran. It wasn't until recently the folks who keep track of such things were even aware of Buckles. This may be because, as some historians argue, WWI has always been a war Americans would like to pretend never happened.

One of the theories as to why the US has had -- from right after the doughboys returned home -- this collective amnesia concerning the Great War is that WWI was so brutal and horrible (and lacking in a clear cut narrative) it was uncomfortable to talk about. The war was one of attrition, fought predominantly in trenches. Meaning the overwhelming majority of front line soldiers either died or were seriously injured. Trench death tended to come slowly and painfully, courtesy of poison gas or disease.

With sincere apologies to Mr. Buckles and all of his dead comrades, this brings me to the R. Kelly trial.

Having sold over 33 million albums, R. Kelly is the 25th best selling solo artist of all-time. Yet his criminal trial, currently taking place in Chicago, is so far getting a tiny fraction of the attention the trials of fellow music heavyweights Michael Jackson and Phil Spector received.

Kelly's trial even centers around a videotaped threesome -- the kind of thing news consumers typically enjoy. What makes this particular threesome so unique and felonious is that one participants in the fun was a 14-year old girl and Kelly pees on her.

A disturbing detail which is likely preventing the R. Kelly trial from getting the kind of coverage precedent says it deserves.

Americans may like their gore and sex, but there are limits. And apparently slow death from gangrene and treating a minor as a toilet fall beyond them.

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