Everybody loves a celebrity death, the national shared tragedy of a life, however messed up it might have been, cut short. What else could explain the Anna-fest playing out all over the tv? The cable news networks will tell you that there's a demand for this kind of public mourning, that our society craves it and that the ratings will prove it. But what if there were a concerted effort by our national media to turn that zeitgeist to another, daily tragedy, playing out in the lives of thousands of Americans every day?
They might consider talking to Eric Fair, a linguist recently returned to the U.S. from his job as a contract interrogator. I think he could tell a compelling story:
Despite my best efforts, I cannot ignore the mistakes I made at the interrogation facility in Fallujah. I failed to disobey a meritless order, I failed to protect a prisoner in my custody, and I failed to uphold the standards of human decency. Instead, I intimidated, degraded and humiliated a man who could not defend himself. I compromised my values. I will never forgive myself.
Or perhaps the story of journalist Michael Hastings, a young man who also just came home from Iraq, accompanied by the coffin of his fiancee, Andrea Parhamovich:
In Iraq since autumn, Parhamovich was hired by the nonprofit National Democratic Institute in Washington, D.C., to help Iraqi politicians communicate with their constituents. "Andi thought the invasion of Iraq was a mistake," Hastings pointed out, "and she was trying to fix the mistake...."
On Jan. 17, Parhamovich left a meeting in a dangerous neighborhood outside the relative safety of Baghdad's Green Zone. As many as 50 insurgents armed with machine guns and grenades attacked her convoy of three armored BMW sedans, Hastings said. Three security contractors accompanying her also were killed.
And finally, there's number 3,115. Jennifer Parcell was 20 years old. She joined her brother in Iraq, and was in a unit supporting operations in Al Anbar province when she was killed in action yesterday.
According to one report, she "always enjoyed the water, including boating and scuba diving. She also liked yoga and music and spending time with family and friends."
This is what her aunt says about this unique woman that America mourns tonight:
"If you knew her, you loved her. She was a go-getter. She knew what she wanted in life and she was doing what she had to do to achieve that."
There's plenty of grief to go around today.