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The religion of celebrity

The conflict of our time is that the human brain is unable to keep up — not with technology or a "do or die" world, but with the need to reinvent a new religion for consumers. Not to worry: There is always celebrity, starring Michael Jackson.

They couldn't tell if he was dead under all the mummy wrap and attached sunglasses, but they sold tickets to his funeral. Meanwhile the media, fueled by making a buck instead of informing us of world events, continues to wheel and deal across Jackson's grave. Where is the peace he's earned?

Al Sharpton said that Jackson was a great black role model, even though he looked like a woman and hired whites to make his children. With all the magnificent beauty and splendor of blacks as the most "with it" people, especially in our time, their representative is a black man bleached white who was unscrupulous in business?

Aside from PBS and the BBC, the world is about Jackson's death. It no longer matters if Jackson paid off $20 million as an accused pedophile and went to trial for it again. His daughter made such a moving speech at the memorial — he is forgiven.

We've invented a new slavery by offering ourselves up as losers to the altar of celebrity. We are always diminished in this religion because we can never be thin, rich and famous enough. In idolizing a product we are slaves to productivity.

Humanity still glorifies in the quick-fix opiate of fame rather than recognizing and supporting great talent as something that elevates, inspires and illuminates us all. Instead we insist that God's gifted are themselves gods.

Canonizing celebrities exacts a terrible price on the object of adulation. However Jackson died, he probably couldn't take it anymore. And though our demi-gods are two people, the gifted and the human, having great ability at something never justifies committing crimes against others, especially children.

The world of fame worship has a double standard: Celebrities can get away with murder or pedophilia if their attorney is good enough. Those same fans are the first to take pleasure in their idol's fall.

We thrive on celebrity dramas no matter who the victim is — even ourselves. We are the first people to have the opportunity to take humanity another step, but instead we worship on Entertainment Tonight. We thrive on beliefs that dehumanize us.

We may not have famine, Nazis at our door or have to haul rocks all day for a bowl of rice, but we're still in bondage by choice. We fear personal freedom. We'd rather get high on devotion, glorification and reverence, and we will follow anyone that shines.

The religion of celebrity is the outcome of a money-mad society. We want an absolute authority over our lives. Once we had kings, then dictators. Now celebrity takes our will and money. Meanwhile the real icon, President Barack Obama, cannot change the world without us.

Leah Ireland is a writer living in Ashland.