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Fallen Soldiers, Dead Gang Members, Mass Shootings: Who Cares?

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- I didn't grow up during the Vietnam War. I arrived on Earth shortly thereafter. But I assume, when soldiers came back in body bags, it was a big deal. Imagery from some of my favorite rock-n-roll icons -- Springsteen and Joel, for instance -- and a somewhat close inspection in college suggests Americans considered the human toll headline news.

Or maybe not. We had already fought several "good wars." Maybe, by Vietnam, we became desensitized to seeing men (and women) in uniform go down. That reflection on history is neither here nor there because, as it stands today, news of an American death in Afghanistan or Iraq is effectively an afterthought in print and on television.

Often, when a soldier dies, its not front and center on national news. Usually it appears in some weekly roundup that lists the name, hometown and rank of multiple people lost. If the death comes as part of some larger-scale attack, usually pulled off by a terrorist group, the media sometimes gives it preference. Occasionally, it's even the lead story.

When we invaded Iraq the first time, Afghanistan and Iraq the second time, I watched CBC's (Canadian Broadcasting Company) nightly newscast "The National" almost every evening. I remember remarking to my wife how Canadians made such a "big deal" on the relatively rare occasion they lost somebody in one of these conflicts. Then, on Saturday evening, during Hockey Night in Canada, Don Cherry would make emotional mention of the dead during Coach's Corner, a Canadian pop culture institution. He still does.

The phrase "big deal" might sound crass or disrespectful, but it's not. Please don't take it that way. It was the only way I could articulate the difference between the way we react to the war dead in the U.S. and other parts of the world.

Dead servicemen and women rank only slightly above dead gang members and other victims of America's epidemic of urban, inner-city mayhem.

Here in Los Angeles, the news rarely reports anything at all about the fallen in South LA unless a baby was caught in the crossfire or something else spectacular went down. Even growing up in Buffalo during the 1980s, the media used gang violence like a promotional gimmick, using a homicide count around the holidays to see if "we" could "beat" the previous year's tally.