Casey Anthony is expected to get out of jail this weekend.
If so, the news will once again energize the cult of Casey.
These are the people whose prime source of entertainment for the past three years has been the death of a 2-year-old girl.
Caylee's death did wonders for Nancy Grace's ratings. But it's the legions of Americans who provide those ratings I find most troubling.
They voraciously consume everything about the case. They busy themselves writing missives on Facebook. Some even took their summer vacation at the Orange County Courthouse.
Just imagine if America had channeled its energy into something productive … something more than trage-tainment.
Three years ago, when this case first started, I suggested readers do just that — that they volunteer, for example, with one of the many nonprofits that helps toddlers who aren't dead.
I suggested if they want to yell and scream, they should do so on behalf of the millions of neglected children who lack a voice.
Prosecutor Jeff Ashton suggested the same thing last week when he saw the rage building after the verdict.
"Everybody needs to turn the energy that they have into something positive," Ashton said on CNN. "If you want to do something to honor Caylee, then do something to help other children."
I wonder how many will.
Making a difference, after all, takes more work. And while it can be fulfilling, it's usually less titillating.
You may remember that interest in the Anthony case took off after the media got hold of pictures showing Casey drunk, dancing in a tight dress and partying with her cleavage exposed.
Nancy Grace couldn't show the pictures enough, her on-screen headlines screaming: "MORE NEW PICS OF TOT MOM ALLEGED SEXY PARTYING!"
The public ate it up. By the time the case went to trial, the American media was all Casey all the time. That most certainly included my newspaper, which set records with the millions of new visitors at OrlandoSentinel.com during the trial.
One can only imagine what would happen if the same kind of media resources and manpower were ever focused on all the problems and crises affecting the children who are still alive.
We live in a state infamous for short-changing children. We have one of the highest child-abuse rates in the country. We have more uninsured children than 48 other states. Our graduation rates lag.
But stories about such things don't make ratings spike. Because you don't watch them.
Sure, I know the Anthony case was compelling. I get that.
But so is the plight of so many children living in our own backyard — kids who have been beaten by their parents, left to rummage for food from trash cans and found living in sheds.
We've written stories about all of those things. How many of those did you share with all your Facebook friends?
Want to redirect some of your Casey energy?
•If children are your concern, think about helping one of the many great nonprofits that protect and even shelter at-risk children. There are dozens, ranging from Harbor House of Central Florida (harborhousefl.com) to the Children's Home Society of Florida (chsfl.org). The last time I visited the Children's Home Society's crisis nursery, I saw a 2-year-old whose father had broken her leg, and a neglected brother and sister who arrived wearing the only clothes they possessed.
•If seeing "justice served" was supposedly your main interest in the case, you can actually make a difference on that front as well. Locally, you can follow CourtWatch (courtwatchflorida.org), which keeps tabs on cases of child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assaults and more. Dedicated advocates like director Laura Williams watch out for repeat and violent offenders seeking leniency from the courts.
•And if you're all about expressing outrage to politicians, save your energy on the Casey case. These guys are already elbowing one another to get in front of cameras to tout "Caylee's law." Instead, ask your elected officials to do more for the kids who are still with us. Every child should be protected from violence, have access to health care and receive a good education. In an ideal world, all parents would ensure that. Our world is far from ideal.
I have to warn you: There's no cleavage involved in any of the activities above. Nancy Grace won't be screaming about them on TV.
But you will make a difference.
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