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Michaele Salahi has Multiple Sclerosis? What can I say?

I can't believe Michaele Salahi has Multiple Sclerosis. This means that I walked to benefit her one time.

When I learned that Salahi has spent the past seventeen years battling the illness, my first question was: How did it put up with her so long? I've only had to deal with her since the White House crashing and the premiere of Real Housewives, and I'm about ready to surrender.

I'm sorry -- if what she says is true -- that she's suffering. But the folks in this equation I feel really bad for are the other people with Multiple Sclerosis who have to deal with all the negative press. "Help you walk for MS?" I picture people saying. "I've just about had enough of that Michaele by now!"

True, on the bright side, if someone came to the door and made vague statements about "finding a cure for Michaele Salahi," the person might assume that they meant a cure for the condition of being Michaele Salahi, a cause to which many people who've had to watch Real Housewives: DC would be happy to donate.

Much as I've enjoyed making these remarks -- I've got a few more, such as: "What's wrong? Is one sclerosis not good enough for Michaele?" -- is this reaction a sad statement about American culture?

Is it sad that we as a nation have become so callous that when we hear that someone has been afflicted with a serious condition, we respond by making jokes at her expense, just because she put us through hours and hours of reality TV? Is it sad that we have accepted that once you put yourself out in the public arena, anyone can say anything about you? Anything at all? All I do is write online opinions -- which is basically the equivalent of dropping a rose petal into the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo, except that the rose petal has been very carefully optimized for search -- and people say things about me all the time that I'm supposed to be fine with, remarks that I will gently paraphrase as, "Her intelligence is comparable to her physical attractiveness."

But maybe this reaction isn't saying that. Maybe it's saying that if you make your life revolve around getting attention, people lose sympathy for you. It's like the Boy who Cried Wolf -- or, for those of you who are up on your culture, like that episode of SpongeBob where he keeps ripping his pants. "There's no such thing as bad publicity," they say. Even when that publicity consists of people speculating about whether you actually are making a conscious effort to transform yourself into a giant cat or whether your plastic surgery just went horribly wrong. Make that your standard -- as the Salahis have -- and we're happy to oblige. As Oscar Wilde said, the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. Just look at Heidi Montag -- or, rather, don't, because she's going to explode at any minute, and I wouldn't want you to lose an eye!

See, there I go again.

By Alexandra Petri  | September 15, 2010; 5:45 PM ET
Categories:  Petri, Reality? Television  | Tags:  Too soon?  
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