Of course you know I was sitting by my TV set early on Tuesday as I waited to see the events of the day unfold. I had my DVR cleared out to record the event, a box of Kleenex (I mean, facial tissue) at the ready. This was the day Michael Jackson was to be memorialized and all of entertainment and society was waiting in line to pay tribute. I had been waiting for this all week. I was not disappointed.
What has been disappointing is the chorus of voices who seem not to be content to demonize the man while he was alive and find him a much easier mark in death. Many of these people are from my “side of the aisle.” Maybe it’s me. Maybe I put too much emphasis on what may be the world’s greatest entertainer. I understand the philosophical question of whether we should “glorify” entertainers. I get that. But the fact of the matter is – we do! Frankly, I see it as simply human nature (in the immortal words of MJ). We all have people we look up to. For some of us, it’s politicians, for others athletes, and still others actors and musicians. This isn’t anything peculiar to our society, it just is. There’s something about watching someone do something unbelievable that’s inspiring.
But as inspiring as it can be, there always seems to be a certain section of society that feels the need to denigrate someone who has achieved a certain status in society, no matter the arena. Just look at all the indignities Sarah Palin has had to endure – and she LOST! This was never more true than with Michael Jackson.
I have followed Michael’s career throughout my life. We are relatively the same age although I am just a few years younger. I don’t remember them on the Ed Sullivan show, but then I was usually in church on Sunday night. I do remember them being all the rage though and I certainly watched the Jacksons/Osmonds cartoon hour on Saturday mornings. Over the years, I have seen Michael do amazing things onstage and off. He has lived his life in the spotlight. He was an “over the top” person in every way. His talents were huge, and so were his flaws. We all have things we try to keep private within our own family but this was not an option for Michael. Every flaw was blazed across bold type headlines in newspapers around the world. Granted, some of these were used by his camp to keep his name in the press, but it clearly took on a life of its own. Eventually, he had lost control of what was said about him. And then 1993 happened.
Child molestation charges were levied against him and he was never the same. For many, this fit the template. A seemingly childlike adult who had unlimited wealth and numerous eccentricities? Well of course, it must be true! I found an article in Wikipedia which reveals quite a bit more information than I had at the time of the incident. It confirms for me that these allegations were at best suspect. But he decided to settle out of court and not continue the public humiliation.
As I have watched many who profess Christ’s influence on their life torn down by accusations, innuendos, and worse, Michael’s story seems all too familiar to me. From an early age, Michael and his family were outspoken members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Over the years, Michael continued his spiritual search. But there is no doubt that he showed Christ’s love in the way he used his fame and fortune to help others. It is unprecedented! The Guiness people have certified him as the pop star who has supported the most charities – 39! How does the world’s most famous entertainer die on the verge of bankruptcy? Perhaps by giving much of his wealth away. (Ok, he spent in excess as well, but you get the idea) It is estimated that he has given close to $500 million to charities in his lifetime.
Of all the things I’ve heard people say about MJ, I haven’t heard anyone say, “He lied to me,” or “He stole from me.” I think he gave a lot of himself. In fact, a simple perusal of You Tube will show a variety of videos where he shares the stage with many new talents including N*SYNC, Britney Spears, and Usher, not to mention including Will.I.Am, Fergie, Akon, and Kanye West on his Thriller 25 album. I was not at all surprised to see young Shaheen Jafargholi at the funeral yesterday. He was supporting new talent right up to the end!
Absolutely, he had monumental flaws. He was human like the rest of us. Yesterday was proof of that. Much of his criticism was self-inflicted. He invited those who prey on the success of others to have at it. But that doesn’t make them right and him wrong. For me, I will choose to remember the goodness of Michael Jackson, the artistry and the endearing smile. I hope he has found the peace that seemed to elude him his entire life.