Thursday, July 30, 2009

The King of Pop

I cried while watching Michael Jackson’s memorial service. This fact surprised me for a moment, and then I just let the tears fall. I know I’m not the only person who has a sort of Anne Frank philosophy and tries to see the good inside everyone. After all, he was a father who loved his kids. As a mom, I will never, under any circumstances, be able to separate myself from that bond; the pain a child must feel at losing a beloved parent is unimaginable.

My 17-year-old stepson did not get it at all. “He was a freak show,” Sam said. “Too weird for me.” And that’s how most young people today will remember Michael Jackson: the accusations of pedophilia, the plastic surgery, the blanket-covered baby dangled over the balcony.

I was 7 years old when the Jackson Five reached their peak. My brothers and I watched their Saturday morning cartoon show; the Osmond Brothers had one too, but the Jacksons were so much funnier. We loved it. We lived in a white-bread suburb of Louisville, Kentucky, and the Jacksons were our first connection with people of color, and we didn’t really care. Yes, they were different but their music was cool and the show was funny and Michael was a kid, just like us.

He was most of all a brilliant artist and performer. Everything that was said at his memorial about his impact on the world of music was true. He was a generous humanitarian as well. But Al Sharpton, though his intentions were good, shouldn’t have said to his children “there wasn’t nothing strange about your daddy.” Because that’s not true. He was strange. He was very strange.

It’s apparent now that Michael Jackson was a tortured soul and carried around a lot of self-loathing. In my opinion, it all points to some kind of terrible abuse suffered as a child. Violence, perhaps, or molestation. His childlike obsessions, substance abuse, and ongoing voluntary disfigurement are clues. How much do you hate yourself if you want to destroy your own face?

It’s sad that he died, when he on the verge of touring and possibly mesmerizing us as a performer once again. But it’s a small comfort to know that we will not have to watch the man descend into any further acts of weirdness, accusations of impropriety, or self-mutilation. No more chimps or blankets (or kids named Blanket) or drugged-out interviews. For me. at least, I can sing “I’ll Be There” and remember the boy who touched my heart and opened my eyes.

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