So he was a gifted entertainer. Why does this mean that we should be saddened by his passing? Comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis (of New Avengers and Daredevil fame) had it right this week on Twitter: “so we’re all going to pretend he wasn’t a mentally ill child molester who should have been drinking his jesus juice in jail?”. On top of all that, you do not father children and give them names like “Blanket” and ask them to parade around in public with their faces entirely covered from the world. That brand of “parenting” will scar a child for life.
Regardless of whether or not he raped young children, a notion deplorable enough in and of itself, his parenting skills left enough to be desired, so much so that I weep no tears for the man. Instead, I think subjects more worthy of our mourning are recently-passed folks like Lorena Gale (who had recurring roles on both Battlestar Galactica and Smallville), who just passed of gastrointestinal cancer, and veteran comedian Dom DeLuise, who recently passed of kidney failure, not to mention the people in Iran who are dying in great numbers in order to save their imploding nation.
Oddly enough, the Jackson debacle reminds me of another recent death, that of Ronald Reagan just over five years ago. The memorials instantly sprung up everywhere from broadcast television to newspapers to the Internet; his flaws were forgiven, his star elevated, his life virtually canonized. Like Jackson, who has now somehow surpassed his title of “King of Pop” to become the Greatest Musical Performer Who Has Ever Lived, Reagan was somehow instantly, and ironically, crowned the Greatest American President in the History of Forever and Ever. People forgot, almost overnight, that the man had singlehandedly made unemployment rise to 10% with his ludicrous economic policies.
Washington Post writer Howard Kurtz even went so far as to state that “He was widely portrayed as uninformed and uninterested in details, the man who said trees cause pollution and once failed to recognize his own housing secretary.” No one seemed to remember his disdain for the poor, which Kurtz felt was epitomized “by the administration’s ‘ketchup is a vegetable’ school lunch debacle.” So too do people seem to be forgetting Jackson’s ludicrous parenting (the man most definitely had child services in his pocket), his enabling minors to drink alcohol, his sexual abuse scandals, his obvious mental illness and his drug addictions (to cocaine and Demerol, the latter of which may or may not been given to him just moments before his death).
Neither Jackson nor Reagan were saints, and they need to be treated the way they were: as human beings, complete with flaws, who made mistakes. They may have been important individuals, yes, maybe even had talent, but they were people first and foremost. Neither Michael Jackson nor Ronald Reagan were gods, but because their sins were debatable, they get a free pass. When OJ Simpson and Charles Manson die, they will not be remembered as the star football player or the failed musician, but as the criminals a jury of their peers concluded they were. The notion that a jury’s verdict can decide whether or not someone is remembered fondly is not only purely a product of 20th and 21st century America, but also one of the most deplorable things about any justice system in the history of the world.
And isn’t there something or another going on in the Middle East?