[15 July 2009]
Look at this ‘normal’ news report from the acclaimed Associated Press news wire machine, marking this day, January 25, in history. It is a very correct example of how our media has seduced us into seeing Michael Jackson. This is exactly it. Despite his accolades, the American media portrays this entertainer through his dissent, rather than the fact that he has sold millions of albums more than Alicia Keys, the magic mulatto the press is favoring these days.
That’s stardom for you—we consume them & spit them out. People worshipped Michael Jackson at one point, so I guess he was uppity and had to be taken down. It’s one thing to acknowledge his faults, but quite another to vilify a person as such. We choose how we see and remember.
It’s not just that this day in history chooses to show the freed captives of Iran, and ignore the (expensive and embarrassing) Iran-contra scandal (and the destructiveness of Reaganomics). America’s moral authority was the casualty for which we’ve just stopped mourning. Nor even is the contention here a fact of Michael Jackson’s story is the only embedded news fact given a follow-up, as if to drive home the fact that the news got it right: Jacko is Wacko. Nor is the contention with such remembrance solely tied to admiration for a recently deceased pop icon.
Yet, the news’ bias is as clear as our previous president’s deficiency in English when speaking in public. We choose how we see the world around us and often those choices vilify one over the other. Worse, with media cutbacks, more and more news provides- both print and digital- rely on fewer and fewer (re)sources, such as the Associated Press news wire service, to provide information that then gets translated into ‘the facts’. Save for the emergence of bloggers, one might adopt a fatalistic worldview of media trends.
Guilty in the News
I am guilty. I was seduced into silence, because we don’t defend pedophiles. Not only did I remain silent while the media trashed him as Wacko Jacko as he chipped away at his features, trying to map out his dream on his body. He dreamed that it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white, boy or girl, rich or poor.
In fact, the entire Jackson family has been consistent in their theme of mutuality and respect between individuals and with the planet. The family, as Janet shared while introducing her brothers who received the 2008 BMI Urban Icon Award, is worth more than the Jackson icons we see on big and small screens, dancing and gyrating for our pleasure.
“Family is the most important commodity all of us have,” said Janet Jackson sighing, in tears, “saluting” her brothers. Over the years, Janet has introduced her one or more of her brothers for many such awards in the same earnest, heartfelt way- Grammy Awards, BET Awards, American Music Awards, MTV Awards, this BMI Award, etc.
There’s always something left to love. And if you ain’t learned that, you ain’t learned nothing. Have you cried for that boy today? I don’t mean for yourself and the family, ‘cause we lost the money. I mean for him; what he been through and what it done to him.
Child, when do you think is the time to love somebody the most; when they done good and made things easy for everybody?
Well then, you ain’t through learning-because that ain’t the time at all. It’s when he’s at his lowest and can’t believe in hisself, ‘cause the world done whipped him so.
When you starts measuring somebody, measure him right, child, measure him right. Make sure you done taken into account what hills and valleys he come through before he got to wherever he is.
”Measure him right,” says Mamma Younger in the ante-penultimate scene in Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 prolific play, A Raisin in the Sun. Hansberry’s work is till date taken as one of the most authentic narratives of Black life at that time, when family was still more important than gaining.
“We are plain people,” says Walter in the play’s famous penultimate scene where the up until then moronic brother declines the white neighborhood association’s pay-off for not integrating their neighborhood. It is that admiration for family that drives many fans and haters to peer so acutely at the Jacksons and even the Obamas. We peer closely at family, which is why we are so amazed at the constellations of Bradelina, or Madonna and all their babies. Fans adore them like posters children of the heterosexual wet dream, i.e. folks too scared to follow their own dreams.
We crave the closeness of this affection though we fool ourselves into thinking that we can make it on our own. We even join clubs to substitute for this loss, to fill this void. Yet, even the queen of pop shouts: “The only thing you can depend on is your family. Life’s gonna drop you down like the limb of a tree. It sways, and it swings, and it bends until it makes you see,” Madonna croons in the song Jump indicating the same redeeming love found in fellowship.
“Keep it together…don’t forget that your family is gold,” she sang years earlier closing her 1990 Blond Ambition Tour. Despite bleaching herself silly, and rubbing her crotch on a bed to a remix of Like a Virgin Madonna knew what was up. All that other stuff was fodder to feed the Hollywood machine, of which she remains fiercely critical—“lost my memory in Hollywood,” she once sang.
In Mamma Younger’s words, and indeed in the behavior and actions of the Jackson, in addition to the explicit messages they give through their music, maintaining family means developing an immense sense of compassion. This is the sort one sees when we listen and appreciate the magnitude of songs and stories of love gifted the world by the Jackson family. If only we’d listen. Lord, what about those times.