Listen to the Jacksons sing “Can You Feel It”: “All the colors of the world should love each other wholeheartedly.” Or, dare you sit and play “Earth Song”. “Heal the World” probably never left the easy listening stations. Consider the type of orchestration behind creating “We Are the World” and daring to show Third World kids as subjects, not objects; they created music with Michael and he with them. It would make a crippled person want to jump up and take action and that’s exactly what lay at the heart of the matter.
Inclusiveness, the Jacksons’ music continually says, will lead us to not only take care of one another, but also to respect the earth. Take a close listen to Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814, the whole album including, and especially the interludes. The Jacksons inspire hope. They dared stand with humanity—in front of humanity—asking: “What about us?” Indeed, their music says, what about all of us For the Jackson family, their music was neither about their bling, nor were their messages ever about ‘them and us’—but all of us! Do we dare care enough about us?
“Where sending a major love,
and this is our message to you.
The planets are ling up
and bringing brighter days
They are all in line
Waiting for you
Can’t you see?
You’re just another part of me” *
Michael Jackson certainly fashioned himself after Christ. Yet, in our deliria, our rejection of him, consuming his childhood, mining his pool of talent as if stardom were an abyss, we—our ‘consumer society’—has produced another monster genius. But we’ve all seen The Fly, or countless other mad genius flics to understand that this nation really lauds and hates freaks.
Our basic fantasies about genius is that they are freaks, so no wonder this gets played out so often in films, and our social pressure ostracizes them, torturing them until we provoke a response. We’re so blind that kids have to shoot-up schools for us to consider how deftly our society is ridden with, and wholly accepts violence. Yet, we claim to revere Dr King. We like our innovators as martyrs, leaving them to go forth and die, sacrificed so that we might just pay freakin’ attention.
In our celebration of diversity and lauding our own liberalism, we claim to applaud creativity, but scorn kids who don’t color inside the lines. We are so unforgiving of human fallibility, i.e. our own imperfections, that this fear blinds us from recognizing excellence. We idolize our martyrs like Christ, and even idolize contemporary martyrs like Dr. Martin Luther King. We idolize our presidents and even demonize them with public funds over private matters. We also punish difference.
We idolize any figure approaching the strength and capacity to reach our souls, and this is Michael Jackson’s HIStory, his self-narrated legacy. Try watching the video “Black or White” in its entirety. Mute the sound and simply absorb all the depth of creativity placed into challenging social hierarchy head-on. At the end of any story about the ultimate American idol, stand Michael Jackson’s words and images. Streaming video may emerge as his greatest and most eternal ally, spreading his message of love.
*Lyrics submitted by fans through Facebook
- Black and White Video
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times. Thanks everyone.