Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Michael Jackson: My Reflections on Three Persons' Reactions Upon his Untimely Death

When I heard of the untimely death of Michael Jackson, I put a simple item on this blog (leftturnonrights) with two pics of Michael, some musical notes for emphasis, and the words Rest in Peace with his birth and death dates. A few days later I had some guests at my home. I was showing off my Ipod Touch and one of the guests, a straight married man "intellectual' acquaintance, happened to glance at the item I had on my blog on Michael Jackson. His reaction," I can't believe a Lesbian Feminist would put Michael Jackson in her blog especially with his politics." Someone said, "Well, he wasn't a Republican."

Later on when we went out to dinner, I asked this person why he had reacted that way and he said, Michael was not a good role model for students. I answered, "Well, are you talking about the accusations of "child abuse", is that what you mean by politics? After all he was a victim. And he did give lots of money to good causes." My intellectual acquaintance friend really reacted to the word victim and said something like he hated that word victim and that MIchael had been well off since he was 5 years old and there were a lot worse victims in the world. I think he meant like people in poverty and people around the world who are starving and uneducated and at the brink of disaster. I mumbled something like well maybe not a victim but a survivor. Then I soon realized there was no use arguing the point anymore. His mind was made up. Upon reflection, I realized this person was saying Michael Jackson could have overcome his personal demons. I do not understand what basis he had to make that kind of a judgment on the King of Pop.

I watched the televised memorial service for Michael Jackson that was held at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. I felt very sad when it was over. I also thought it was a wonderful experience to have had, much more so than I had expected. After the service, a neighbor called me on the phone. I asked if she had watched the service for Michael and she said, No, only his rabid followers watched. I said I was not a rabid follower of Michael. I had never even been to a concert of his. She said she used to listen to his music but that the last several years she couldn't stand to see him perform. I interpreted this to mean she couldn't stand looking at him meaning looking at the changes to his physical persona.I suppose she meant , change in skin color and the smallness of his nose and also there was a hint of the androgyny in the manner and way she conveyed her disgust with him. When I defended myself from being a rabid fan, she changed her moral outrage to a different explanation which was " only the morbidly curious" watched his memorial service. I denied being in that category too. Later when I hung up the phone, I became depressed.

I spent some time trying to figure out the how and why of these negative reactions to the death of Michael Jackson and to Michael Jackson himself as he was projected out there to the public. I decided my first antagonist, my intellectual colleague of sorts, lacked compassion for certain other people because he himself had been a victim of a vicious Father who had similar characteristics to Michael Jackson's Father except for the violence being more emotional in effect than physical. I also felt there was something missing there in regard to not fully taking in the full impact that Michael Jackson had on African Americans in this country. It was as though Michael was a member of their family, maybe flawed in some way, but still a very successful member of their own family. Obviously, Michael Jackson affected people of all races and has become known as someone who bridged racial and other kind of differences but the importance of this musical genius to his own race and the ironies contained within is something that is not important to the two people I spoke to about Michael Jackon who were so negative. I sensed a kind of racism in the second responder. It was important that Michael Jackson stay within certain bounds and dress and act in a way acceptable to white people and all people middle of the road.

I remembered talking to a third person earlier in the week, a Lesbian sister, who was irritated and disagreed strongly with my assessment that Michael Jackson may have looked white for perfectly legitimate reasons, one being his skin condition which involved loss of pigment. She laughed in my face as though I was a perfect idiot. Everyone knows Michael wanted to look white was what she was saying by implication. All three reactions have something to do in my thinking with racial stereotyping and at the basis of each lies the assumption that there is a correct way to be, a moral compass to follow and if by chance the way is not followed, then respect for the music, the genius, the artistry is not to be admired or if it is the beauty of it all is somehow marred and less than.

On a personal note, I think there are probably many people who think the way these three person think about Michael. On the other hand, it is more than obvious that several billion people plus around the world don't buy into that negative school of thought. The reality, that most people have good thoughts about the King helps me feel more positive about humanity. Of course, these three examples demonstrate very common human expressions and I am certain all three would deny having any negative attitudes toward African Americans, androgynous imagery, or the breaking of racial expectations and norms.

I must admit I did struggle with the issue of the child molestation charges directed against Michael Jackson. Somehow after seeing what had happened to Michael Jackson's beloved Neverland and hearing what all his entertainment friends had to say about those charges, I am even more convinced he was not a "child molester" and that what happened was a modern witchhunt though no one will ever know the real truth.

It could be said that funerals and memorial services always make flawed souls into saints and angels. And maybe gullible me was just impressed enough to push me over to the other side. I do know the Mother who testified in the criminal case was proved to be liar and out for the money. the naysayers could win a point by saying all the glamour and hype of the moment got to me, maybe so. Still I am mad as hell at the few million or more out there who can't even watch a memorial service or hear this talented man's music or even hear his name mentioned without putting their moral judgement into the stew. I protest.

Sharon Raphael, Long Beach