I grew up listening to Michael Jackson on the radio. I bought the red, zippered jacket. I tried my damndest to Moonwalk, and failed. As a young, self-conscious, impressionable youth growing up I believed he WAS the King of Pop. He made me feel like I was the King of Pop. I wanted to be Bad, and I wished I could tell people to Beat It!
It seems like his entire life played out in front of our eyes. We knew Michael from the Jackson 5, we knew his silky smooth height in the 80’s, and we knew what he became later in life. At least we think we knew.
He died yesterday and I struggle with many different feelings inside. About who he was. About what was done to him. About what he did to others. He was an iconic figure in music. No one stepped onto a stage and created the energy and excitement he could. It all emanated from him and his years living his life performing and amazing us again and again.
With his death I have been watching and listening to the reactions of all of us. At times I am hopeful, appalled, angry, and sad. What Michael represented as an artist, meant so much to me. When he sang, “Whose Bad?!” it was one of the few times I felt confident enough to say ME.
From the heights he achieved, he became such a sad symbol in our society. The seemingly bizarre behavior. He preferred the company of children and we couldn’t understand it. I was listening to a radio show this morning and the host said that Michael preferred children because they didn’t demand anything from him. It was a sort of rebellion from his stern father, his record company, and all of the adults who made him feel like he was never good enough.
The allegations of child abuse. His paying the parents of the victims to keep quiet. The further allegations of the parents ‘setting him up’ for a payday by putting their children in harms way. The truth became so muddled and obscure coming out of the mouths of lawyers.
I’m not sure what Michael did and didn’t do. I don’t even know what his father did to him. When I see the frail, awkward person he became I see trauma. Maybe the trauma was right in front of our eyes. Being forced night in and out to perform as a child. Bullied by his father and others into the next gig, the next payday, the next performance. This child only felt normal when he was on the stage. He was in control, he couldn’t be yelled at or told what to do when he was performing.
I will miss what Michael represented as an artist. As a man, I didn’t really know who he was. I don’t know if he molested children. If he did, then it is truly sad that in his search for his lost childhood he may have taken it away too early from some of the children around him.
Maybe the lesson here is that we have a lack of respect toward our children’s right to be children. We think we know what’s good for them and often we don’t. We have trouble extracting our self-interest, our ego, our god complex, from the fragile life of the child that sees us with pure love. We can so easily destroy the life of a child. No amount of money, adoration, or accomplishment can help someone recover what was lost. Not even Michael Jackson could recapture his childhood.
In my childhood I grew up experiencing the phenomenon of Michael Jackson. As an adult, I saw what the phenomenon did to him. What it did to the children around him. I feel spread out in many different directions. One thing I know is that the sanctity of childhood deserves more respect than we often give it.
Rest in Peace. Michael Jackson. King of Pop. Survivor. Perpetrator. Child. Person.