It’s July 7, 2009 today and Michael Jackson has been memorialized.
And I’m sad.
I’m not sad because of the passing of a legend, or more accurately the transcending of an Angel. I say Angel in the sense that his presence from birth to death was more than mortal for everyone who was blessed to see him perform. Not sad from grief either. In fact it oddly took me a few days and several music tributes for me to remember that in 1985 I cried after spending all night in front of the tv and he did not receive a single grammy. My mom explained to me later that he didn’t release any new music so there was nothing to win for. Of course I knew nothing of this because Michael’s music was always new and refreshing to me. But it wasn’t until that ephemeral, epiphany that I was able to feel anything more than disbelief.
Today I am sad for an altogether different reason. I watched something more than a man, who caused the simultaneous eruption of tears around the world that would make even Yoda pass out from that kind of disturbance in the force, serviced and remembered by the people who knew him LEAST…his friends and family. They followed one another trying to upstage the person before them like it was an audition. Granted I missed the early parts of the show so I didn’t see Stevie or Lionel Ritchie, but only Smokey Robinson, and maybe the King family, among them didn’t seem disingenuous, and that was cause Smokey spent half the eulogy talking about the song he had written and how amazed he was that a ten year old boy could perform it better than he could. Brooke Shields “choked back the tears” her whole time on stage while delivering her boring, and uninsightful epithets about her friendship with Mike. Jermaine tried to sneak in a fake gasp at the end of “Smile.” Usher fumbled his way through an unpopular Mike song that invoked emotion in neither the sung for nor the singer himself. And the very worst part of all came when they all huddled around the microphone like attention starved Jackals at the end of the show just so that Marlon could run overtime and leave everyone in limbo except for Michael’s little bratty daughter, who before her wonderfully touching moment where she exploded into a dry, sour, face that wouldn’t fool a single mom in America, who 2 minutes before her powerful words had to be corrected by aunt Janet to stop smacking on the gum, put down her purse and act like she was sad cause the whole world was watching. Then in the middle of her tantrum all 23 of the loving siblings grasped the mic to help the poor grief-stricken child. Or possibly to speak up on the child’s behalf if she was too moved to go on, and someone just had to relieve the precious little surrogate.
But her lack of attachment to her father neither surprises me nor serves to be illogical. Almost immediately after the brothers carried the body away ABC started promoting for their up-coming segment “Secrets of Michael Jackson” yet another attempt to exploit his personal life even in death. The true tragedy of his death is not that he died so young. The true tragedy is not that we have one less angel, because perhaps we don’t deserve that. The true tragedy is that everyone whoever came close to Mike knew he was an Angel from God but could see him as no more than a golden calf for their perverse greed. I have nothing but sympathy for Katherine Jackson, but the rest of them should all be waking in their sleep, as I write this, with a cold shiver of shame running down their backs. Maybe it’s not the Jackson’s faults as much as it is Joe. All of them probably perceived themselves as cash cows to him and each other since their birth and Joe’s vicarious dreams. And Mike, who had to martyr himself, first for his family, then the world, might not have been any different from Marlon if all the burden of being an Angel hadn’t been thrust on his capable, magnificent shoulders.
So, of course Joe Jackson is the worst of them all. The day following his son’s death he’s throwing winks and points at reporters. hand in hand with Al Sharpton (if I ever become famous and die tragically can the readers please impart to my parents I DO NOT want Al Sharpton to give a statement of any kind) making mention of his new record label, and telling people he couldn’t be better. I know we all grieve in different ways. But if you spend your entire life as a slave driver then you choose to grieve that way, you’re most likely just scum.
And then of course there’s me. The me who watched Moonwalker dozens of dozens of times. The me who loved Michael Jackson ballads only as much as I loved Michael’s pop songs. The me who would not trade my happiness from his music for the happiness Michael could have felt if he could have had a “regular” life and not been forced to be perfect every time he was in front of a camera since age five. Perfection drove him to insecurities leading to plastic surgery, and perfection that probably drove him to anxieties and insomnia over his return to stage and leading to his heart attack and untimely death. No I would not give back those years of my life and my own selfish happiness so that a little boy from Gary, Indiana could raise a family on a postman’s salary. I would not give back the romance of “Liberian Girl” The grooving fun of “Off the Wall” or the electric shockwave of the beat opening “Billie Jean” so that Mike could live in anonymity with dark skin, a big nose, and people that loved him for who he was and not for what he could do for them. And the Angel I like to believe Michael is probably wouldn’t trade it either, even if he didn’t have the opportunity to know how fulfilling being a regular person can be. Michael was a martyr but he was not Jesus, he was a performance prodigy, then genius, but he was not the God, Muse. Michael was an Angel on earth, but not Azazel. Michael was Midas. The people he loved, loved to bring him things and watch him do his magic. And when they weren’t being conniving with his gift they were being jealous of it. Everything he touched turned to gold and he couldn’t have lived a lonelier life because of it. But I wouldn’t trade one second of his lonely ass life for one minute of my very happy one.
I salute you Michael Jackson. You made, literally, billions of people’s lives better and all it cost was your own. And even though you could moonwalk and I can’t, the true testament to why you are a better man than me is because I would never have that courage. Someday I’ll be eulogized by people who loved me even though I wasn’t shit. And they’re going to talk about how great my life was because I was always happy. And even then in my grave I’ll still feel like “better me than you, Mike.” And you’ll probably be fine with that and not have hard feelings for me because you’re the world’s angel and you know it’s just human nature.