Interesting to see how there seems to be nothing but love for Michael Jackson now that he’s gone. Jay Leno’s late night joke that the reason we were all so so curious about Michael Jackson is because he’s like the ultimate car accident. You just have to slow down and look. Ha,ha. Doesn’t seem nearly so funny now.
I see this change also in myself. I had been a staunch defender of Michael’s innocence when the first accusation was made. I defended the plausibility of a man lost in childhood who was well advised to pay to make a false accusation go away rather than drag it out in the courts where you had no idea how things would play out. By the second case I had begun to entertain the public conversation (not the media; ours) that there was something to this accusation. How could a grown man really be that naive and not – after all that had happened – have chaperones present when he entertained his underage pals?
In the weeks since his death, I have marveled at the love I feel for this man and the contribution he was to music, dance, performance and culture. Let’s be clear: MJ is part of world culture. This man’s impact on the world stage was greater than entire countries, and all simply because of his creative power and his willingness to express it.
Re-looking at his music videos I am again blown away like the first time I saw him at Motown’s 25th anniversary performance. His music alone was enough to last generations but when experienced with the visual of Michael dancing it transcends any and every other popular performer that I know. Especially now that the curtain has fallen. We will never again see Michael perform his art, and I can’t help but feel sad. And it’s a curious sadness. As I wrote in my post about Steve Irwin‘s passing I can’t quite explain why I’m affected. Perhaps because Michael was such a powerful example of someone uniting millions of people through his pursuit of what he did best. Through him everyone could relate, could connect. His music was and still is a life blood that courses through all of our veins.
Yet just as quickly as we were to agree on his magnificence on stage we were quick to sentence him to the weirdness of Neverland and his appearance. We couldn’t let him be; someone so different had to be sick and therefore guilty of whatever accusations against him.
Now that he’s gone people are now suddenly compassionate even if they still believe the worst things said about him. Curious, don’t you think? He was not convicted but we never let that get in the way of believing the accusations true. He would not have been the first guilty person to be exonerated in the courts.
So what’s changed? Why are people now willing to give him the benefit of the doubt now? We still have no evidence to prove any of the child molestation charges false, but many people now seem willing to accept Michael’s innocence. Why?
Many have accepted the story of the Jordan Chandler confession as some sort of justification for why they believed in Michael’s guilt and now believe in his innocence. Never mind that the confession is false. People do as they usually do and just accept what they hear others saying because it is convenient and supports what they now WANT to believe about Michael.
I don’t let myself off so easily. I accepted the Jordan Chandler story just like everyone else, and only discovered it’s fabrication as I sat to write this post. I was quick to accept it because I also want to believe in his innocence. I want to put him to rest as mis-understood and not depraved. Despite my best efforts, I allowed myself to believe the worst about Michael, and I’ll use this as the latest warning of the power of public discourse, the stories that we pass around like colds. I’ll use this as a reminder to reflect on what I’m choosing to believe about people, life and about me.
My wish is that we learn from MJ, from our willingness to believe the worst in people, and choose the opposite. To believe the best, to give people the benefit of the doubt and stop pursuing the private details of public figures. This is the same phenomenon that drove the paparazzi to pusue Diana to her death and for us to devour the personal pain of someone like Jennifer Anniston.
We blame the media, but the media are our reflection. They won’t print anything that we don’t want to read. We are the ones that fueled the persecution of Michael Jackson. We believe what we want to believe, and what we believe and the truth are often not the same thing. We now believe Michael’s innocence simply because we want to. It’s simply makes us feel better. It seems maybe the proper, respectful thing to do now that this man who gave us so much is gone forever.
So long Mike. I was happy to have seen you in person twice. Thanks for the music and the moves – I’m still practicing. You were probably too good, too pure for this world, and it’s ironic that we may only now appreciate who you were now that you’re gone.