Michael Jackson represents an era of America for many people. Just with a few movements of his body, a sounding of his voice or just a simple sequence of musical notes, millions of people can easily associate an image of “Michael Jackson’ and a significant piece of American culture.
When Michael Jackson first encountered trouble in his personal life with many legal accusations, America actually lost a part of itself. And when he died after a physician did the unthinkable and administered a potentially lethal drug in a home setting, America ultimately lost one of its major cultural identifiers.
When you look at how the world stands today, the cheap gimmicky musical acts, the blase ‘well that’s how it works’ situations in Ferguson, Israel/Palestine, the Ukraine, the White House and just life in general, you may note we have very few items of national unity standing among us.
Growing up hearing stories from my father, I learned that when President Roosevelt gave a fireside chat during World War II, everyone shut their damned mouths, if they agreed with his policies or not. There was not a lot of media bickering just to create headlines at that point in time, because you were scene as a damned scheming idiot if you tried to debase the President of the United States at such a critical moment. You rarely see moments like that in this country any more.
What you do see is divisiveness, cheap talent and a shallow culture. People like Michael Jackson, a strong unifying figure with a message of peace, just do not exist anymore if not as often. We had a man who we watched grow up, breaking the shackles of poverty along with his family, and building a career based on pure, raw talent. We saw him demonized for a medical condition (be it his vitiligo, well documented depression –that same beast that even recently lead to Robin William’s death– and social anxiety) and now that he’s dead, everyone is vying for his musical services.
His hologram was neat to behold, just the thought that such a talented man could walk among us again is exciting. But what does the song mean, “She’s a Slave to the Rythm”. Michael Jackson famously balked against producers and other ‘greedy’ people in the industry during the “They Don’t Really Care About Us”, where he created he huge controversy by alleging he was still seen as a black, inferior citizen and that he ‘financiers’ were all about controlling him, just like they would have one of his slave ancestors years ago.
When Michael Jackson took his protest against wealthy producers exploiting black artists even further, by a symbolic dance at the end of his video “Black or White”, he was immediately targeted with unsavory accusations and the cultural media machine was a primary method of those attacks. Even through all of that, Michael Jackson remained innocent of accusations until the time of his untimely death, and was continually called things like “Whacko Jacko’ by the media. Why is that?
Despite logic, there were people out there who wanted to beat on a black man for daring bleach his black and white skin to maintain an ‘image’. Yes, Michael Jackson was a celebrity and he devoted himself to an image. In the onset of his disease, he would darken the white areas of his skin. As his vitiligo progressed, he was forced to accept that the majority of his skin was white, and he had to adjust the rest of his body for public appearances. How would you go about equaling out your skin if it looked like this?
The disease gets very severe, literally stripping all melanin from the skin. But all that was overlooked, because the black man had some major flaws in his character and media sought out to assassinate Michael Jackson a long time ago.
Yet after his death, every channel covered his funeral, sells his merchandise and rushes to see what those three little kids of his are up to. It’s just a nasty circus and there is money to be made. Who actually cares about Michael Jackson?
His fans and his family, for sure. The people of the ‘Pepsi Generation’, quite likely. There were times when a new Michael Jackson song or commercial was billed as a national event, as millions worldwide would gather around their pre-internet era televisions and watch the marvel: someone so talented, that he too could create a temporary sense of national unity, just like the times my father told me the nation would gather around their radio for fireside chats.
The man had the ability to unify the country and give us an uplifting identity. When he as killed, we were robbed of that. When his character was assassinated by media, we were robbed of that.