In order to fully understand the perspective that I have on this issue, please keep in mind that I was born in 1986, and even though I am obviously familiar with Michael Jackson's incredible body of work as a musical artist, he was essentially not an artist of my time. I did not "grow up" on his music. As one more precautionary foreword, I want to just say upfront that I do feel for his family and the people in his life who were close to him. He truly did revolutionize music and in doing so captured the ears and hearts and dancing feet of countless millions across the globe. While thinking about his suprising death at the age of 50, I started thinking about its implications on a larger scale.
To all the Jackson faithful, I apologize in advance but I simply cannot bring myself to ignore the fact that the latter stages of "The King of Pop's," life were mired with despicable events such as allegations of child molestation. In December 2003, Jackson was charged with 7 counts of child molestation and 2 counts of "administering a toxic agent for the purpose of committing a felony." Since I honestly can't say that I am extremely knowledgeable about all of the legal actions that surrounded him, I don't want to dwell on this fact, but his latter life does prove two things in my mind.
First, for my generation and all of the following that did not grow up seeing Jackson in the mainstream, contemporary media as a positive musical icon, his character and celebrity will be forever tainted. I don't care what anybody says, it takes a twisted individual to even be accused of the crimes that he was charged with committing. No matter how innovative and industry-changing his music was, in my mind (and I'm sure many others) the first thing that I will think about when I hear the name Michael Jackson is a man who became involved in lewd conduct and sexual relations with young boys. I know everyone loves the guy, and this fact seems sad to me even as I write it, but I hope you understand where I am coming from. Yes, I appreciate his music. Yes, he was loved and will still be loved by his millions of fans worldwide. Yes, he will forever be the "King of Pop." But I will never be able to seperate the struggles in his personal life from his achievements as an entertainer. None of you built this character. He made his own mistakes. Repeatedly.
This brings me to my second point. We clearly live in a society that values the "second chance." It must be very hard to live in the national and international spotlight, just think of all of the celebrities and athletes who engaged in scandalous affairs. I won't go into their individual stories but here are a view that come to mind for me:
Kobe Bryant holding a press conference after allegations that he sexually assaulted a 19 year-old hotel worker. His case was settled outside of court, but he did admit to adultery. Maybe that is why he bought his wife a $4 million dollar diamond ring in light of the allegations?
Barry Bonds' career and many of his records have been under close scrutiny after suspicions that Bonds took performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) toward the end of his career in order to stay healthy and increase physical strength. Bonds currently holds the all-time home-run record in Major League Baseball, one of the most coveted and revered records in all of sports.
After committing adultery with a 22 year-old intern, Monica Lewinsky, Clinton was formally impeached on the grounds of perjury after he lied about his affair in court by adamantly denying the allegations.
Michael Vick, the uber athletic Atlanta Falcons quarterback, was charged with running an interstate dog-fighting ring. Vick was recently released from prison after serving his term and is currently working to be re-instated into the National Football League by hard-nosed commissioner, Roger Goodell who is known for his staunch stance as a committed disciplinarian.
I'm sure you can think of many more people who crumbled before our eyes in the bright light of the public spotlight. It is interesting to me who gets a second chance, a chance for redemption in the public eye and who is forever outcast. It is important to remember that these people are human beings, just like us. So it would lead me to infer that the actions that we take everyday affect the image and character that the people around us build of us.
In closing, I just want to say that I feel sorrow for the loss of such a public icon. He taught so many people so many things and even in his death taught me (or at least re-emphasized) that our personal character and integrity are two of the only things in our lives that we have complete control of and therefore must be regarded as having the utmost personal importance.
Rest in Peace, Michael Jackson 1958-2009.
Until next time...