Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson 1958-2009

The rest of the internet has had their say, so why shouldn't I?

I think this Obit on Daily Kos gets a lot of things right.

Some have wondered if the allegations that Jackson was guilty of child abuse should be playing a larger role in our collective remembering of the man's life.

I think that, in a way, Jackson epitomized the obsession with the pedophile as monster in America at the turn of the millennium. A monster at once genuinely evil and completely pathetic. An evil so queer, so far from ourselves that we can hate it without any reservation. Without ever seeing the monster in the mirror. And weak. Jackson's frail frame assuring us that this is a creature that could only feed on children, that we ourselves could confront it safely and easily.

I am reminded of a certain creepy hanger-on to my group of friends when I was an undergraduate, a poor, broken thing with an unfortunate habit of leering at other people's girlfriends. I confronted him once, brandishing a baseball bat. Oh, the supreme confidence I felt, assured of moral righteousness and an easy victory.

How easy it was, in that moment, to forget my own monstrosity, my own violence...

Oh, but of course some will protest, "that is not at all the same, a pedophile's crimes are far worse."

True enough. But is our response, the space they hold in our collective unconscious really proportional to their crime? Or are we propelled by the same impulse that lead me to that ridiculous confrontation in a dormitory parking lot (and ultimately an anti-climactic one, as the creepy little man held his ground! I stormed off frustrated) the impulse to find someone both weak and evil, the better to forget the evil lurking in our own souls, and the evils committed by those strong enough that we fear to confront them (knowing, of course, that it is our cowardice that allows those evils to continue).

Jackson was a brilliant artist and, as the Kos eulogist puts in so beautifully,a dismembered soul. We, of course, held the knives. To what extent does that make us complicit in any crimes he might have committed?

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