"Who's Michael Jackson?"
Those were the first words out of Joe's mouth when I mentioned the Gloved One's passing to Himself over the dinner table. Grace echoed the question a second or two later: "Yeah. Who's Michael Jackson?"
Honestly, I was taken aback by this question. Having grown up in the 70s and 80s, I was immersed in the Jacksons (most of them) growing up. Even though I wasn't particularly a fan, there was no escaping the Jackson 5 in the 70's, MJ in the 80s and early 90s (and Janet in the rest of the 90s!). Michael Jackson had been everywhere when I was growing up. It was kind of inconceivable to me that my kids hadn't heard of him. In my generation it was immpossible not to hear of MJ. As a friend of mine once said in the late 80's: "These days, you can go to the deepest fookin jungle of Africa, and you will find a kid with a Coke can in his hand, singing a Michael Jackson song".
But thinking about it: Why would my kids have heard of him? Joe was born in the late 90's, a few years after MJ's initial and precipitous fall from grace. We never played his music in the house, because -although we had both admired his talent, we weren't fans. I guess I thought my kids would have heard some songs on the radio and TV, and maybe they have heard some, but looking back, I figure not many or often.
So I managed to answer the question by saying something like "Michael Jackson was a singer and dancer. He was very famous." They were unconcerned at his passing.
I left out the part where Michael Jackson also a child predator and molester. Because although the nuns told me not to speak ill of the dead, they also told me to speak the truth, and I honestly believe that -although acquitted- Michael Jackson was guilty of the crimes for which he was accused (more on this later).
On Friday morning, The Today show made mention that Thriller had jumped to the top of the iTunes download list in a matter of hours, Al Roker appeared surprised by this fact, maybe wondering who was downloading this album; who might be a fan but not have it already? The answer is simple: parents of teens and kids, who also grew up immersed in Michael Jackson's ...everything and were shocked to hear their children ask the same question that Joe asked me on Thursday night i.e. "Who's Michael Jackson?". I think some parents had the same knee-jerk reaction that I did: how could you not know? and then; with memories of dancing nieces / nephews, friends and neighbors blooming in their minds: But you're a kid! You have to see MJ! You will love him! So they downloaded Thriller and Off the Wall because they want their kids to hear and see how Michael Jackson was back when he was great.
...and he WAS great!
It is an understandable reaction, because the guy was a huge talent, and a lot of what he did both with the Jackson 5 and as a solo act is worth hearing/seeing. But then after the initial knee-jerk reaction, I got to thinking:
I'm not being funny. There is a genuine moral dilemma here; and for me, it probably runs deeper than for most people. You see, when I was 8 ...9, 10, 11, 12 ...13 or so, I was the target of a child molester (yes it went on for years, until I grew boobs and an ass). He never actually succeeded in raping me (because seduction, not rape was his aim ...*shudder*); but the memory still haunts. A lot. A few years ago, I read the transcripts of the declaration that the kid -the initial MJ accuser back n 1993 made, and it made my blood run cold, because I saw... I recognized therein the type of manipulations and behavior patterns in which child predators engage, and I knew that the accusations against Michael Jackson were true. A kid can't make up something like that. I'm sorry. I know some people will blast me for this, but I a speaking what I truly feel in my heart here, based on an experience that few can (or want to) claim...
And now Michael Jackson is dead and my children don't know who he is. I could introduce them to his music posthumously, knowing that my son would be in no potential danger anymore. I could allow his memory to stand -to continue in our family- based solely on his music and talent.
Is it morally wrong of me to promote someone who I feel was a child predator to my children?
I know that Michael Jackson's memory needs no help from me to live in the world at large. But I am not talking about the big picture here. Not Macro Michael Jackson's Memory. Instead I am talking about how/if/should his memory remain in the microcosm of our home and family. I know that any money/goodwill from Chez Sickmother to Chez Jackson is a mere molecule in the ocean. It won't make a dent in the huge debt and red tape mountains that the three young Jacksons will likely inherit. And some may say that even so; -to deny my children the pleasure and knowledge of Jackson's music and to deny that potential revenue stream to the Jackson heirs is to -quite literally- visit the sins of the father upon the children. His children are the heirs to his estate and his memory and they did no wrong.
I know I am overthinking this, but the question is simple enough, Do I encourage my children to like someone that I believe was a pedophile, or do I allow MJ's memory to die in this family? I know my kids may discover him by themselves in time. But hopefully by then, they will be old enough to make their own moral determinations.
And I thought further about MJ's children and I decided that -sorry; but they are not my responsibility. My children are my responsibility and with that in mind, the TV and radio have been tuned to anything except the MJ coverage in their hearing. Food Network; Cartoon network... Anything!
Michael Jackson is dead -and for this family -while I have control, I am going to let his memory die too.
Rest in peace.