What is it about us that we only appreciate what we have after we’ve lost it? Like most of the developed world, I have been following the Michael Jackson saga over the past two weeks. Nothing strange about that, except that, prior to his death, I never really gave him more than a second thought—or even a first thought, to be perfectly honest. A “Belle” to the core, I’d much rather bury my head in a book. Now, all of a sudden, I’m beset by memories of someone I barely knew—and I’m wondering, “Where the heck was I, all those years? Burying my head in the sand?” My memories of the person who would later be called “The Gloved One,” begin, and end, with his charming performance in Marlo Thomas’ production of “Free to Be You and Me,” some thirty-odd years ago.
After that, in an egotistical, elitist attitude, which I am not proud of, I mostly thought of him as freakish; a ghostly apparition I would not want to meet up with in a cemetery, at midnight—or anywhere else, for that matter. While my ears perked up, somewhat, at the tabloid fodder over the past twenty-some years (who could resist the irony of the King of Pop being married, however briefly, to the daughter of the King of Rock and Roll, or the news and spectacle of his dangling his son over a railing), I did not give him more than a passing thought before moving with the events of my own life (which, at the time, were equally dramatic, although in a different way).
Now, with his passing, I feel that I may have “missed” something; something—someone—the likes of whom we may never see, again. There’s a genuine sorrow there, a sense of loss, even though I never met him. I had tears trickling down my cheeks, and a knot in my throat, when I saw, and heard little Paris’ short, from-the-heart tribute to her father. What is more touching than a child telling everyone who will listen, that her dad was “the best father, ever” and that she “loves him so much”? Regardless of what the world at large knew, or thought they knew, about Michael Jackson, we will never really know the whole story; that is reserved for those in his family and/or close circle of friends. The rest of us can only guess, imagine, and/or draw our own conclusions based on what others (NOT his family and friends) told us. That the facts may have been tragically twisted and taken out of context in order to fit others’ ideas and fulfill their agendas, makes the fact that we may never know the whole story seem even more of a loss.
In my mind is the indelible image (captured in People magazine’s special edition) of Michael and his little friends, who probably adored him, happily cavorting over the lawn of Neverland, having a wonderful time. While I realize that may have been a staged photo-op, at the same time, they may have, unwittingly, captured him at his best. It may have been who he really was, even more so than his flashy stage productions. It is sad that, in this day and age, because of the nature of what we were told occurred behind the walls of that enchanted place, we are so quick to assume the worst of people now.
Do we know, of absolute surety, that he did the things he was alleged to have done? Were we there, when it happened? No. On both accounts, no. We were told it did and some of us believed it. It may have happened, or it may not. All we know is that he “settled” the case against him for an exorbitant amount of money. Did anyone ask the supposed “victim” of this atrocity if it really happened; if he really did do those things to him? Or was something heard by another adult, someone who may have “wanted” to hear something like that, someone who might have had something against him and fed the kid more suggestions, in order to convict him? Of course, if those acts really were done, that is something else, entirely; he can’t be exonerated, and will be judged for it, accordingly. Not by us.
Here’s another thought: is it so wrong to believe, or even imagine, that a man can genuinely love children and want to be in their presence, without someone’s adding something “ugly,” or an ulterior motive to it? Not that Michael Jackson can be compared to Him, but, think of the greatest lover of children for all time: Jesus Christ. He not only loved children, he commanded us to BE like them; to get off our high horses, get rid of our pride, our egos, all the adult attributes that we picked up when we “lost” that childhood innocence. Children bring with them the innocence we seem to have forgotten; something that is close to impossible, at times, in our “adult” world, to recapture. If an adult does happen to have the joy of childhood in his heart and soul—to love children for their own sake, and be loved by them because part of him is so much like themselves ... if there is no ulterior motive, who are we to fault that? He did not exclusively hang around with children; there were enough adults (at least in age) around him. But it was the adults in his life, not the children, who gave him problems.
Just a couple of days ago, I watched the sixteen-years-past interview that Oprah did with Michael Jackson. I was so far behind the times, having not paid attention to him or his life for any length of time, that I actually thought that that interview was fairly recent; not sixteen years ago. He wasn’t pretty. In some ways, he was beautiful. While I am admittedly uncomfortable with thinking about a man as beautiful, he was ... and, oh, that smile! That stayed—and will stay—with me long after watching that video.
I wish, now, that I had followed my heart more than my head, and not believed all, or even some, of the things I heard about him. I can’t change the fact that I did believe those things; I can only remember, and recount, what he told her, in the interview (and I’m paraphrasing, here, as I don’t remember it word-for-word): “Don’t judge. Unless you talk to the person you’re hearing things about, and get their side of the story, you don’t know.” We can’t talk to Michael Jackson, anymore, or hear his side of the stories; all we can do is take those words and apply them to our own lives; among the people in our circle, and those outside of it. We need to hear both sides of the stories we’re told. Until, or unless we do, if we judge, we are just as “guilty” as those who started the lies, to begin with. Goodnight, Neverland. Goodnight, Michael; rest in peace.