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Friday, June 26, 2009

My Thoughts on Michael Jackson's Death

I thought about quoting my facebook/twitter stream for reactions on the Michael Jackson death, but I'm sure you've already read plenty of your own, as it's hard to find anyone who hasn't updated with thoughts on his death. I was shocked and saddened for a few long minutes, he was a great talent who did contribute many things to pop culture. As a child I loved his songs and idolized his performances. But as an adult I began to see a different side of MJ. I learned that he was also a widely-reported prescription drug abuser whose closest relationships were apparently with a chimpanzee and a succession of young boys.

As a former child welfare worker I've seen first-hand the nastiness that adults can inflict on children. Since then i've never been able to look at Michael Jackson in the same glittery, legendary, light of fame and celebrity that seems to imbue all this recent fb and twitter output of one-sided panegyrics. I'm frustrated to continuously read updates that seem to completely ignore the more complicated aspects of MJ's life. For example, in 1994 he paid a family of a young boy $20 million so that they would keep quiet on allegations of child abuse. Yet again in 2005 he was acquitted of further charges of child abuse. The repeated allegations always made me question his motives and interest in children.

Death is sad, but it's also sad to ignore the life lessons that death leaves us. MJ had a prescription drug problem, and he probably would have lived longer and contributed even more to his incomparable musical legacy if he fought harder for a life of sobriety and wellness. He also exposed millions to the uncomfortable idea of child molestation, and made us wonder if even the most well-loved and respected members of our lives were capable of endangering our children.

Open your eyes, Intanet. While we may not have had to deal with the same pressures and relentless expectations of life-long stardom, and while we may not have had to gone to such extremes as MJ to find comfort or companionship in what must have been a very lonely world, we still have our own problems, and we still have to continue fighting the good fight in order to survive. Use MJ's death to remind yourself and your children of the slippery slope of using drugs, legal or illicit. For anyone who is dealing with suspicions or accusations of child abuse, remember that while MJ was well-loved and respected by everyone, so are most child abusers, as 90% of child abuse perpetrators are trusted friends and members of the family. Let's let MJ rest in peace, but let's not allow his sweet jams or unmistakable iconography tune out an important reminder of the everyday risks and dangers that you, I, and, most importantly, our children have to face everyday.

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