Greatness, Tragedy In A Man-child

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - July 08, 2009
Al Sharpton and Joe Jackson speak to the media last week: Look in the mirror

The recent passing of Michael Jackson was the top news story for virtually every information outlet.

Why? I suppose it’s because MJ was the world’s most-famous person. I imagine it’s because, regardless of age or geography, everybody has some point of reference to a Michael Jackson song or performance.

I mean, who hasn’t seen the Thriller video?

Perhaps the interest in his death is fueled by morbid curiosity. His life was filled with such controversy that his legal and financial travails eventually superseded his cultural contributions. There are some who may not have appreciated his artistry but wanted a front-row seat to see one who had risen so high come crashing down so hard.

In contemplating the shocking news, there are some who prefer to consider not so much the life of a musical icon, but the tragic life of a child who was propelled into the maelstrom of hyper-celebrity and fame by a seemingly opportunistic father.

The sadness of the story of Michael Jackson is not found in the suddenness of his passing but rather in his years of torment, conflict and abuse.


His obvious struggle with identity and relentless pursuit of an elusive happiness ended with a shell of a man whose body finally surrendered to his internal conflict.

It can be argued that Michael Jackson embodied the absolute worst that our society has to offer. An astronomically wealthy man, his appetite for excess was legendary. Yes, he made lots of money, but he spent more. His largess reminded me of Romans who would gorge themselves only to retire to the Vomitorium in order to continue their piggish consumption.

But, hey, if you’ve got it - use it. I understand the rationale, but his unquenchable narcissism was a fact.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

His alleged dalliances with children made me recoil. Jackson’s only salvation is that he was never found guilty in a court of law for the sex abuse accusations levied against him. I must defer to the courts to definitively state that Michael Jackson was a child molester.

But the “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” prosecution cannot be dismissed completely. When a payoff of $20 million is made to keep a case out of court, more than a few eyebrows will be raised.

Michael Jackson’s devolution from global super-star to a tabloid oddity was precipitous.

A partner in this fall from grace was a prescription pad. We have learned that an ungodly amount of drugs were present in his home, let alone in his system. Are drugs to blame for his descent? No. It was the individual choice and enabled access to consume that contributed to his professional and physical decline.

I think Michael Jackson and his unique position in the Jackson family placed him in the unenviable status of being the star among stars. He bore the burden for the success not only of the group, but of the entire family. What a load for a little boy to carry. Stripped of his childhood and forced into an identity not his own, it’s no wonder that his adulthood was rife with bizarre behaviors.

Although Jackson was an adult and made adult decisions, there’s no question his father Joe has to look in the mirror when searching for answers regarding his son’s tragic story.

I do hope that despite his untimely death, Michael Jackson has found the peace and happiness he so desperately wanted in life.

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