No one doubts that Michael Jackson is one of the greatest pop artists of all time. Civil rights leaders and numerous politicians have weighed into the historical significance of Jackson. Reverend Al Sharpton, for example, used the occasion to celebrate Jackson’s accomplishments and his contributions to pop culture. And in what was perhaps the most appropriate assessment, Barack Obama applauded the artistic heights Jackson reached while also acknowledging the contributions African-American entertainers and athletes made to the establishment of a comfort level between the races in America. It was as if he was saying that people like Jackie Robinson and Michael Jackson paved the way for himself, the first African-American president. Others, however, preferred to piggyback on the extensive media coverage to promote themselves in the process. Peter King, a Republican congressman from New York, opted to trash Jackson over his legal battles on child molestation accusations. But no matter the perspective, it is safe to predict that Michael Jackson will continue to solicit at least as many comments and interpretations in death than in life.
I come from the generation that was exposed to the Jackson Five as a more talented version of the Osmonds. Later on, we all saw the physical transformations that Michael underwent and psychologists will be debating for years what prompted his bizarre behavior. After the media frenzy of the past two weeks subsides, the attention will also shift to why he died so prematurely and the issues related to his estate. It is clear that the latter risks ending in court and will possibly be dragged out over a long period of time.
The first and most important concern, though, has to do with his use of hard prescription drugs and whether his numerous medical doctors committed any crimes in the process. Early indications are that some of his doctor ‘friends’ seemed more concerned with protecting and enhancing their hypocritical revenue stream than respecting their Hippocratic oath. Hopefully, investigators will do their job; it appears likely that criminal intent will be discovered.
Beyond the drugs and the surgeries, there is another trauma Jackson suffered that cannot be denied—he was a victim of severe parental abuse. We must never forget that Jackson’s father brutalized his children. No one can fully measure the impact of domestic terror on the mind of a child. Hopefully, with the hype receding from the various testimonials, we will appreciate this tragic side of Jackson.
The tributes on July 7 were truly moving but there was one that I believe touched all Americans, even the detractors. It came from his daughter, Paris. In the end, she gave the review that mattered most when she called him the greatest dad. I am certain that despite all the tragedy, some of it self-inflicted, that Michael Jackson suffered in his life, his daughter’s tribute was what would have mattered most to the pop icon. At end of the day, being a dad was his best performance.