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No Need to Sanitize Michael Jackson

Cameron TurnerSpeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi did the right thing when she shut down Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee's effort to introduce a resolution honoring Michael Jackson on the House floor. Pelosi correctly pointed out that a debate on Michael Jackson's legacy would bring out a lot of "contrary opinions" that could increase tension and widen divisions at a time when the legislature is grappling with crucial issues like the economy, health care, climate change, etc. Things are tense and challenging enough on the Hill without a floor fight over Michael Jackson. Besides, there is less-than-universal support in the House for a Michael Jackson resolution. Republican Congressman Peter King, who blasted Jackson as a "pervert" and a "pedophile" in a video on YouTube, is not the only opponent. Some lawmakers walked out of the House chamber when Jackson Lee led a moment of silence on the day Michael died. Some members of the Black Caucus have declined to support the resolution and Jackson Lee could only find one co-sponsor for the measure: Rep. Diane Watson of California.

The proposed Congressional resolution seems to be part of the wide-ranging effort to mythologize Michael Jackson. Now that Jackson has died, his most ardent and myopic fans seem more determined than ever to scrub away all of the controversial, confusing and creepy aspects of Jackson's image. The basic strategy seems to be to dismiss, rationalize or ignore the troubling facts about Michael's life and to lambaste the media and anyone else who mentions them.

This public re-writing of history took a big step forward at the BET Awards (two days after Michael's death) when Jamie Foxx blasted the media for "trying to do a number on" Jackson and even declared that Michael's repeated plastic surgeries didn't matter. ("I loved the old nose and the new nose," Foxx told the cheering crowd). But the most dramatic - and laughable -- example of the Michael Jackson sanitizing campaign was when Rev. Al Sharpton stood up at the Staples Center memorial and, speaking directly to Jackson's three children (which I think was inappropriate) made the preposterous statement that, "Wasn't nothin' strange about your daddy. It was strange what your daddy had to deal with." Sharpton got a standing ovation for that nonsensical and obviously-false observation.

Come on, y'all. I understand the need to comfort loveanother and to remember a beloved icon fondly, but let's not spiral off into fantasyland. The media didn't do a number on Michael. Michael did a number on himself and the media reported it.

Michael Jackson was weird. You know it and I know it. But that never stopped us from enjoying his amazing music or his jaw-dropping performances. And that's OK. Being a fan doesn't require us to ignore the fact that something was seriously wrong with this cat. Let's be honest, a guy who reconstructed his entire face through cosmetic surgery, who may have bleached his skin through chemical treatments (Quincy Jones believes Michael did that), who abused prescription painkillers and sedatives, and who never had a substantial romantic relationship but loved to hang out with children and sleep in the same bed as pre-teen boys...hey, a guy like that just ain't normal.
I believe firmly that Michael was guilty of the child molestation charges brought against him. But that doesn't keep me from partying to and being inspired by his music. We can idolize Michael Jackson as an artist and still be honest about his considerable flaws. We do that with all of our heroes, don't we? Martin Luther King, Jr. was unfaithful to his wife, Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, etc. But we still honor them for their accomplishments. So it should be with Michael Jackson.
Thanks for listening. I'm Cameron Turner and that's my two cents.


[Cameron Turner grew up in Altadena and graduated from John Muir High School and Stanford University. He currently resides in Monrovia. Read more "Turner's Two Cents" online at www.UrbanThoughtCollective.com and www.EURweb.com. Drop Cameron an e-mail at TurnersTwoCents@verizon.]


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