Thursday, March 09, 2006

Thoughts on Michael Jackson and heroes

Okay, so the big news at work was that Neverland has been shut down. Michael Jackson let the insurance lapse and apparently hasn't been paying some employees since December 2005. News came on the radio at the end of work.

Now this is good for some late night comedians to get a few laughs but it's really embarrassing for a lot of people. I don't just mean the fans of Michael Jackson. He really doesn't have that many fans today. He's got a lot of fanatics. He's got a lot of White boys (Justin Timberlake) who want to be him. Apparently the thing Justin Timberlake always wanted to be was an African-American man trying to be Diana Ross.

There are a few people who hung in there. They wouldn't listen to anything he's done in the last ten years but they'll listen to the old songs.

All he is now is a symbol. He's the "American dream." The little kid, Black, who grew up to be a multi-millionaire via his talent proving that we can all achieve. And that messages may be the only reason so many have trashing him the way they would have anyone else.

Despite the plastic surgery and the ever lighter skin, we buy into the "He's black" myth, that he's our standard bearer. When he got mixed up with the kids in the nineties, a lot of us were willing to argue he was innocent. When it flared up again recently, innocent or not, he was stupid and embarrassing.

There was a lot of disgust with the latest news. I think that has to do with the fact that if he's not paying his employees (if), then he's no longer the "success" and for a lot of people that meant facing the reality of the "American dream."

So what is the "American dream" today? It's not the Martin Luther King dream, it's not the dream for all. It's one person succeeds. In the case of Michael Jackson he becomes a symbol. Does he crack up because of it? Or is he still attacked because of his race? Despite all the money, is it his race?

I don't know. I know that a lot of people are disgusted and were talking about it today.

And it does speak to the "American dream" because it, "success," is more and more defined only by money. In earlier times, we could look up to athletes, musicians, actors breaking the color barrier but we were also aware of our leaders. It didn't seem like they were "in it" for the money.

It's not that we don't have leaders today. We have many people fighting. But the media isn't interested in them. John Conyers gets little attention, Maxine Waters, Cornel West . . . As big media chases down the dollar, we end up with hollow "life lessons" and when they turn ugly, as Michael Jackson has, we're left with anger.

I'm not a fan of Michael Jackson. I always preferred Prince growing up. I do feel sorry for him and, more importantly, I feel sorry for the message that's going out and the disappointment people are feeling.

Other big news is John Byrne and Ron Brynaert's "Washington nonprofit where Abramoff was director wrote articles favoring Abramoff clients" so give it a read.

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