Sunday, July 5, 2009

Leave Him Alone

People don't miss him; they miss the way he made them feel. Let's at least be honest about our grief. The impulse to mourn his death is selfish, the loss of a part of childhood or innocence that seemed animate as long as he was alive. (Closer examination would, of course, have proven that impossible.) He became the unwilling griot of our cultural Grand Guignol.

Don't get me wrong, I love him as much as the jukebox hijackers, the Twitterers, the folks on the street recounting their personal experiences for which his music was the soundtrack. Maybe I don't love him as hysterically as the flagellants making their pilgrimage to the Staples Center, but I hold to that old chestnut, "If you love something, set it free."

Last Friday's Bob Herbert Op-Ed in The New York Times laid the blame for this idolatrous displacement squarely at the feet of a fantasy culture the symptoms of which include Reaganomics and the Iraq War. Herbert concluded, "We don’t want to look under the rock that was Jackson’s real life. As with so many other things, we don’t want to know." Jackson was a hero of an era that has decisively ended. With the death of Captain Eo (Gk., "dawn"), night has fallen, and only the nostalgia of salad days will keep him from his rest.

Regarding the mechanics of his exit, an piece by Mary MacElveen opined that "knowing how fans would react to his passing, Jackson should have set aside funds to pay for such an elaborate memorial service given the city [of Los Angeles'] deficit." Jackson engaged in widespread philanthropy through foundations and charities, but I doubt he would have financially encouraged the rending of garments and possible mass suttee that would occur at such an enormous pity party: everyone trying to out-sing each other in their praises of him and claim him the most decisively.

Because for most of Jackson's life, except when performing, he only wanted to be left alone. Almost as much as I'd like to be left alone by Geico commercials, which have have co-opted the Michael Jackson Rockwell song "Somebody's Watching Me" in a remix to flog their unsurance [sic].

The eternal reverberation of those broadcast waves across the aether is probably what killed Michael Jackson.