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Michael Jackson was once, perhaps, the world’s most widely loved figure. At the height of his fame crowds flocked to him as if he possessed a super-human magic.
He filled stadiums around the world like a pied-piper leading mankind to a place of entertainment it had never before visited.
Yes, he was loved.
Later, Michael Jackson was sued.
It seemed that there were as many young boys in the world suing Jackson for sexual harassment as there were young boys mimicking the moonwalk and singing along to “Thriller”.
His reputation drastically changed. The term “wacko” became widely associated with images of a pasty white figure, dressed in white, sometimes wearing a surgical mask, wearing a nose that seemed to shrink with each year.
The idiosyncrasies of Michael Jackson began to overshadow his fame as an entertainer. The man grew into a tabloid figure of monstrous proportions – monstrous because of his unrivaled celebrity; monstrous because of the brutally personal nature of the accusations made against him.
Michael Jackson, celebrated as if he were super-human, was berated and mocked as if he had no human feelings. His behavior was secretive and bizarre.
It seems now that he was quite possibly a long-time drug addict, popping pills as he held babies out from balconies, as he danced and sang, and as he cloistered himself off in regal privacy. But what should we expect of an iconoclastic star who radically changed the dynamics of popular music?
Didn’t Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix use substances? Didn’t they live lives apart? Yet they received sympathy where Michael Jackson did not.
Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix were forgiven – for their genius.
And while the genius of Michael Jackson went unchallenged through his legal battles and personal ordeals, he was treated like garbage. Because he was so different, so unique, so alien to standard modes of behavior, he was vilified.
Certainly, if any of the allegations against Michael Jackson had been proven, there could be no reasonable argument made for Jackson’s right to sympathy and humane treatment.
The charges against him never were proven, however, and as small as his nose might have gotten, he was still a person of deep feeling, great talent, and profound popular significance.
Treating him without sympathy is like putting a king into a monkey cage. It demeans all of us who look and point and grin, not just the king.