Thursday, July 2, 2009

Michael Jackson Hangover Wearing Off

At my local police precinct is a memorial to the several cops from my precinct who have been killed in the line of duty. I pass two fire stations in the course of my week that lost men on 9/11 at the World Trade Center. In my shul is a stained glass window honoring two brothers from the congregation whose mother and father mourned their passing. All of these people were defending their country and our streets. They died the death of heroes.

A great loss I felt keenly was when my musical hero, Lucky Dube was killed in a carjacking in South Africa. He was a great reggae singer who wrote of the difficulties of raising children. He wrote of the difficulties of raising children. He wrote of women with dignity and respect. He was a member of an African Christian church that was independent of European control. He was not into any form of substance abuse. He grew up in such abject poverty as does not even exist in this country. He was a loving husband and father. Is a person who was murdered a hero? Lucky was a hero by virtue of how he lived his life. I still feel sadness that he was taken from us at such a young age, in his early forties. I do not understand why his death did not get far more publicity.

Michael Jackson was an amazingly talented man from a musical family. He might even make posthumous contributions to his already formidable musical legacy.

Despite this, Jackson was a troubled and flawed individual. I was very surprised when I heard that the New York City Council requested a moment of silence in his honour. Perhaps, like many pop stars, he gave money to charity. Peter Vallone, a member of the City Council along with a few others injected a note of sanity into the proceedings. The blog reported as follows of the ripple of dissent in the City Council.

“I think it’s only fitting that this city and this Council stand in a moment of silence for the King of Pop, Michael Jackson,” said Foster, a Democrat from the Bronx.

Oddo, via text message, confirmed he left the room in response to the tribute. Fidler could be seen in the lobby of the Council chambers, peering through the glass doors as Foster praised Jackson.

Vallone, a conservative Democrat who chairs the Public Safety Committee, jokingly said he left the room for the same reason Republican State Senator Frank Padavan accidentally wandered through the Senate chambers in Albany—that is, in search of a cup of coffee.

“That’s what I was doing, wink,” said Vallone.

UPDATE: Lew Fidler told me afterwards, “Clearly his death is a tragedy,” but "I’m the chairman of the Youth Services Committee in the Council and the man was probably a serial pedophile, may have well died of a drug overdose.”

Fidler said the talents of a celebrity don’t necessarily “make them a role model. While we can mourn his death I don’t know that standing up on the floor of the Council to pay tribute to a life I wouldn’t want my kids to aspire to was appropriate.”

He said Jackson “has multiple sealed settlements with the families of young boys. What exactly is it that we’re exalting?”

Ulrich said he left the room but not in protest of Jackson, but rather to talk to Oddo about another legislative matter.

Another Councilman who walked prior to the Jackson honor was Vinny Ignizio, a Republican of Staten Island."

Linda Stasi, a columnist for the New York Post, was absolutely bare knuckled in her treatment of Jackson. Her opening paragraph in today's column gives you an idea of the tone of the article. Her opening salvo reads as follows.

YOU'D have thought by the media lovefest that the pope had died a tragic death after a lifetime of caring for lepers.

But, no, it was the death of Michael Jackson, a drug-addled, creepy-beyond-words, accused pedophile who literally bought his children with the help of two brood mares and, apparently, his dermatologist -- a group of amoral savages who had no problem giving their kids to a man who looked like the Phantom of the Opera and who behaved like a depraved worm.

You can call it "adoption," but I call it child-trafficking.

I was a bit stunned when I read about the dissenters in the City Council. I was shocked at Linda Stasi's column. In my house we just noted how Michael Jackson was in the news and uncomfortably changed the subject. When I heard about the moment of silence in the City Council, I realised that the tactful glosses in the news coverage had gone too far. It was time for a reality check. When you pass a memorial in front of a fire house or a police station, when you look back on the national state of mourning that prevailed in South Africa when Lucky Dube was laid to rest, it puts the death of Michael Jackson into a clear perspective.

The real tragedy of Michael Jackson was the psychological deterioration that sapped his energies, his finances and his reputation. If this troubling subject can be addressed in film or a biography, perhaps the public can benefit from it.

I can not understand how we choose our role models and our icons. Some of the greatest heroes are not household names at all. They might be a teacher volunteering after school or reduced to a plaque on a police station wall. Then there is Lucky Dube, who was G-d's gift to South Africa and the world who is barely mentioned today. I can't figure it out. It took a few feisty New Yorkers like Peter Vallone and Linda Stasi to bring me back to reality. Thanks guys. I needed that

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