Monday, June 29, 2009

Thoughts on a Lost Boy

Over the past few days, I have been trying to determine why a celebrity's death would throw me for such a loop. It's not like I ever met this celebrity or even attended one of his concerts.

Yes, I am talking about the biggest news story right now: the death of superstar Michael Jackson, also known as The Gloved One, Wacko Jacko, MJ, The King of Pop, and even Peter Pan.

Did I cry out when I first heard the news because Michael Jackson was born in my home state?

Am I mourning because I had a major crush on Michael Jackson as an adolescent and used to sneak into my brother's room to open up his ALBUM to this picture?

Am I sad because the music and dance world lost an icon and an inspiration?

I think I am sad for all of these reasons . . . but there is so much more to my melancholic mood over the past few days.

Whatever your thoughts on Michael Jackson, you cannot deny his talent and the effect he had on the world. I have personally always viewed him, not as Peter Pan, but as a lost boy. I think he had fame thrust upon him at a young age; too young an age to have even partial responsibility of "bringing home the bacon" for a large family. I truly believe that the only time Michael was happy was when he was making music and/or dancing. You can see it on his face, even as a child. But I cannot even begin to imagine the type of pressure he was under.

He was a young, black entertainer born into a family of musicians trying to make it. And he tasted success at the very beginning of a country's journey to a change it was not quite ready to make. Somewhere along the way, Michael Joseph Jackson got lost, and I think he stayed there, in Neverland, as a perpetual child . . . a lost boy.

While listening to some memorials to Michael on MTV, a long-standing friend said he once asked Michael about his oft-debated relationships with children and Michael said something like, "The children are the only ones who tell me the truth." For someone who stayed in a childlike world, the harshness of the real world had to have been difficult. I am not saying this in any way excuses him from some of the crazy things he did (nor will I claim I know what crazy things he DID do), but it makes me see things in a different light. How many times have we wished we could go back to our childhood when things were simpler? Well, Michael did it. Things were never simple for him, but he tried.

Even with all of these things, I still could not determine why the cloud of sadness was lingering over me. So I started remembering . . .

When Thriller came out, I was 7 years old. It was 1982. In 1982, Time magazine named its first non-human Man of the Year, the computer. A black man and and a white man recorded a song about "living in perfect harmony". Ronald Reagan was president, and even though we were in the midst of a recession, he would not back down in his belief that our country would come out okay on the other side. And we did.

Although there were some scary things going on at the time, I remember being full of hope for the world that I lived in. I believed in hope for a better day. Hope and Change were not words that people used to get elected, they were words that they used because they wholeheartedly believed that there was hope for change, for the better.

Ronald Reagan said, "Each generation goes further than the generation preceding it because it stands on the shoulders of that generation. You will have opportunities beyond anything we've ever known." Ronald Reagan was right . . . but are we holding up our end of the bargain?

My two favorite MJ songs have always been "We are the World" (co-written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie) and "Man in the Mirror." (Videos provided in an earlier post.) When I hear these songs, I remember that feeling of hope; that feeling that our country really is good and that none of us have lived up to our potential . . . but we still could.

I think I am sad because people have given up. People have started using words like hope and change to sell records, to win elections, to get people to jump on board a sinking ship. They use these words and then blame someone else when things do not go the way they planned.

But the death of Michael Jackson has made me realize one very important thing:

"We can't go on pretending day by day, that someone, somewhere will soon make a change."

We cannot wait for someone else to make things better for us. We have to be a part of change, be a part of hope, and we have to take personal responsibility for ourselves and our actions.

"I've been a victim of a selfish kind of love. It's time that I realize that there are some with no home, not a nickel to loan. Could it be really me, pretending that they're not alone? A willow deeply scarred, somebody's broken heart and a washed-out dream, they follow the pattern of the wind, ya see, cause they got no place to be . . . that's why I'm starting with ME."

I am sad, because I feel like I have lost a symbol of hope from my childhood.

But my hope is renewed because I believe that there are others who believe as I do: that Good will triumph and that we CAN and WILL make a difference . . .

"If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change."

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