Wednesday, July 15, 2009

GUILTY BY SUSPICION?

It took me a few weeks, but the Michael Jackson story finally has grabbed my undivided attention. The past few days, I've been listening to his music practically non-stop, re-evaluating songs that I haven't thought about much less listened to in more than a decade. (Conclusion 1: Some of the new tracks on 1995's HIStory: Past, Present And Future, Book I have aged particularly well and sound much better now than they did at the time). I've also been reading sister LaToya's allegations that he was murdered (I think she may have a point) and a whole lotta hyperbole about his monster talent. I usually sniff at grand sweeping statements about any given artist's "genius," but in Michael's case, I have to agree that he might possibly have been the greatest entertainer of all time.

Somewhere between when the story first began to intrigue me (I think it was around when it was first reported that the police were not ruling out homicide) and now, a very good friend of mine whose opinion I value greatly said something that kind of shocked me. "It was time for him to die," she announced wearily but as a matter of fact. Then with a surge of passion, she added, "He was a child molester!"

I remember about four years ago, during my first trip to Buenos Aires, I was talking to someone from Seattle, and the subject of Jackson came up. The Seattle guy, like my friend, was convinced of Jackson's guilt. I'm not going to get into the innocent or guilty debate here except to say that from day one, I did not believe the allegations. My opinion has been and continues to be that he was the victim of golddiggers who took advantage of a golden opportunity to exploit their kid for the benefit of money.

What's interesting about statements from people who are so convinced of his guilt is how little they actually know about the case. Someone I once worked with said that in the U.S., where you are presumed innocent until proven guilty (presumably), the one crime that it seems to not apply to is child molestation. Once you've been charged with that one, you might as well put a fork in it because you are finished. In the eyes of the general public, neither a profound lack of evidence nor a not guilty verdict will redeem you. I think in Jackson's case, his oddball appearance and nature and his unusual relationship with children were extra strikes against him.

Although Michael seemed to have been forgiven for his presumed sins outside of the U.S. (before his death, he continued to be a huge draw in Europe, where his records still sold well), stateside he was pretty much done for. As Boy George once said, "How quickly Americans don't forget." Although some accused molesters with far more evidence against them have rebounded career-wise, if not reputation-wise, from the charges in the U.S. -- Woody Allen is one example, and I'm sure that R. Kelly could, if he tried, launch a successful comeback -- and both Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Jackie Earle Haley recently earned Oscar nominations for playing accused child molesters, the ultimate unsympathetic role, Michael Jackson was not so fortunate. He was a victim of his own weirdness.

We may never know for certain the complete story behind those child molestation allegations, but one can only hope that the mystery behind Jackson's death does not go unsolved for much longer, and if there really was foul play involved that those responsible will be brought to justice.
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