[Note: This post is by Sweat Records’ co-founder-at-large and assistant Miami Public Defender, Sara Yousuf.]
Michael Jackson warned us in Billie Jean, “Be careful what you do, ’cause the lie becomes the truth.” The words he shared with us in 1983 became a parable for the rest of MJ’s life.
Hearing the news of Michael Jackson’s death, I’ve gone through the battery of emotions: denial, shock, confusion and now I’m working through a cloud of guilt. Yes, guilt. Because although I loved me some Michael, I loved even more to be entertained by the spectacle that was his words, his actions and his life. From the baby shaking incident, the evolution of his nose, Bubbles the chimp, to a bizarre friendship with Liz Taylor…I have relished in the collective misunderstanding of Michael Jackson.
I have told jokes that suggest that MJ picks his nose out of a magazine, or that he enjoys 26-year-olds because, “there are 20 of them.” But what the hell was I doing? What does it say about me that I made cruel jokes at Michael’s expense? For over 20 years! I was condemning the very type of nonconformity which I support in other manifestations. I mean, I have no problem with Dolly Parton making herself the prototype for the all-plastic woman. She’s adorable! And by what logic can I support Lady Gaga’s right to wear a bubble dress, but not Michael’s right to go to court dressed like Captain Crunch?
Why would I allow myself to judge him for allegations of pedophilia that have never been proven? Say what you will, but the allegations were never proven beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury. He was acquitted in 2005. As a criminal defense attorney, I should smack myself in the face for accepting unproven allegations…just like that.
Making cruel jokes at Michael expense said that I was a judgmental asshole. I took more pleasure in mocking his queerness than in admiring his brilliance. Nobody’s dance moves made me ponder physics like Michael’s. No song can funk-up a crowd like “Billy Jean.” And no one took on the important social issue of walking away from street violence like MJ did in “Beat It.”
Let’s consider the adversity that Michael Jackson dealt with over his life…physical abuse, racial prejudice, isolation, going from poverty to abundant wealth, gender identity issues…you name it. And despite all that, he found the strength to continue making his art.
In an effort to heal from this depressing loss, I’m going to do some things would make Michael proud. I’m going to be kind to animals. I’m going to revel in idealistic thoughts about healing the world and helping the children. I’m going to express my inner funk by wearing something gold and reagal. I’m going to suspend my cynical judgement, because I know that my cynical bullshit ain’t worth half of one sequin on the late Michael Jackson’s glove.