Mei 28, 2011

Who Feels It, Knows It

"I didn't realize Jesus died again today."
"What's with the deification of Michael Jackson?"
"The memorial service was so creepy."
Just a small sampling of the comments I've been reading online, regarding the dignified memorial service that celebrated the life of Michael Jackson yesterday. I’ve almost lost a couple of friends because of those kinds of responses.
Michael Jackson was a complicated figure. On my blog, Afrobella, I wrote a few loving tributes to him in which I admitted as much. And it’s true -- for many of us, the Michael Jackson we loved disappeared from public view decades ago. His living legacy became shrouded in mystery and accusation, the brown skinned boy so many admired replaced by a foreign and at times frightening visage. The kid who blew the world away on the Ed Sullivan Show 40 years ago grew up to be a man with so much psychic pain that he sought the services of anaestheologists to numb himself to sleep at night. If you listen to the lyrics of a song like Childhood, you might begin to understand why. Or maybe you won't, and never will.
The death of Michael Jackson and the subsequent media spotlight has revealed a marked rift. There are those who are baffled, annoyed, and downright disgusted by the attention and adulation. And there are those who feel a pain in their hearts akin to losing a family member, who can't believe that Michael -- their Michael, who provided the soundtrack to their lives -- is gone. This isn't a simple case of "it's a black thing, you wouldn't understand;" Michael Jackson had fans of every creed and race, in every crevice of the world. This isn't a schism that can be easily explained away by skin color or age or cultural identity. Michael Jackson's passing for me, and for many others, has uncovered an emotional response that's almost indescribable, difficult to understand, and almost impossible to explain to the many who just don't get it.
"Who feels it, knows it," is a phrase that originated in the Caribbean, most often used by Rastafarians in regards to their religion, their race, the burdens they and their ancestors have shouldered. But it's more than apt when explaining the response Michael Jackson's untimely passing has evoked in myself, and in so many others.
The New York Daily News reported that more than 31 million people watched television coverage of his memorial service yesterday, countless millions  more watched online and wherever they could catch a glimpse of the moving ceremony. It’s impossible to calculate how many tears have been shed since June 25. Some have cried for the man himself, but most of us have wept for the loss of what he represented to us. We’ve shed tears for the loss of our own innocent youth, for the memory of the Michael Jackson we held in our hearts. Maybe that was the sweet-faced boy who crooned “Who’s Loving You” so convincingly at such a tender age. Maybe it was the lithe teenager who introduced the world to popping and locking with “Dancing Machine.” Maybe it was the dazzling, handsome young man who wanted to “Rock With You,” or the moonwalking mastermind behind Thriller, Bad, and Dangerous. Michael, our Michael, is gone. And for many of us who grew up listening to his music, gazing rapt and slack jawed at his videos, or kissing the photos on his album covers, it aches in a way that’s impossible to rationalize. You either get it, or you don’t. And if you don’t, the very least you could do is be respectful and hope that he rests in peace.

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