I Suppose I Should Say Something...

About Michael Jackson. I'm not a Michael Jackson fan, never have been. And I think he's kind of a weird guy. Okay, a very weird guy. But I'm glad he's not going to jail for twenty years.

I'm glad for several reasons. First, I'm glad because I think accusations of child abuse carry an almost "bring out the pitchforks" tenor to them. There's good reason for that. It disgusts us. It angers us. It is practiced against the unwilling and the vulnerable. Even if, like me, you think the parents were idiots ever to let their kids hang out with Michael Jackson, that still wouldn't justify any abuse. And because child abuse (specifically sexual abuse) is so despicable, it can rouse people to a fever pitch of indignation. I'm not entirely convinced that fever pitched indignation is the best way to settle a matter.

I was willing to entertain the suspicion, almost from the start, that Michael Jackson had behaved badly. But there was something so Walt Disney Beauty & the Beast ending about it all: villagers rush off into the night to attack the resident (in this case, National) monster in his castle of Neverland. Go villagers. That is, until they burn down the castle, start a forest fire and take out half the village by mistake. Misguided emotional energy is, afterall, misguided emotional energy.

The fact is, if the evidence ain't there, it doesn't matter whether he did it or not. This is, to use a term fraught with all kinds of imperialistic implications (oh, I must be a grad student) civilized. You can't just lock people up because you don't like them or because they annoy you or because you find them obnoxious or even because you suspect all sorts of terrible things about them. There are problems with this high-falutin' attitude; what do you do when you don't have the evidence but you're dealing with a highly dangerous individual (i.e. terrorist, multiple murderer, rapist, etc.) who might go out and do it again? After all, there is a difference between a declaration of legal guilt and real guilt.

But I don't consider Michael Jackson particularly dangerous. He doesn't prowl the streets at night, to my knowledge. And I imagine that it was this basic fact that dried up the jury's sympathy for the plaintiff. You waltz your kids into the cobra's den, you can't complain much when they get strangled (if, in fact, they did). He's a pitiable creature, and it seemed rather cruel to lock the guy up. He's literally and figuratively locked himself up for years.

Which brings me to my final point which is that although I was willing to entertain suspicions of Michael Jackson, I don't believe he did those particular awful and crazy things. It's apropos that I should have just posted on J.M. Barrie. Men like J.M. Barrie and Lewis Carroll would have been hung, drawn and quartered in our modern age of recovered memories and decades old accusations of abuse. Both men were enamoured by children. Lewis Carroll would make friends with little girls on trains. J.M. Barrie would make up elaborate role-playing games for his young "lost boys" (who weren't lost, having omnipresent parents of their own). The girls and the boys inevitably outgrew their elderly playmates. The point is, these men weren't pedophiles, but in our day, they would be instantly suspect and perhaps, with legitimate reason (Alice's mother apparently regarded Lewis Carroll with a great deal of suspicion). Still, it would have been very sad if the creator of Peter Pan and the creator of Alice in Wonderland had been sent off to jail for suspicious behavior. Personally, I don't think Michael Jackson is in the same artistic class, but plenty of his fans would disagree. Not that artistic merit should excuse bad behavior but surely we can allow for an eccentric or two amongst our National icons and not rush out with the pitchforks? Until the proof arrives, at least.

CATEGORY: HISTORY & LEARNING

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