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Black or White: The Michael Jackson Controversy

The debate about whether Michael Jackson was, or was not, a sexual abuser has gone viral. Is that truly what this debate should be about though?

Documentaries are supposed to reveal the truth, but the latest documentary about Michael Jackson is far from unbiased. It focuses on two alledged survivors of sexual abuse and their version of the story.  Possibly that it is the truth, possibly it is not. It has started a worldwide debate about who Michael Jackson truly was. It has made me contemplate what the debate is about and, possibly, what the debate should be about. 

I remember when I was still living in Los Angeles and had a hard time dealing with the tourist buses that drove up to me, stopped and had people take photos of me. When walking home from Trader Joe’s with your groceries, looking like hell, I didn’t always appreciate busloads of tourists snapping away. Who they thought I was, I don’t know. I think the presumption was: she lives in Hollywood, she must be famous. But sometimes, a bus puling up next to you and numerous cameras zooming in on you felt a bit weird. I felt pride too, vanity and all that, but I also felt awkward as hell.

One day, when I complained about it all, my best friend snapped at me, saying I could just wave at them and give them a nice memory. Even Michael Jackson would come out to wave when he was alive, so why couldn’t I get over myself and be nice to them, instead of cowering away? She had a point.

But if I felt awkward having busloads of tourists zoom in on me, how did Michael Jackson feel growing up as a child star? No doubt fame is addictive, but it’s also detrimental to many as their footing in reality becomes loosened. And if you think it’s hard having your friends judge your life on social media, imagine what it’s like having the paparazzi following your every step.

Michael Jackson was not a normal man. He didn’t know what it was like shopping for groceries, attending a children’s birthday party, or living a life without an entourage. He even opened a ranch called Neverland. He wanted his childhood back, so he created it as an adult.

We are all a product of our environment. If our environment doesn’t teach us how to deal with life properly, we don’t know how to deal with life. Look at people growing up in the midst of gang wars. Some realize there’s a life outside the gang and that’s all they ever dream of. Some never see that there is a life outside and grow up thinking life is a war zone and you have to fight to survive.

When we reach a certain age, we are told we are adults and therefore responsible for our actions. Yet many people, by the time they have reached adulthood, rather than being prepared to live happy lives, have no idea of how to make decisions that bring them happiness. To many people the idea of happiness isn’t even attainable.

Michael Jackson was a man who was rich enough to live out his fantasies, which in his case involved living life like a child in many ways. He also did a lot for charity and was obsessed with trying to make this world a better place. He got to live out that fantasy, too.

In view of the recent documentary about two men who accuse Michael Jackson of sexually abusing them, the world has gone completely crazy shouting out their opinions about him. During his lifetime he was accused of sexually abusing children and was acquitted. One of the two men in the recent documentary even testified in defense of him. He was in his twenties back then. More recently, the same man tried to get hired for the Cirque du Soleil show about Michael Jackson. And his mother called the Jackson family and asked if she shouldn’t raise Michael’s children after he died, even though she hadn’t had contact with the family for years. At least if you are to believe Brandi Jackson.

The two men who partook in the Jackson documentary are, according to the Jacksons, suing the Jackson estate for hundreds of millions of dollars. No small sums, in other words.

I don’t know if Michael Jackson abused children. I find it somewhat disturbing that people are ready to accuse him without a judge and jury. That people take the events expressed in the documentary as facts without questioning them. I find it equally disturbing that fans and people who weren’t there, defend him saying it couldn’t have happened because he was a great man. Many great men have committed crimes, because people aren’t black and white. People have many different sides to their personalities.

When there is an argument, people tend to latch onto one side or another, getting stuck on something that’s an opinion, as opposed to a fact. For example, people say things like: “Michael Jackson had children sleeping in his bed, therefore he must be an abuser.”

I help raise underprivileged kids and I’ve been around several people who do fostering, or part-time fostering, so I can definitively understand letting kids come stay with you. And kids are prone to want to sleep in your bed if they like you. As a child, I went to sleep in my parents’ bed because it was safe. Luring kids into your bed, on the other hand, is disturbing in so many ways I can’t even begin to think about it. It makes me sick. And I think that’s where most of us lose it — if we think someone abuses children we get furious.

I’m guessing that our willingness to judge without asking too many questions happens when we see something that moves us. And most of us get furious when we watch what we believe to be abuse of another person. But that same rage that’s meant to protect us can also blind us.

What I think is missing in this debate is also mental health services for people who have problems with their sexuality. You would think that an adult would have enough control over themselves not to act on their urges, but as is seen with anorexia, with overweight people, with OCD, and just the average adult who tells themselves they’ll go to the gym and then don’t, controlling our urges isn’t always as easy as it seems. There is a vast difference between controlling things that only affect you and things that affect others, but it’s important to point out that adults are not always as in control over their actions as they’d like to think they are. And I can imagine that while calling a psychologist to tell them that you’re having anorexia is fairly easy if you aren’t in denial, calling them to tell them you feel sexually attracted to children is a lot more difficult. It’s not socially acceptable to have that mental disease. It’s obvious why it’s not socially acceptable, but it’s also obvious that these people need to be able to seek help. Urgently.

Michael Jackson is gone, but around the world today there are thousands of people in need of mental health services who won’t receive them. As a result, some of them will end up criminals if they give in to their urges and delusions.

Isn't this where our attention should be? Future prevention of sexual crimes. 

From what little I’ve seen of Michael Jackson, he was a mentally ill man. He might have been the kindest man ever (and I've met people who worked with him who said he was amazing), but he still wanted to be Peter Pan. That alone should ring some warning bells. He died from an unintentional drug overdose. That too, should ring a warning bell. If he abused children, or just surrounded himself with them, I have no idea. I have not researched it properly, nor am I a crime investigator, I’m merely pointing out that people’s willingness to accept whatever is thrown at them is shocking no matter what camp they're in, in the Michael Jackson debate. Likewise, peoples' need to put things in black and white disturbs me. People are, for the most part, both black and white. We all need to learn to control our minds and act from our hearts, or we act out our own patterns, whatever they may be. In some people’s cases these patterns are clearly worse than others and these people need to be put behind bars until they’ve stopped acting out those patterns. If they can’t change their patterns, they need to stay behind bars.

I think it’s time we all stopped taking things at face value; started asking for facts and also let go of some of our own biases — just because someone is nice to you, doesn’t mean they’re not horrible to someone else. And just because they’re horrible to one person doesn’t mean they’re altogether rotten. It might, on the other hand, mean that they need help and if they can’t control themselves, be put in jail. I believe it's time we start thinking about mental health interventions before people reach a point where they commit crimes. I, for one, wish someone would have given Michael Jackson a childhood that didn't lead to him wanting to become Peter Pan. 

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