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Coverage of A Cultural Icon

“I just want to say, ever since the day I was born, Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine. I just want to say I love him so much.”Paris Michael Katherine Jackson, at the end of her father’s memorial


It’s tough when the boss says you have to cover a world event when you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about or the sensibilities to even feign wonder that you don’t, letting those who do opine instead. At least CNN puts up a pretense that what they’re covering is news, that it matters to millions. Dylan Ratigan of MSNBC joining the Peter King – Bill O’Reilly tone deaf contingent, as the elite look down on the cultural phenomenon that was Michael Jackson, making fools of themselves in trying to make sense of what’s unfolding. Contessa Brewer trying to get a word of reporting in here and there amidst Ratigan’s embarrassing blathering. For TV cable coverage, it’s ugly out there.

“…I recognize that’s a lot of conjecture and speculation on my part. … That’s not news. That’s not toxicology. That’s me sitting here looking at circumstances and saying, You tell me how it is if you look at all the factors. Am I crazy to be thinking this?” – Dylan Ratigan, MSNBC’s “Morning Meeting”

Hey, but if you want disrespect and disgust, and Ratigan, King and O’Reilly aren’t enough for you, Lisa De Moraes is your girl.

Plenty of venom cued up just for MJ’s memorial.

Ratigan’s guest commentators today illustrating their inner imbecile as they try to equate any part of their life to Jackson’s. That stratospheric talent has no comparisons, except if you want to lump in Elvis, though he had the good fortune to live and die before non stop cable and new media broke loose.

But you’ve really got to wonder what King thought his comments were offering. Why Bill O’Reilly’s media criticism is even relevant, as he does yet another impression of Mr. Wilson telling those kids to turn down that radio. O’Reilly and King just two more ignorant cultural commentators who think that attacking a dead man they judge unworthy will somehow add to the public discourse. It’s amazing the venom of “Christians” targeting people they hate, showing no humility at all for the accomplishments they themselves could never reach, because in their own lives the purpose is only to judge others and offer pious pronouncements on cultural phenomenons they levy as unworthy.

The intense media coverage of Michael Jackson is warranted, but many of the people opining proving they are woefully inadequate to the moment. They are exhibits of a cultural divide and insensitivity just as wide as between what happened during the ’08 primary season’s “bittergate.” If you’re not in that crew you are simply on the outside looking in. You’ll live, as everyone else takes a moment to stop and note the passing, but more importantly, the talent of the man who spent a short time on this planet.

The world headlines will continue.

The bedlam being unleashed in China will remain; Iranian fissures ever present; health care reform splintering in all directions noticed.

We can handle the pause for this person.

So let the stuffy sniveling be secondary, taking a few hours on a few days, which culminates today, to celebrate the uplifting nature of art, of culture, and what music and performances from this man meant. Like him or not, Michael Jackson was a quintessential export of these United States. A product of America.

Besides, celebrating art matters; today it’s MJ’s rendition of it.

Jackson’s passing is noteworthy, because what he created is part of what helps us through what life delivers.

I can’t imagine the Vietnam War without the music; the soundtrack of our battles.

Music marks the passing of our life, our stages from young to old, our victories, defeats, escorting us along.

Play a certain piece of music and you can be immediately transported. That feeling returns.

MTV made music video take a spot next to what only could be heard and felt, with Michael Jackson shattering the barriers in that world.

So, if nothing else, today is a moment to step outside the cerebral nature of being human and think for one moment of something beyond what the average person can create.

We all know how Michael’s story ended. Horribly. …and he’s paid for what his choices wrought.

Believe me, this creative stuff isn’t easy; the dedication to perfection of art by someone like Jackson is enough to kill you even without the drugs.

Few escape the pitfalls of performance, especially started as a child, which twists a person’s character because of flights of perfection and drive that pushes you toward better expression. Yes, it sometimes ends in mania.

And there’s always the taskmaster somewhere in the story, whether you’re Sally, John or Michael. For Jackson, it was his father. A man who beat him, “threw him up against walls,” according to his son, and terrified him.

Many artists, including myself, have teachers of varying insanity we remember and hear whenever we decide to step up on the stage to make magic. They never leave you. That tyrant who screamed how bad a performance was, if only for your own good so you’d rise again to higher heights. The instructor with the harsh glance that made you shrivel when you found out they saw that missed mark. Terrifying judgments that leave deep scars.

But when the lights are on and the miracles happen, all that disappears and you wouldn’t change a moment for kindness.

One can only imagine what it meant to be Michael, talented, driven crazy by a parent, as well as his own ambition and, yes, genius. Don’t think for a moment Jackson would trade any of it. It’s the price for fame, as they say.

Michael Jackson is yet another troubled artist who struggled to keep on the even side of normal and failed.

Quite apart from the life, there’s the gift that’s being celebrated by many people around the world, but particularly the artistic community, led by black artists. Stevie Wonder, Mariah Carey, Usher, Lionel Richie, Jennifer Hudson, John Mayer, as well as Martin Luther King III, Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant and many more.

Oh, for one moment of grace and acknowledgment, because you don’t have to understand what it’s about to pay your respects to what’s unfolding.

I bet you didn’t know Jackson graciously returned Little Richard’s music to him even though it was worth several million to Michael if he’d kept it.

That’s only one story King and O’Reilly don’t want told, Ratigan remaining clueless while just trying to fill two hours. But it’s not surprising that these upper crust white guys don’t get it. They’re too busy competing with Jackson, the coverage, the celebrity of it, trying to sound relevant juxtaposed against a creative genius they cannot understand, because they don’t create.

Michael Jackson’s life has been delivered to his God, who will judge him as he lived. That’s not our place. A little humility is in order, though you won’t find it in the coverage.

It’s simply time to celebrate and enjoy the concert amidst the media circus, which is where Michael Jackson lived his whole life.

Breaking news will have to wait.

“I grew up on his music. Still have all his stuff on my iPod. I think that his brilliance as a performer also was paired with a tragic and, in many ways, sad personal life. But I’m glad to see that he is being remembered primarily for the great job that he brought to a lot of people through his extraordinary gifts as an entertainer.” - President Barack Obama

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