There were not thousands of police officers assigned to control the crowd and quickly handle trouble. There were no television crews, no cameras, and twitter was not overloaded during the memorial service. The service went about as expected for the quiet 93-year-old homebody that passed from this life on July 3. Her funeral service was Monday. The crowd was small and subdued. The speaker hid his feelings of inadequacy well.
The memorial held the next day in a huge, modern building was packed with media and celebrities as well as ordinary folks who won the lottery to gain a ticket for admittance. What those lucky few witnessed was great, classy, well-orchestrated entertainment. I saw some of it on one of the many channels that carried it live. Really, it was a great show and I understand the tremendous draw that the famous, wealthy, and noticeable hold for those of us who are none of those things.
Why would I care to compare these two memorials? Some of it is personal. I was the one attempting to comfort the family of the lady whose funeral was Monday. The family did not expect many to attend because Mrs. Edna had outlived most of her friends and all of her siblings. That expectation proved accurate. I feel compelled to comment on the comparison because anyone who attempts to restrain or qualify the rhetoric and near worship of Michael Jackson will probably be labeled either racist or narrow-minded for believing any of the "unproven" reports of pedophilia. Let me be clear; I have enjoyed Michael Jackson's music since I was in high school (when he first began as the cute kid with the Jackson 5). I think he was a savvy entertainer and his quirkiness contributed to his draw. He first rose above his neighbors and peers, then far outshone his siblings. Many are calling him the greatest entertainer ever to live. That can be debated--and will--but not by me. Perhaps he was. In fact, to make my point I will just concede that he is, indeed, the greatest entertainer ever. The purpose of this post is not to question his credentials as an entertainer. He was powerful and his influence was widespread. I just can't bring myself, though, to accept all that is being said now. Have you read of the family in Stockton, California that believes an image of Michael appeared on a stump in their yard the day he died?
"I was standing by that bush, and I looked up and saw that image here," Garcia told CBS.
Many people in the crowd who gathered to look at the stump on Sunday afternoon saw the resemblance, but why would Michael Jackson appear instead of a religious figure, or even any of the other celebrities who recently passed away?
"Because Michael Jackson was an icon to us," said one neighbor.
"To Stockton, Michael Jackson meant more to us than Jesus, to some people. I think they're both about even."
See? That is the part that bothers me. Not that Michael Jackson is appreciated, but that some now think he meant more than Jesus--or was about even with Him. Lest you think that is an isolated weirdo that wants to make money from a stump, check one of the many, many videos that will soon be available of the memorial service and listen to what Al Sharpton had to say. Wow! Suddenly, I realize that Michael was not really an entertainer. He was in fact a change agent. He was responsible for societal change that allowed Oprah to be on TV and Obama to be elected president. Mr. Sharpton went on to assure Michael's children that their father was not strange--what went on around him was strange, but he dealt with it. Nothing was said about the ex-wives or the children that slept with Michael. That is appropriate for his memorial service. It is NOT appropriate that average men and women in the workplace and around kitchen tables can not be honest about the life of an individual because he has celebrity status. Please understand, I don't think he should be held to a higher moral standard because he became famous. He could not help the family he was born into. He had little choice about how his early life unfolded. MJ had little chance of ever having a "normal" life. I pity him for that. My concern is that we are drawn to recast a life of indulgence and narcissism in a way that makes a pop star seem larger than life itself and above all moral standards. Have we arrived at that place--where if you are flamboyant and entertaining enough, we will overlook any bizarre and immoral behavior you choose, while overlooking the simple, Godly men and women that go about doing the best they can?