Stop All the Clocks - Mourning Without Object

Sharon July 7th, 2009

I have refused to turn on a tv or a radio today, or to even look at CNN, in the hopes of avoiding any knowledge of the spectacle of Michael Jackson’s funeral.  I can almost forgive my friend Rod Dreher for making me know that the generally mediocre Maya Angelou has whored herself to write a poem about the death of Michael Jackson - almost.  It reads like Auden’s “Stop All the Clocks, Cut off the Telephone” written by a maudlin and none-too bright fourteen year old.  More importantly, there’s something genuinely disturbing about someone who has written so clearly and evocatively about the role of child abuse in her life eulogizing someone whose relationship to children was so overtly sexualized.

Let’s be clear. In the generally rather boring genre of pop music, Michael Jackson made some original, and debatably good pop music. Even when I was 11 and everyone else loved Thriller I still didn’t like him, but I will cede the fact that for people who like that sort of thing, this is the sort of thing that they will like.  He then turned into a fountain of creepy weirdness, narcissism and child molestation.  I think that the only reasonable response to the death of Michael Jackson is “that’s something of a relief” since pedophiles rarely cease molesting others.

So how to explain the outpouring of passion for someone, who, after all, hadn’t made an album anyone listened to in quite a while, and who more importantly, and done some truly horrifying things?  How to explain the transformation of someone so totally pointless and bad into a hero - the Princess Di-ization of Michael Jackson (and Princess Di herself, before her martyrdom was also pretty clearly a freaky loon, if a better dressed and more charitable one)?  Why do we do it?

The explanation is this - we love grief itself.  It is so much fun to feel bad, to mourn, to grieve. I can still remember the death of a student in my high school, and the waves of grief that poured out - suddenly everyone had been her best friend, everyone had known and loved her best, everyone was awash with grand passion, eyes red, enjoying (here I obviously except her genuine friends and her family) the sensation of participating in spectacle.  It is so exciting to feel something, particularly something that costs us nothing.  Well, it costs us nothing in some senses - the tickets were black marketed at 700 bucks, last I’d heard, and of course, California can’t pay all that police overtime in money, they have to issue IOUs.

As the saying goes, there is no “there” there - Michael Jackson is not Michael Jackson the pop star, or Michael Jackson the boy from the silly Jackson Five, or Michael Jackson the child abuser - he’s simply an empty space of fame into which we can pour our need for saints and stories of redemption.

And of course, we have an endless sack of grief to call upon.  We are, of course, not permitted to mourn dramatically for things actually worth grieving over - it is either normal or trivial that we cannot safely fish in the water, that small frogs that I once captured and released no longer exist, that we face a world of declining resources and a great deal of conflict over those resources.  We are not permitted to grieve extravagantly or get maudlin over the fact that we pass on less to our children in every generation, or that we have a much less secure future than we once did. Instead, our grief is channelled into spectacles, into the iconic representation of all that is trivial about a generation - as the media prepared to run all Jackson, all the time, the front piece of yesterdays MSM page included the quote “New book says Jackie Kennedy may have had Torrid Affair with RFK.”  Gee, that’s relevant - let’s also bring up the trivial losses of a previous generation, into which they could pour all their fantasies.

Anything so that we don’t have to think about the world as it actually is.  Anything to wipe the death of all green shoots off the page.  Anything to harken back to less important questions than whether your kids have a future, how hot the planet will get, how poor you will be.  Anything to give us outlet for our emotions so that they may be expelled pointlessly on things that do not matter.  Anything to let us feel passion for things that are totally harmless, conveniently distracting, and, bluntly, make us dumber just for being near them. 

Weep now. Stop all the clocks.  He is dead.  He was not our North, our South, our East or West, but he’ll do in place of actual content, meaning or a moral compass.  After all, a great many things worth grieving over are truly dead, and we never even wept for them.


91 Responses to “Stop All the Clocks - Mourning Without Object”

  1. Josephon 07 Jul 2023 at 4:50 pm

    I agree with you. I was in the town
    square and a reporter with a camera-
    person asked me what my favorite MJ
    song was and I told her I was not a

    It’s all escapism, part of the same
    phenomenon that JH Kustler talks
    about this week.

    I say, let us grieve for all of the pain
    and hardship for people all over the
    world everyday we do not redirect
    wealth away from Empire, the military
    and greedy desires.

  2. Chris R.on 07 Jul 2023 at 4:54 pm


    So true that our culture never weeps for the species made extinct, landscapes ruined, and cultures devastated or extinguished. There is a psychpathothology within our society that will be difficult to exorcise. I have found Jensen’s Endgame to be a good set of examples of our cultural decay.

  3. dahliaon 07 Jul 2023 at 4:59 pm

    bread and circuses.

  4. Abbieon 07 Jul 2023 at 5:17 pm

    Sharon- I do weep and mourn for our true losses, and I am not afraid to show it, either.

    My environmental science classes have seen me cry over children dying because their families live on what they find in a landfill, over a polar bear that drowns because he can’t find ice, over a family in Africa who doesn’t have clean water to drink. They know that I cry because I care, and I hope that they recognize that yes, adults do care about the amazing losses going on all around us. I am unafraid to show this emotion in hopes that they will understand that these are true losses.

  5. Jasonon 07 Jul 2023 at 5:23 pm

    Hmm, I’d strike another note. One doesn’t like to disagree with a wise and vehement hostess in her own house… but to find in this an occasion for venting pent-up anger doesn’t feel pertinent to me, any more than the outpouring of grief. And I think being angry dramatically feels just as good as grieving dramatically, come to that.

    I’m not his biggest fan by any stretch, but his daughter’s tears were real, and boy, could he ever dance.

    (Angelou on the other hand… ^_^)

  6. Green Assassin Brigadeon 07 Jul 2023 at 5:25 pm

    I walked today surounded by strangers I did not understand much like I did in High School when John Lennon died. I don’t get it, I don’t much like spectical, I don’t much like cults of personality.

  7. ceceliaon 07 Jul 2023 at 5:57 pm

    I think more than love of grief - it is a desire for community. I often think the great rock spectacles in those huge arenas are akin to the medieval cathedral - in the absence of a genuine shared culture our fragmented populace finds community in mass events, in shared grief over cultural phenomena.

    I agree it is trivial and distracts from things that do matter. But it is fed by the media and the blog world, even pundits who one thinks might know better.

    I find the Sarah Palin obsession of the moment to be in the same vein.

  8. safiraon 07 Jul 2023 at 6:02 pm

    On one hand, I agree that there’s a strong bread and circuses element in this whole Michael Jackson spectacle.

    On the other hand, I suspect that the outpouring of grief over a stranger’s death is, in many cases, a release of sorrows that people couldn’t articulate enough, even to themselves, to mourn or haven’t had time to mourn because they’re too busy coping with the aftermath. I’ve often found myself crying over a novel or movie, only to realize I’m really crying about X, Y, and Z-each too “small” for tears on their own, but adding up to a considerable weight of stress I hadn’t acknowledged until something random and unrelated to my real life pushed me over the edge.

    I also think you’re falling into intellectual snobbery here (one of my besetting sins, so I can recognize it). Just because you-and I and many of the readers of this blog-don’t find most pop music appealing or moving, don’t discount that it plays a huge role in many lives. I don’t like his style of music (and on a personal level, he was clearly disturbed) but Jackson had genuine talent as an entertainer and brought pleasure to many.

  9. Carlon 07 Jul 2023 at 6:03 pm

    I’ve been avoiding it too, but my wife and daughter watched the memorial. If now he has so many “friends” and family, why couldn’t someone have gotten him into rehab? And leaving L.A. with a two million dollar security bill - priceless! I’m just glad it’s over, but of course now we’ll have to hear endless speculation about his death and Elvis like “sightings” (would he be wearing a vail I wonder?).

  10. Katon 07 Jul 2023 at 6:03 pm

    Amen and amen. Bread and circuses is right.

  11. Debon 07 Jul 2023 at 6:20 pm

    I think you are a breath of fresh air, not an intellectual slob. I have found him distinctly creepy for years, carving up his face and bleaching his skin. And while he may have been a rock star, I think the handling of his funeral was gaudy and tacky.

    However, I’m a little sad and cranky because my son’s best friend from school that I’ve known since he was a toddler just arrived home from military service in Afghanistan. And his memorial service wont make the news or the papers. The grief will be quietly real.

  12. Sharonon 07 Jul 2023 at 6:24 pm

    Safira, I don’t know - I don’t mind when people mourn the talentless - and I don’t write about it. Plenty of boring pop stars have died without me caring much. What bothers me is that Jackson is not just speculatively, but almost certainly a *child molester* - and he’s being canonized. I don’t think it is snobby to be troubled by the fact that Maya Angelou, who has written so evocatively about the horrors of child abuse wrote a poem (about which I am being intellectually snobby, because it sucks, and about which I do not feel at all bad about being snobby about, even though it is definitely snobbery ;-) ) about the wondrousness that is Michael Jackson. It isn’t a question of whether his music pleased others - it is that we’re willing to overlook actual evil acts in order to canonize someone just so we can have a sob fest.

    So yes, I plead guilty in my distaste for Angelou’s bad writing, but not for my dislike of Michael Jackson - it isn’t snobbery (and I may be a snob now but I wasn’t when I was 11), it is the fundamental incongruity that we are willing to suspend all memory in order to have a grief fest.


  13. Sharonon 07 Jul 2023 at 6:25 pm

    Deb, I’m so very sorry.


  14. Susanon 07 Jul 2023 at 6:42 pm

    I suspect MJ was actually a closeted gay and the child abuse arose as a warped response to being closeted. He has all the hallmarks of being a closeted gay (I’ve experienced it up close and personal) and I’m NOT saying all child abusers are gay or all gays are child abusers. I’m just saying that one of the ways *some* closeted gays respond is to figure that if he’s not with another grown man, he’s not gay. The whole thing is tragic and bizarre in so many ways and this weird ‘grief fest’ as you call it is just one more facet. (I was not a fan but I did like some of his music from the early 90s.)

  15. Davidon 07 Jul 2023 at 7:03 pm

    Dear Sharon,

    What I admire so much about you is that you think of these things (as we all do, of that I’m sure) and then you must consider the possible reaction you’ll get, and then you go and write it anyway. And post it.

    The world is strangling on homogenization and creeping blandness. Please don’t ever change.

  16. Ron Hageron 07 Jul 2023 at 7:27 pm

    Money, money, money and party, party, party. That is what this is all about. The public media of television, radio, newspapers, magazines, as well as the vendors of merchandise all are making a ton of money off of the public and the advertisers. Meanwhile the fans are out grieving their loss with music, drink, dance and more entertainment than I can list.

    Every major network, the cable news stations as well as dozens of others all carry the huge entertainment that is touted as a tribute. Meanwhile, news of all kinds, domestic and world events are shoved aside to accommodate the advertisers wanting to hawk their wares to childish minds world wide.

    We live in a very sick society.

  17. Deniseon 07 Jul 2023 at 7:37 pm

    Thank you.. thank you,thank you Sharon..
    You said it so much better than I could..

  18. Jenon 07 Jul 2023 at 8:09 pm

    I’m right there with your frustration at this train wreck, really who doesn’t believe he is a pedophile?
    Maya Angelou’s “poetry has always reeked of sentimentality to me anyway, blah, one more bad poem to ruin poetry’s name.
    I’m frequently accused at being morose because I like to discuss the ruining of our planet…maybe I’ll make up lyrics about global warming to the tune of “Beat it.”

  19. Shambaon 07 Jul 2023 at 8:27 pm

    Sharon, your thoughts are in completely contrast to what I observed on the TV broadcasts today! I think they are appropriate and I agree with them but it is such a leap from them to the Michael Jackson stuff on tv or 2-3 hours today.

    I had an appt this morning and before I left for it I thought I’d check in to see what the local news was at a certain hour and found that there was no local TV news since that station and all the 5 broadcast stations I get were carrying the same memorial service at the same time. I was amazed at the whole detailed production. I guess I should have known better.

    thanks, as always for your writings,

  20. Jerryon 07 Jul 2023 at 8:33 pm

    I half expected MJ to moonwalk at his own funeral. Like you Sharon I couldn’t believe all the media hype but have no fear his autopsy will be news for weeks and the settling of his estate even longer.

  21. veraon 07 Jul 2023 at 8:33 pm

    Geez, not you too, Sharon. The less said about this person, the better.

  22. veraon 07 Jul 2023 at 8:35 pm

    What I meant to say… he does not deserve the room for a whole post in your blog.

  23. Tracieon 07 Jul 2023 at 8:53 pm

    Fame is an unsatiable beast. So many desire to achieve it, but very few understand how uncontrollable it can make your life. My TV has been off. I don’t need to weep with the masses. I grieved for him long ago, when I saw how such an innocent little boy, was sent out to sing with his brothers and make his family wealthy. In the process he was not nurtured in the basic skills to be emotionally stable and anchored- numerous sources report that MJ himself was abused in childhood. As a kid growing up listening to the Jackson 5, and then seeing the frenzy around ‘Thriller,’ I had realized that the beast had ate him. We, the public, in our hunger to avoid the mundane, had consumed him thoroughly. Chewed him up, spit him out when he became “a freak” and then swallowed him up again, just so we could have a good cry. He never really had the chance to just be a boy, just be a man. In my heart I say Rest in Peace, Michael Jackson.

    Maya Angelou knows more than most about what it is to be an abused child. Read her biography to know what she experienced and how she dealt with it. I suspect that the irony of her poem, for this man, does not escape her. But as a child abuse survivor, a statistic that I too share, she knows that things are not so black and white. People in pain perpetrate pain onto others. Wrong, yes. But real. Though Michael was acquitted, he may have victims out there. They’ll someday come to understand the dynamics, the zen, of power and powerlessness, of which fame is an excellent model. They’ll see that this crying out from the masses was not about Michael the man. It was just the roaring of the beast.

  24. John Andersenon 07 Jul 2023 at 9:34 pm


    Thanks. I couldn’t agree more.

    Regarding the comment on John Lennon, I disagree that his death was trivial:

    That truly was a tragedy, and worthy of mourning because Lennon was a cultural icon who changed society for the better on so many levels. His music, and peace activism were monumental.

    Lennon mattered, truly mattered.

  25. ExRangeron 07 Jul 2023 at 9:50 pm

    Amen, The man was a freak.

  26. Brad K.on 07 Jul 2023 at 11:11 pm

    I revere Michael Jackson for his showmanship with his brothers on the Andy Williams TV show. And because his work so inspired the true artist, “Weird” Al Yankovic. To this day “Beat It” and “I’m Bad” sound wrong to me - when the better version, for me, is the Yankovic renditions of “Eat It” and “I’m Fat”.

    I think MJ’s passing is celebrated in part, because we no longer have to fret about more kids being molested, or new charges being filed - that part of the hurting has stopped spreading with his death.

    The musical legacy, his relationships in the entertainment industry and with his fans, that will be remembered, and hopefully it’s true worth will come to be recognized. I think that will not be much, except as he inspired Yankovic and cartoonists like Berkeley Breathed (the Bloom County rendition of the flaming Pepsi commercial were priceless!).

    The showcase of talents at the service today were in a sense, like a clown’s funeral. Acts that refused to perform risked being considered disrespectful, arrogant - and it could cost them fans, revenue or appearances. Those that did show got to showcase their talent, a chance to endear some MJ fans and maybe build (or just maintain) their following. For many, I assume it was cheaper and simpler to perform than to sit it out. This is show business, and like Obama, no crises or photo op should ever be wasted. Anyone that thinks those performing was about anything but production value, marketing, promotion, and being performers - missed the context of the event.

    I did like Queen Latifa’s backhanded compliment. I don’t know if she meant it the way I heard it - she claimed that Michael Jackson gave everything he had in his performance. What I heard was that there wasn’t any substance to the man, outside his performance. Like I say, that might not have been what she meant.

    I find it telling that Tam at View From The Porch kept repeating each day in her post, that “Michael Jackson is still dead.” Which is a relief, and a comment on the hysteria. I have encountered the phase on other blogs today.

  27. Crying Shameon 08 Jul 2023 at 12:40 am

    Sharon reports on a nation that is so full of itself, so full of confused numbness by now that it can only feel a stir when expressed under an umbrella of extreme extravagance toward someone, sometimes just about anyone.

    Myself, I don’t mind today’s private thinking-grief for an empty and lonely life that’s passed; for used and exploited children – three of them that may now have half a chance; for an oppressive reporting press that can’t see the fine line of boundaries and can’t miss the driving sign of a dollar; for our lack of courage to say “No.”

    I recall hanging on to a poetic ending when once reciting Maya Angelou’s “America”
    I beg you
    Discover this country.

    The belated tears, they will come.
    I grieve when they finally do.

    Tucson, Arizona

  28. Laurenon 08 Jul 2023 at 2:39 am

    I completely agree. I wasn’t surprised when I turned on the radio and heard a clip of Jackson’s funeral, until I realized that our local news station was preempting the actual news to cover the whole thing live. And I was beyond shocked when I flipped the radio over to NPR and found the same live coverage!!! National Public Radio should have had more important stories to feature, somewhere in the world. For shame.

  29. staceyon 08 Jul 2023 at 6:08 am

    Shame on you. I found this post to be profoundly disturbing. I was not a fan of Jackson’s music really but I believe he was very gifted. I feel sorry for anyone that has the arrogance and judgement in their hearts that you have just displayed. Any respect I had for your writing has evaporated. It may help you to recite the wonderful saying of Sali Baba each day:

    “Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence?”

  30. Karinon 08 Jul 2023 at 7:00 am

    Haruumph…When I put public radio on yesterday afternoon they to spent an hour of discussion on this man.

    I don’t get it…

    I did not find your post to be arrogant or judgmental. I found it reflective of my own thoughts on this matter.

    Pop- valium…so much better than actually reflecting on the true wrongs of this world.


  31. Rapunzelon 08 Jul 2023 at 7:04 am

    I agree, Sharon. In the meantime, a “regular guy” was found hanging from a tree outside my office yesterday, just yards from where I park my car! Shocking to say the least but I can’t seem to find a single news article about the incident. Who was this man, why did he kill himself, and why was his life so much less significant than the “King of Pop?”

    Very sad indeed.

  32. Billieon 08 Jul 2023 at 7:19 am

    I am having a hard time figuring out the point to all of the press. He was certainly an influential musician but really… does he rate an entire week’s worth of news? Farrah Fawcett was also an icon in her day and barely managed to eke out more than a few hours of news.

    I too am puzzled about the amount of adoration that has been pouring out for a man that most were vilifying in recent years. Regardless of whether or not he did it, how do you turn from - What a freak! to What a genius! in the space of moments because of his death.

    I have seen moments here and there because I did grow up with MJ and enjoyed his music very much but mostly I have been avoiding it.

  33. Sharonon 08 Jul 2023 at 8:02 am

    Stacey, sorry I lost you. I don’t think child molestation improves in the silence. Michael Jackson to me isn’t very interesting - the phenomenon of his canonization, the fact that the national news was pre-empted for his funeral, that all those people came and said those things despite his actions - that is interesting to me. But no, I don’t think I’m obligated to speak kindly of some people.


  34. Gailon 08 Jul 2023 at 8:35 am

    This will soon be over and the microsecond media exposure will move on to something else. It’s sensational, that’s all. It’s really very simple. I keep a little tally next to my computer of what I gather from the international press of real traumas that are going on right now in the world: people are dying of the flu in New Zealand, terrible ethnic unrest in China, ( and they rounded up all the men and hauled them away), flooding has been really bad in eastern Europe, seven of our own were blown up yesterday in our war, and many of our local farmers have been totally wiped out by a series of massive hailstorms. That’s what I grieve for and pray about. Oh…plus my mother’s precipitous decent into dementia.

  35. Robyn M.on 08 Jul 2023 at 8:49 am

    I’m also sad that you posted this. MJ is a confusing character, and I doubt any of us have a clue what was going on in his head. None of us can know if he was or was not a child molester-there are just too many confounding issues-and asserting that he is is in poor taste at best. He’s dead. He had a troubled life. He changed the landscape of music. I don’t know what he did or didn’t do, and neither do you. We all know our society is bread & circuses-this post was unnecessary, and cruel against someone who you didn’t know at all, may have been entirely innocent, and is now incapable of self-defense.

  36. Victoriaon 08 Jul 2023 at 8:52 am

    Wow. My sister sent me your links for seeds and I find a review of a country trapped in a Greek tragedy. Brilliant and insightful.

  37. Willowon 08 Jul 2023 at 9:12 am

    This is your blog, Sharon, and you have the right to post anything you want here. The vitriol of this post was disturbing and it made me lose a little respect for you. I think you could have said what you wanted to say about our society without the nastiness directed at a dead man. I look forward to each new post of yours usually but I’m sorry I logged on to read you today and I’ll think twice about doing so tomorrrow.

  38. Kate@LivingTheFrugalLifeon 08 Jul 2023 at 9:15 am

    Thank you for this. I was appalled by the amount of coverage that even NPR devoted to his death. Even if none of the creepiness that attached to the man obtained, he was nothing more than a pop star. You’d think, based on the coverage, that he’d been an MLK, Gandhi, or Churchill. Feh.

  39. Nettleon 08 Jul 2023 at 9:21 am

    I caught a little bit of this on TV yesterday - I was trying to watch the news and this came up instead. I didn’t think I would care - it’s just one more bit of bread-and-circus, pop culture gaudiness - but the tastelessness of it all took my breath away. I couldn’t even watch long enough to get to the “real” news; when they trotted out his little girl to mourn on camera, I literally felt nauseated and had to shut it off. So inappropriate, so horrifyingly tasteless - not that a little girl was grieving her father, but the sheer salaciousness of the whole spectacle, and how the poor kid was inserted into it all - it felt close to pornographic, which in context is especially awful.

    I don’t have any particular opinions about Michael Jackson and I hope I never do, but I was relieved to find your post on this - sometimes I feel like the whole world is insane and I’m the only one who notices. It helps to know that someone else notices, too. Thanks.

    And it’s not snobbery to think that the Maya Angelou poem was awful; it’s simply correct. There is just no standard for judging poetry that would allow that to be a called a good poem.

  40. Sharonon 08 Jul 2023 at 9:56 am

    Can’t please all of the people …. I just don’t buy it, Robyn - he’s dead, and he’s being eulogized by the most famous people in the world, watched by millions, including plenty who just wanted to hear the actual news, and I’m hurting his reputation? Let’s see…who is more likely to have an effect here, Queen Latifah or me? I don’t buy the “we must speak well of the dead” argument simply because they are dead in general, but I buy it even less when we are speaking *insanely* of the dead - when someone who was molested as a child write a paean to a person who had sexualized sleepovers with children.

    Might he be entirely innocent? I don’t think that’s possible, actually, at least if we make a distinction between legal status (and perhaps I’ll change the wording in the essay to “unconvicted child molestor” for accuracy’s sake) and common sense. He did, in fact, have sleepovers with lots and lots of unrelated pubescent boys, and share a bed with them. Beyond that, let’s say that we use some common sense - doing so was incredibly dangerous for him - back in the early 1990s when he was still touring the first charges came. Let’s see…anyone acting rationally out of anything other than a pathology totally out of their control would say hmmmm…getting into sleeping bags with the children of my servants…bad. Maybe stop? And yet, he kept doing it - that’s not in dispute. For years. Another kid would charge him, and he’d still be doing it. I think we all know that MJ wasn’t innocent in any meaningful sense, just as you and I both know that George W. Bush knew he was lying when he told us that we were in danger from Iraqi WMDs. I don’t think you’d have the slightest problem saying so, or feel any obligation to add “allegedly” on your blog - I can’t prove it, there’s no conviction, but it stretches the imagination passed the breaking point to imagine he did not. I’d hope that if GWB suddenly kicked off, you wouldn’t go back to saying “allegedly” just because he was dead and couldn’t defend his reputation - frankly, I’d hope you’d keep saying what you’d said, particularly if someone started spewing out a stream of noble words about Bush. I don’t mind saying that he changed the landscape of pop music - but it is also correct to point out the other part, and the ways that taints our bread and circuses, IMHO.


  41. WNC Observeron 08 Jul 2023 at 10:04 am

    When I was young (1960s, I am speaking of), I didn’t understand why the older generations were so critical of the music of my boomer generation.

    Now I do understand. Severe cultural decline and rot - that is what we have been experiencing for around half a century now. It isn’t just music, of course; one also sees it on Broadway and Hollywood, in literature (so-called), the arts (which no longer really deserve the prefix “fine”), and throughout the culture.
    We no longer have cultural heroes that we can look up to, and who pull us upward; instead, we have cultural anti-heroes, who pull us downward.

    The American nation is in economic decline, and has been for some time now - not just cultural decline. I have no doubt that these are definitely connected.

  42. EJon 08 Jul 2023 at 10:10 am

    Interesting this coming from a woman who encouraged her children to call people they never will meet “friends”. Since our exchange on this topic a while back I have thought about what a friend is and why I don’t call strangers and acquaintances “friends”.

    One of the definitions of friend that I have considered is: a person who would mourn your passing/be invited to your wedding/know how to you would most like to spend an afternoon together.

    I completely agree- the whole MJ circus is a spectacle to keep our minds and emotions from more important issues.

  43. Lydiaon 08 Jul 2023 at 10:18 am

    Willow and others-get over yourselves.

    Why is an opinion of Sharon’s labeled as vitriol? Why is it not acceptable to speak one’s mind about a larger condition that someone like Jackson only personifies or symbolizes? Why is it that we can not “speak ill of the dead”?

    Is it ok to speak ill of them when alive? Is it acceptable to say nothing when someone like a priest rapes a child? Is it somehow wrong to be intelligent, step back and observe the larger picture or the fact that Jackson just like many others are/were really sick in mind and spirit? Why is this an observation that deserves a chastising? Shall we remain in denial, silent, and say nothing other than our own truth? Shall we do this while others suffer? Oh-the emperor has no clothes.
    Michael is dead so we must not speak ill of him. What crap.

    What bull. This is a thoughtful interesting post and at no time is Sharon being hateful or vitriolic (is that a word?).

  44. Sharonon 08 Jul 2023 at 10:19 am

    EJ, actually, my children called them friends, and I did not change their words - which I said also in the clarifications of my original article. They didn’t call them “our dear best friends” - they signed a letter “your friends” because the book we had showing letters offered that as a possible final salutation - the other choices were “sincerely” (they weren’t sure what that meant), “love” (they didn’t pick that one), and “respectfully yours.” Believe it or not, not everyone who signs a letter “sincerely” is fully sincere - expecting ritual forms to be fully accurate seems a high standard. They are five and seven years old, and they were writing their first letter that wasn’t to Grandma. I’m fascinated that someone holds them to the same literary standard they hold their mother to, higher standards than we hold most letter writers to - that seems to me a little tough on them. Can we wait until they pass their 10th birthday to abuse them for their writing style and choice of closing salutations? I may not regret writing this piece, but I certainly regret publishing my kids’ letter - I won’t ever do that again. Sheesh.


  45. Whereawayon 08 Jul 2023 at 11:37 am

    I generally ignored the attention paid to Michael Jackson’s death. I was not a fan (like an earlier poster, I related far more to Wierd Al Yankovic’s parodies than I did to MJ’s music). I also share some of Sharon’s concerns about the lionization of a very troubled man. As a victim of abuse in my early adolescence, I find the folks willfully ignoring that aspect of MJ’s life disturbing. I think there are lessons we could learn looking at his behavior, and the role the abuse he suffered growing up contributed to that behavior. Abusers tend to be people who were abused themselves, and it would be wonderful if we could work on beaking the cycles of abuse.

    As for the circus - it bothers me greatly that MJ’s death is treated as big news, but in-depth reporting on the state of the economy, or the climate bill working its way through congress is severly lacking. We as a society face critical issues, and people die all of the time. If we don’t face the issues confronting us, far more people will die early and young.

    @WNC Observer
    Culture is in the eye of the beholder. I’m another child of the 60’s, and I very much disagree with you on the trajectory of ‘culture’ (whatever that is). Just because you don’t relate to the products of our entertainment culture today doesn’t mean it’s ‘rot’ - it just means you don’t relate to it. I suspect people have been complaining about the decline of ‘culture’ for centuries as art, music, and drama have evolved (Van Gogh never sold a painting in his lifetime). I suspect future generations may look at the energy extravagance embedded in much of modern entertainment with a sense of dis-belief, but that’s a observation on the excesses of our entire society, not just the arts.

    This post was, in my perception, one of the angriest posts of yours I’ve read. I don’t mean that as a criticism, only an observation. I don’t think anger is an inappropriate emotion - it’s what we do with it that counts. Given that one of the reasons I read you first amongst all of the peak-oil / transtion related blogs I process on a daily basis is the compassion that shines through nearly all of your posts, your anger in this one was a bit surprising. Once again - this is my response, I don’t have any expectations or ideas about what you -should- be writing about (I think -should- is a particularly nasty 4 letter word).


  46. Brian M.on 08 Jul 2023 at 12:03 pm

    Actually I’ll second, whereaway’s last point, both this post and the Obama one after it struck me as a lot angrier than your norm. I ain’t saying that thats a good or a bad thing, just that that is how it struck me.

  47. Sharonon 08 Jul 2023 at 12:41 pm

    WNC Observer, I will say I don’t entirely agree with you that we’re experiencing cultural decline across the board - I actually think there’s some really good art and music being made out there. I think very little of it is being made in the pop genre of music, but that has more to do with the genre than not, for the same reason that little, but not none, art is being written in the mystery genre - certain genres are more limiting than others, and it is tough to create great things inside those forms. That doesn’t mean, of course, no one does - in among the crap of mysteries is Jonathan Lethem and Dorothy Sayers, and undoubtably among Pop are a few geniuses as well. It is even possible that MJ was one of them - I’d be the wrong person to say.

    I do think that there is a case to be made that the quality of the art made since WWII is overarchingly lower in a number of genres, than it was before, at least in the rich world. The quality of say, literature in English has, I think generally gone down a bit in the US, but then it is matched by astonishingly good stuff coming out of India and Africa etc… that is, the best English Literature isn’t English or American at all. But I think it is a much more nuanced than “those kids today (or even those kids my parents’ age ;-) ) like crap ;-) .

    Brian and Whereaway, I think that’s fair. I am angry - not at Michael Jackson, so much, as at people who should know better who still can’t step away from the spectacle. If I’m really pissed at anyone, it is at Maya Angelou, who has always been a publicity whore and a mediocre poet, but who can write prose, and who can sometimes think, and who I think lends an aura of legitimacy this is not entitled to. I would have ignored it had Angelou not pushed it over the edge - because you know that this inanity will be published in the Norton Edition of Contemporary American Crap or whatever, and taught to students…oh, it is about Michael Jackson…bleah!


  48. meganon 08 Jul 2023 at 12:44 pm

    What Michael said.

    I have mixed feelings. Personally, I’m mourning the kid who gave up his childhood while bringing awesome music to the rest of us. I’m mourning a kid who had to grow up in that family. I’m mourning a real genius who was so much a part of my youth and coming of age, whose music transports me strongly and specifically back to that time. But I’ve been mourning that guy for a long time now.

    The media coverage is irritating and infuriating, I agree. And I’m also convinced that he’s probably guilty of everything he’s been accused of. But you saving your vitriol for his death is almost as hypocritical as everyone overdoing their celebration for it. He’s dead. Someone should have spoken up earlier for him, when he was a child, when he was a young adult, and against him when he began acting strangely, when he began making bad choices that led to probable crimes, and from that point on people should have been after him for it. He was socially and sexually stunted and damaged, clearly, and no one seems to have cared enough to do much about it at any stage of his progression.

    I don’t condone it or excuse it, but the man is dead. There are three kids who are going to have a tough enough time without more angry internet venom dripping into the world. The only people left to bear the brunt of our anger are those who don’t deserve it and don’t need to hear it.


  49. Leighon 08 Jul 2023 at 12:45 pm

    I find much truth in this post, Sharon. I enjoyed some of MJ’s videos…that was when MTV was new, but I could never fathom what he did to himself. I think JHK overlooked last week the sadness aspect of America as “man in the mirror.” I grieve for the potential that we’ve lost — and that we lose — each time we lose the “others” (non-human species) that we’ll never get to know, because only in meeting that otherness do we gain some sense of who we are, what our place is here. I grieve, often silently, sometimes vocally, the passing of mountains lost to mining, species whose habitats are displaced by grand things (think Dusky Seaside Sparrow and NASA at Cape Canaveral), and the things we will lose (firing a missile into the moon, coming this September; shouldn’t the moon, a muse for the ages, be held sacred and off-limits?)…basically, we’ve lost any recognition and respect for limits and in doing that, we lose ourselves. I wonder if we’ll ever find our way — and if so, how. MJ obviously couldn’t find his and I can’t help but think that was because he could never recover from his excesses. I hope that we will, but we’ve less and less time each day.

    Thank you for this post.

  50. Cathyon 08 Jul 2023 at 1:06 pm

    Sharon: I support your position on this MJ issue completely. You are right on. Yesterday’s exhibition was nothing more than shameful and embarassing in my estimation. And we wonder why other nations think America is a country of degenerates? Geesh!

  51. John Rogerson 08 Jul 2023 at 1:33 pm

    A refreshing observation on the wretched excess of popular culture. 1.6 million people wanted to attend the funeral. More accurately 1.6 million shallow, tasteless buffoons wanted to participate in a love festival celebrating the trivial musical slop of a creep.

    Pop music is an apt reflection of America’s pop culture: tasteless, shallow, disposable, forgettable and embarrassing. The paucity of any depth or meaning is exacerbated by the fawning adulation heaped upon a deeply flawed individual.

    A handful of individuals attended Mozart’s funeral. He was buried in a common pauper’s grave. His grave site is unknown. The transcendent genius of his music will be revered and last as long as the human species. Michael Jackson’s music will in time disappear into the historical garbage pail of musical pap.

    As the looming disasters of global warming and the winding down of the fossil fuel age relentlessly march on, Michael Jackson’s funeral constitutes a pathetic spectacle representing the worst in popular culture.

  52. Davidon 08 Jul 2023 at 1:36 pm

    It’s more like we love being able to tell people how intelligent we are for not being religious, but all the aspects of modern life have almost become a religion.

    At least a lot of the spirituality of the past (looking at beliefs of indigenous peoples around the world) had a lot to do with caring for nature, the preserver of life, respecting life, etc. Today it’s all replaced with something else, imitations of wisdom… a sort of craving for something to worship, to destroy, to love.

    It’s very interesting. Especially when the day before his death most people would think about his reputedly perverse past. One day can change a lot.

  53. gaiasdaughteron 08 Jul 2023 at 1:45 pm

    If you think Sharon’s post was harsh, you obviously haven’t read Kunstler’s piece!

    Apart from this whole Michael Jackson ‘good guy’/ ‘bad guy’ debate is the unavoidable truth that virtually all we get from the media is celebrity gossip or arrogant commentators trying to shout each other down. Gail nailed it on the head when she listed the important stories of the day, most of which we never hear about at all. Ever. Even after the side show closes down and the last straggler takes his souvenir ticket and goes home.

    It’s the news we *aren’t* hearing while we wallow in the salacious that has me concerned!

  54. Sharonon 08 Jul 2023 at 1:55 pm

    Megan, it it consoles you in any way, I’ve been saying that Michael Jackson was totally overrated and dull since I was 11 years old (that would be 1983, the year my sister played his album nonstop for six months ;-) ), and I said he was a creepy child molester before he died too. I do feel sorrow for his children, but frankly, I feel more sorrow that they had to participate in this spectacle, and be used in it - how can one mourn one’s imperfect but loved father in the spotlight, in a show everyone has a right to?

    The reason I’m writing more about MJ now is because his funeral was watched by millions, and it was the center of events for days - I write about events. But I haven’t said anything here I haven’t said publically before.


  55. Whereawayon 08 Jul 2023 at 1:57 pm

    “I do think that there is a case to be made that the quality of the art made since WWII is overarchingly lower in a number of genres, than it was before, at least in the rich world.”

    Is it that the quality of art made since WWII is lower? Or is it that in our wasteful society we drown ourselves with volume, and the vast amounts of mediocre stuff published/printed/displayed as art drowns out the very good stuff still being produced?

    I’m a huge speculative fiction (science fiction and fantasy) fan. I discovered the genre in the mid 60’s - and read everything in the genre I could get my hands on then. These days, I’m very selective, because far more is published in the genre, and much of it is crap. That doesn’t mean there is less quality published (and I’d match the best in that genre against any other literature published today), it’s that the quality gets lost in the vast amounts of mediocre stuff published so someone can make a buck.


  56. Whereawayon 08 Jul 2023 at 2:18 pm


    I don’t read Kunstler much. I consider him to be a modern version of the hellfire-and-brimstone preacher, condemning any and all who don’t live according to his standards. It seems to me that he sees the vast majority of humanity as flawed and evil/shallow/stupid/lost/whatever. I see all of humanity as flawed (i.e. - human), including myself. I find Kunstler’s self righteousness a turn-off, and I consider it counter productive when it comes to educating people on the predicament we face.

    That being said, I find the focus on celebrity and scandal, while critical issues are ignored to be disturbing and destructive. You’re quite correct, we’re not hearing the news we need to hear. I’ve become just bitter and cynical enough recently to believe that by design and purpose from powerful folks protecting their (perceived) entrenched interests, rather than being (only) a reflection of a shallow culture.


  57. Russon 08 Jul 2023 at 2:18 pm

    Hi Sharon,

    Don’t think I can much buy into your “it feels so good to grieve” explanation, but I do think you hit it on the head in your next to last paragraph.

    For me, #1 it isn’t grieving, it’s mass hysteria. Real grieving does not feel good, it feels like salt in a wound. MJ dropping dead just provided the excuse for acting out in the face of all those wolves at the door that the mob just isn’t equipped to deal with. The hoopla really has nothing to do with Jackson, he was simply the trip wire.

    The whole sorry spectacle just illustrates how deep the do-do is that we’re all standing in.

  58. Annon 08 Jul 2023 at 2:43 pm

    All my courageous posts seem to be going to you these days, Sharon. Here’s another: MJ may have been a victim, however his whole reason to be was to teach 13-year-old males to masturbate. Who’s going to complain? Not the males - they don’t want anyone to know what they were doing. Not the rest of us - we know we’ll be accused of having dirty minds. This IS our culture, making gobs of money off the sexual energies of pubescents and adolescents. Perhaps you sensed this, and that’s why you are so angry. You have a valid reason to be angry.

  59. Sharonon 08 Jul 2023 at 2:48 pm

    Michael, I like speculative fic too, and think it is a genre that in some ways isn’t as limited as other genre fiction. But I do think there is a case to be made (note, I am not saying I am making that case or want to ;-) ) that the overall quality of some genres of art has declined since WWII, at least in the developed world. I love spec fic, I used to teach literature, and I read constantly, and I simply don’t think the sheer quantity of great stuff is coming out of the US as from other nations. On the other hand, I think that some genres of American music are still really vital - I think one of the questions is how old a particular genre is, and when it comes into its own - most of the great old sci fi, for example, really wasn’t that great - it was merely incredibly new and original, which is important, just not everything. A lot of what’s being written now is less original, but better. How one judges that is always interesting.

    I might try and sit down and make the case at some point, at least for literature - I’m less capable of doing it for other art genres. But I do think we have periods of art in our history where we make better stuff and worse stuff, and generally, we see that only in hindsight The mid-1700s, for example, were not the fiery birth of the best of British or European literature - music, on the other hand…


  60. Davidon 08 Jul 2023 at 4:48 pm

    Sorry this doesn’t add anything to the conversation, but.

    Whereaway - wow. I totally agree.
    Ann - ditto.

  61. Bill the Galactic Heroon 08 Jul 2023 at 6:08 pm


    Thank you. I’m glad someone said it.


  62. Paulon 08 Jul 2023 at 6:48 pm


    Your eloquence speaks for itself. I simply want to say:

    Deb’s e-mail, regarding her son’s friend’s return from Afganistan is one of the most quietly sad, poignant things I’ve ever read.


  63. jerahon 08 Jul 2023 at 7:16 pm

    Sharon, I had exactly the same reaction that you did. AND I got lambasted by some of my closest friends for it.

    I said “he was a pedophile.”
    They said “He was ACQUITTED. Twice.”
    As if that has anything to do with anything.

    They got really mad at me for implying that somehow this public spectacle wasn’t a sacred occasion to be solemnly observed by all. It’s like public displays of misplaced sentimentality are the new religion in this country.

    And yes, Paul, Deb’s comment made me cry.

  64. Soniaon 08 Jul 2023 at 7:21 pm

    I disagree with Sharon’s very caustic criticism of the Micheal Jackson Funeral . She does not speak for me.

    Michael Jackson’s songs such as ” We are the World”, ” , “Earth Song” and the ” Man in the Mirror” alerted maybe two billion people on the planet, years ago , to the destruction of the earth. She seems envious and jealous of his ability to communicate and reach people on a range of important environmental issues. It is easy to poke fingers at non white people . If she wants to change the world, she ought to look in the mirror . Start there.

  65. Peteron 08 Jul 2023 at 7:40 pm


    Although I have followed your writings for quite some time, I am outraged at your commentary regarding Michael Jackson, and I’m not a die-hard fan of his either. That you didn’t personally appreciate his music and may have had suspicions regarding alleged pedophilia is absolutely no excuse to slander a man that engendered enormous appreciation by millions around the world. And on the day of his funeral? How incredibly crude!

    How many consider that Jackson donated and raised more than three hundred million dollars for beneficial causes through his Heal the World Foundation, charity singles, and support of 39 charities, mostly supporting children, veterans, and disease? How many consider that, even if they didn’t appreciate his music, he was unmatched in his worldwide influence through his music and humanitarian work as compared to his peers.

    I would like to remind you, and other readers of your blog, that despite his awkward life, and despite accusations of inappropriate behavior with children, our United States Constitution clearly states that a man is innocent until proven guilty. Though he was accused of child sexual abuse in 1993, the criminal investigation was closed due to lack of evidence and Jackson was not charged. In the second case, in 2005, Michael Jackson was examined by mental health professional Dr. Stan Katz; the doctor spent several hours interviewing the accuser too. Katz testified that Jackson was a regressed 10-year-old, and did not fit the profile of a pedophile. Jackson was ultimately acquitted of all 10 charges, including all counts that he molested the boy.

    You owe your readers a retraction.

  66. Leila Abu-Sabaon 08 Jul 2023 at 8:25 pm

    I really don’t care much about grieving for Michael Jackson. But calling Maya Angelou a whore, twice, is over the line for me. I don’t love her work. But why the vicious name? I couldn’t support it to my friends. You could have vilified her work and her self-promotion all you wanted without using the word whore.

  67. Timon 08 Jul 2023 at 8:37 pm

    What Peter said. This was awful. In my opinion you have written some mildly offensive stuff before (I recall one in which you complained about stereotypes while stereotyping a lot of people) but this tops it all. I won’t be back.

  68. Daveon 09 Jul 2023 at 12:13 am

    Bla, bla bla…

    You are all just as bad as the media with your ranting about Michael this and Michael that. If you don’t want to hear what the media has to say, then turn off your TV and don’t read that section of the newspaper.
    Michael Jackson was a very talented entertainer. Leave it at that and move on. Who cares if you liked him or not.

  69. Kiashuon 09 Jul 2023 at 2:20 am

    I agree that the “mourning” over MJ is empty and meaningless and trite, and that we are failing to mourn genuine losses in our lives.

    However, I should note that in Western society, people are generally considered innocent until proven guilty, and not guilty when found not guilty in a criminal trial. We may instinctively feel some guilty and not guilty verdicts are wrong, but unless we’re one of the 12 on the jury, that’s irrelevant.

    Trial by media is just another form of lynching, and I cannot support it. The loss of the presumption of innocence would, I think, be a thing to mourn.

  70. deweyon 09 Jul 2023 at 6:40 am

    I have no idea whether the man ever molested anyone or not, much less whether he was doing so at any recent time, but he definitely was mentally unbalanced. Shouldn’t that aspect of his life merit pity rather than vitriol? If you had a relative with OCD, who had no particular talent or fame, you would probably not like it if people who witnessed their abnormal behavior labeled them as “a freak.” Some of the above makes it sound like certain people feel his mental illness made him subhuman, and are actively happy that he’s dead. Do you feel the same way about bums on the streets who are equally insane (and a lot more likely to be a physical threat to you than Michael Jackson ever was)?

  71. Mikeon 09 Jul 2023 at 8:37 am

    So who are you?

  72. Forkon 09 Jul 2023 at 8:38 am

    I wonder if your opinions of Jackson would have been different if he had finished his rumored “Global Warming” song. I don’t know about y’all, but I’m rather enjoying this nippy 74 degree summer weather in New York City.

    This whole thing happened before. Elton John could make a killing by rewriting ‘Candle in the Wind’ every time a celebrity dies.

    Suddenly, everyone became Princess Di’s biggest fan. Heath Ledger went from moderate star to the most promising young actor Hollywood had ever seen. Farah Fawcett’s skanky (but iconic!) poster suddenly outshone the Mona Lisa AND the moon.

    And baby-dangling freakshow Michael “Peter Pan” Jackson (a TRUE pioneer in the realm of washed-up celebs who only exist to have their next crazy meltdown made public for our enjoyment and amusement) who, two days before his death was considered guilty or at least highly suspicious in the eyes of MOST people, is now innocent and mourn-worthy because he, a pillar from a bunch of people’s adolesence, has been toppled. They’re suddenly noticing the crows feet around their eyes and realizing for the first time it’s not the 80s anymore.

    Pass out the kleenex.

    “Well, I never believed those allegations anyway! I ALWAYS knew Michael Jackson was innocent! I’ve always LOVED ‘Thriller’!”

    Except the irrelavent husk of Michael Jackson we ended up with wasn’t the same guy we loved in ‘Captain EO’. Maybe THAT’S who people are really mourning. Regardless, I find it awfully funny that people who reviled the man one day are worshipping him now that he’s dead. As if the Michael Jackson grief-a-thon bandwagon was the midnight launch of the new ‘Harry Potter’ book. It’s not that it’s even any GOOD, it’s that EVERYBODY’S doing it!

    I thought the network news channels were bad last fall. Today they have completely devolved into the National Enquirer…LIVE!

    Now that we’re all distracted, this would be the PERFECT time for the aliens to strike.

    Oh, and it sure was nice of Al Sharpton (I love that guy!) to waive those unpaid dues and reinstate Jackson’s black card status to “Member in Good Standing” for the memorial circus-er-service. Lest we forget who he REALLY was. Nevermind the fact that he alienated most of his black fans when he started dressing like Joan Crawford and palling around with Elizabeth Taylor.

    But back to something we can really weep for; so sorry to hear the cuddly polar bear families at the north pole can’t find ice to stand on. Maybe we should do something about China.

  73. Lorraineon 09 Jul 2023 at 11:51 am

    This article made me wince. Not because it was an inaccurate portrayal of a public that wastes its emotional and mental powers on distractions and superficial involvements. On the contrary, it was very accurate. I winced because the author thought she needed to trivialize a life in order to do it.

    Michael Jackson was a human being, Sharon. You may not have liked his work. Fine. You may have considered his actions freaky or suspect. Fine. However, until you have lived a life from the inside, judgments as to the human significance or motivations of that person cannot be legitimately made. You reveal a self-righteous harshness here. Separate your cultural observations from your personal judgments if you would be a trusted commentator.

  74. Isison 09 Jul 2023 at 11:53 am

    Concerning the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ principle that many people are bringing up here, I have a quote and a question.

    First the quote. It’s from Dmitry Orlov’s book:

    “Many people believe that a criminal is someone who commits s criminal act. This is not true, at least not in the American system of justice. Here, a criminal is someone who has been accused of committing a criminal act, tried for it and found guilty. Whether or not that person has in fact committed the act is immaterial: witnesses may lie, evidence can be fabricated, juries can be manipulated. On the other hand, a person who has committed a criminal act but has not been tried for it, or has been tried and exonerated, is not a criminal, and for anyone to call him a criminal is libelous.

    It therefore follows that, within the American justice system, committing a crime and getting away with it is substantially identical to not committing a crime at all.”

    And now the question: would you have left your child (or any child you cared about) alone with Michael Jackson?

    (I do, however, agree with Leila on the Maya Angelou issue.)

  75. Bart Andersonon 09 Jul 2023 at 12:36 pm

    I feel like I’m from another universe, having only the vaguest awareness of MJ.

    Does seem that it’s sad when anyone dies, when someone does bad things and is confused.

    A mixture of good and bad, like all of us.

    Bart / EB

  76. Sharonon 09 Jul 2023 at 12:44 pm

    Sorry the word “whore” offended you, Leila - I think it is the accurate word for someone who has something of value to offer (their talent) who writes or performs something without merit purely for money or publicity (ie, media whore) - there’s no sexual context implied, however. I stand by the use of the term - I can understand why someone wouldn’t like it, but intellectual prostitution is a real thing - and have used it on myself, as the title of an essay “I was a whore for the mainstream media.”

    Kiashu, you cannot lynch the dead, quite literally, so your claim is kind of silly. Neither is this “trial” by anything, but the expression of a single person’s opinion. The most you can do is harm their reputation - and until MJ’s death, I couldn’t have harmed his reputation with this post, because the vast majority of people thought that Jackson was a child molestor. The moment he died, his reputation changed - and I suppose were the earth to stop in its tracks and begin rotating another way, I could have a meaningfully detrimental effect on a reputation being altered positively by millions, but since that isn’t the case, I’m none too worried about it. Had I written this post two weeks earlier, I’d have gotten almost no comments - the idea that because people are dead we must never tell the truth about them is a strange one - that’s why when Nixon died, he became one of our great presidents, when, this week, Robert McNamara died, he became a tragic figure who only helped kill American soldiers because he was so sadly misled. Bullshit. It is bullshit every. single. time. You cannot become a decent human being by dying - you have to do it when you are alive.

    Michael Jackson may have been a troubled human being, but my sympathies for people who perpetrate on others, no matter how much their pathologies were formed by their experiences is limited. There are plenty of people who were abused, pushed into the spotlight, misused and harmed who did not perpetrate harm on others. There are plenty of rich people who, despite the incentives to get money out of them who have never had multiple charges of child sexual abuse, the most heinous single crime short of murder - and one of the hardest to prove - lodged against them. There are plenty of abused children who grow up and do not poison others. I feel some pity for anyone who is so much in the grips of their pathologies that they cannot stop themselves who harm others, but a lot more for the others. If he was so mentally ill, there was more treatment available to him than any other person on the planet - virtually every other mentally ill person has less access to care, help, support and medication. The man had a staff, for cripes sake - if he’d cared about others he could have had enough help to stop himself from the harm he did. He didn’t.

    I don’t deny that abuse gets transferred from generation to generation. What I deny is that we belittle the people who stop the cycle by suggesting that most people are powerless not to abuse and molest - particularly those with enormous wealth and access to every form of care.


  77. ETon 09 Jul 2023 at 3:04 pm

    I have to drop the hammer on part of this. Was it over dramatized? Yes, most definitely. The media has always over dramatized anything MJ related. It’s the child abuse I get defensive on. He was acquitted. In America we are supposed to be assumed innocent unless proven guilty. The alternative to the trial by jury would be horrific. Whether we agree or not, a jury of 12 found him not guilty. He did pay off a civil case, however most public figures loose civil cases, because the requirement for “shadow of doubt” is much less (50% certain as opposed to 98% in criminal law). This is why most public figures make a settlement. Also civil cases allow speculation and hearsay as evidence. No one has proved him guilty of these things. We have no way of knowing, and no way of judging. I know he stood before the ultimate judge, and what ever happened there is good enough for me.

  78. Peteron 09 Jul 2023 at 3:26 pm

    Sharon, you seriously need to take a vacation. You are bitterly angry about something, which isn’t defined clearly from your writing here, but comes through powerfully in its undercurrents. What in your own background is promoting this unnecessary hostility?

    Further, you state above that you were stating “one persons opinion”. Quite frankly, your writing did not precede your disgraceful and disrespectful claims as you have suggested. You presented your claims as “facts”. Libel is defined as, “1. A false publication, as in writing, that damages a person’s reputation. 2. The act of presenting such material to the public.” Slander is defined as, “Oral communication of false statements injurious to a person’s reputation. A false and malicious statement or report about someone.”

    He then turned into a fountain of creepy weirdness, narcissism and child molestation. I think that the only reasonable response to the death of Michael Jackson is “that’s something of a relief” since pedophiles rarely cease molesting others.

    the idea that because people are dead we must never tell the truth about them is a strange one

    I feel some pity for anyone who is so much in the grips of their pathologies that they cannot stop themselves who harm others, but a lot more for the others. If he was so mentally ill, there was more treatment available to him than any other person on the planet - virtually every other mentally ill person has less access to care, help, support and medication.

    Each of the above quotes, from you, infers and reinforces your claims. Whether a person is alive or dead is irrelevant in legal terms. You have made several comments, in writing, in a public place, that represents acts by Michael Jackson as facts, that were never proven. Just because popular opinion may be on your side does not make it “OK”.

    Take a break. Think about it.

  79. Sharonon 09 Jul 2023 at 4:10 pm

    If Jackson’s estate wants to sue me for libel, I’ll worry abou that when I get served. That said, I’m a blogger - I’m not a newspaper reporter, obligated to say “allegedly lied” when we all know they just plain lied, or required to argue that someone who admittedly really liked to climb into bed, allegedly clothed, at least most of the time, with boys on the cusp of puberty, was doing something that was totally cool, because they could never prove it, and he only had to pay out in civil court.

    Most celebrities don’t get accused of child sexual abuse over and over again. Most celebrities don’t admit sharing sleeping bags with 12 year old boys (awfully small space, a sleeping bag). There are a lot of rich celebrities out there for the plucking, and yet I’ve never heard anyone say they saw, say Beyonce or Brad Pitt patting the genitals of an unrelated preteen with whom they’ve been sleeping.

    Let us also note that child sexual abuse is a hugely difficult charge to prove - this works both ways. Michael Jackson had billions of dollars, quite literally, and the best defense money could buy. The accusers were children, and usually the children of his servants, under huge pressure not to attack a public figure. There are differentials in power and class that are overwhelmingly on Jackson’s side.

    As long as we’re worrying about libel, I’ll go for broke here:

    OJ wasn’t convicted, but he was guilty - sure, there was that civil suit and we all know those have nothing to do with reality, but I’m still going to say it. He killed his ex. He done it.

    George W Bush knew there were no WMDs that were any danger to anyone except the Iraqi people about whom he did not give a shit - he lied, and so did Cheney. They lied flat out, knowingly, and they were responsible for the murder of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians by their lies. Oh wait, they haven’t been convicted of lying and war crimes in any court. Still, he done it.

    If I had said any of these things, I’d never have gotten a comment here about my obligation to write only to standards of legal guilt - not a word. I’ve said both - I know this for a fact. And in the same way I can’t prove it but it is still true, Michael Jackson was a freaky weirdo who did harm to children and ought not be canonized. I wish I could harm the reputation he’s gotten by dying - I will say it again - you can’t become a decent human by dying, you have to do it when alive, and some things are forgiveable, if they are forgiveable, only by G-d. I’m not obligated to do that work.


  80. Leila Abu-Sabaon 09 Jul 2023 at 4:51 pm

    Hi Sharon - I’m not feeling “offended” personally. I think your use of the word whore to characterize Maya Angelou is troubling. Would you consider discussing it with a friend of yours who is of color? Perhaps a writer of color? A woman writer of color? A real life conversation about it face-to-face, with someone you know and trust, might make the issue more clear. You and I have never met and we only correspond via the internet, therefore our discussion might not be so fruitful.

    And of course if I am completely over-sensitive and out of line in calling you out about it, then you and your friend can make fun of me together.

    Best wishes,

  81. Soniaon 09 Jul 2023 at 4:51 pm


    There is no such thing as clean coal ;and nuclear waste disposal is not safe.

  82. sacon 09 Jul 2023 at 7:16 pm


    I mean, wow.

    I have not been a fan of MJ’s for many years, however; I respect the people who mourn his passing. Most generations have icons that they mourn when they die (Monroe, Lennon, Presley, etc.) and there is generally spectacle when this happens.

    Is it over the top? Perhaps, but, in a declining economy, a little spectacle and a chance to cry is not so terrible.

    I agree with most of your post. I am, however, rather disheartened by the words you chose to convey your displeasure. Terms like “freak” and “whore” are pretty vitriolic (as someone else noted) and convey not only displeasure for someone but disregard for their humanity. Does he deserve your regard? Well, that is for you to decide. Others think he does and not all of them are “baseless and shallow” as another poster indicated. Some grew up with him and mourned what he became. Others just like the music. What is wrong with that? Was he a pedophile? Only he and those children will ever know the truth. Not you. Not I.

    Does Angelou deserve your regard? Again, you can decide. I would only say that if writing bad poetry and getting public accolades makes you a whore then many poets (or anyone who makes a living in the public eye) could fall into that category since “good” anything is with the beholder.

    I understand you find the circus repugnant. I did as well so I turned off the t.v. and took a break from the news. Let people have their grief. It will pass and we will get back to more relevant news.

    I, in general, respect your opinion enough to read your blog and buy your books. I, also, respect that this is your space to use as you see fit and say what you like, however; I found this posting hate-filled and will not (as I normally do) be forwarding it to my friends.

    Hopefully, as you seem not to want to do for MJ, many who read this can separate what is a very emotionally charged response from you from the compassionate and, in general, good work that you do here.

  83. Sharonon 09 Jul 2023 at 8:26 pm

    Leila, I will do as you ask.

    I get what you are saying, and I get how laden the term is. That said, I honestly can’t think of a single better example of intellectual prostitution - I mean, if you had to come up with a model for “this is selling out one’s gifts in the most cheapening and blatant possible way” that would be it.

    I will have the conversation you ask for, but I find it hard to imagine that I would change my language in this particular case. That may be my flaw - but what she did is so very ugly that milder terms seem inadequate to me.


  84. Soniaon 10 Jul 2023 at 1:22 pm

    When the world lost Michael Jackson, we lost a great artist, a gentle, and loving humanitarian who gave away at least $200 million to charities. He was musical and magical .

    My hope is that one day you will learn to appreciate his art, his vision and his accomplishments. Even if you do not appreciate him, many will continue to love him and appreciate him as an exceptional human being.

  85. lilithon 11 Jul 2023 at 7:19 pm

    At last!!! Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you, Sharon. Brava!!!

    I’ve been maniacally reading everything I can find on Michael Jackson’s death – but, why??? I was never a real fan. Thought he sang some catchy tunes during the Motown era, but there were other Motown musicians who far surpassed in him talent. Yeah, he was an excellent dancer – I watched the debut of the Thriller video on MTV like everybody else, and although I appreciated its uniqueness and enjoyed the dancing, never bought the album, or any recording of his, for that matter.

    So I wasn’t searching out everything I could find to read about him following his death b/c I was a bereaved fan. I was looking for a truth-teller, and now I’ve found her. Do not apologize, Sharon, for anything you have written here or your anger. Every word is true and the anger is justifiable.

    I’ve had the same reaction as you – why are so many people adamant that because he was not CONVICTED of child molestation, he is innocent, when it is obvious that many powerful and wealthy people escape conviction for their crimes? I am truly stymied by the eagerness of so many, who should know better, to make excuses for this man. Are they ignorant (perhaps willfully so) of the facts of these cases? That, as do other predators, he chose vulnerable prey? In his case, children from dysfunctional families, or, as you point out, of his servants? Do they understand that this was his pattern over many years? That police told investigative reporter Maureen Orth they had reports going back over a decade, but were unable in most cases to get the kids to testify in criminal proceedings? That in the one case that went to trial, the boy involved was able to draw markings on Jackson’s penis that were accurate and confirmed by police photographs?

    Do they understand the modus operandi of child molesters? That they try to entice children with toys and other things children like? Neverland was a pedophile’s trap writ large by a man with the financial means to create it.

    I don’t believe Jackson built Neverland solely b/c he never had a childhood. Although Jackson was a very good singer and dancer, these were not his greatest talents. His true genius was as a performer. Quincy Jones helped him produce his best records; great choreographers taught him to dance (including the moonwalk). But he had “it” when it came to performing. He was electric. I was never a fan, but even I couldn’t take my eyes off him when he performed Billie Jean at the Motown 25th anniversary celebration.

    I believe that he cultivated his persona as a man-child, a Peter Pan who needed to dwell in Neverland, a wounded soul who was beaten by his father. Yes, he did have to work through his childhood, and I have no doubt he was beaten. Many of us in that generation were beaten by our parents (I was born just a year before MJ, and all the kids in our family were all beaten.) And I worked through most of my childhood, too, (but that’s another post.)

    His faux innocent, man-child persona was part of his performance. The only part of your post I don’t agree with is that people are grieving b/c it feels good or is therapeutic in some way, or keeps us from thinking about and grieving over things that are really important. I think many of them were taken in by Jackson’s wounded soul, man-child performance. Of course, the cult of celebrity plays a part as well.

    So your assertion that Maya Angelou “whored herself out” is spot on – every word appropriate. Even the sexual connotation of the word “whore” – given the sexual nature of Jackson’s crimes and her own experiences. And your anger at our society’s willingness to let this guy off the hook, especially coming from a mother of four boys, is entirely justifiable. (Why all the crocodile tears for Jackson’s pain? What about the pain of those many children he molested???)

    Finally, let me just say I’m a long-time reader of your blog, but have never posted a comment. But it was important to me to let you know how much I appreciate this post, and to show support.

    Goddess bless,


  86. Bobon 11 Jul 2023 at 7:42 pm

    “I wish I could harm the reputation he’s gotten by dying”

    Keep trying. Sooner or later you’ll figure out you’re trashing your own marginal reputation in the process.

  87. Chrison 12 Jul 2023 at 12:23 am

    Interesting how so many are so sure he was a pedophile. Not sticking up for him but how does one know? From watching TV? The same TV that spews forth nothing but lies and illusion night after night?

    For my self all I can say is, how the hell do I know?


  88. Camon 12 Jul 2023 at 1:33 am

    I take your larger point, and I think I even agree with it — it *is* exciting to be emptily and dramatically grieving, and I do find it distasteful. But I choke on declaring that any person is “totally pointless and bad”, particularly someone I’ve never so much as met.

    Also, Michael Jackson seems to have meant something different to a lot of African-Americans than he did to me or my white peers. I don’t get it, but I trust that they aren’t nuts. Something is there for them that isn’t there for me.

  89. Jasonon 12 Jul 2023 at 5:44 am

    I just came back to this thread, some of whose contents disturbed me, having seen this marvellous new interview with peak oil thinker and activist, Carolyn Baker:

    Towards the end, there’s some very good thought on grief. Baker talks about how, in indigenous cultures (she studied with an African shaman) they will occasionally conduct public funerals even if no-one has died, because they know it opens up things they need. (I believe Martin Prechtel has talked about something similar in South America.)

    That really is ‘mourning without object’ — in any literal sense — but it has a deeper, non-specific and non-rational object which remains valid even if the grief has no definite source.

    I believe the Jackson funeral set off things of that kind. I don’t believe the ‘need to grieve’, the instinct for it, even in the absence of full consciousness of events, should be shouted down as pointless. On the contrary, at the unconscious level, it may serve very important purposes.

    When you are dealing with Michael Jackson you are dealing with symbols of certain things, and the idea of laying them to rest can be significant on the symbolic level which exists in all of us.

    By instantly moving to condemn the (admittedly less than fully conscious) process the mainstream is going through, I feel Sharon’s approach to this question may have missed important aspects of it.

    I’m sure no-one is really coming back to this page to look, but I thought it was worthwhile to say.

    That interview’s great anyhow:

  90. Julien Peter Benneyon 14 Jul 2023 at 8:29 am

    There is a lot of truth in the occurrence of escapism amongst consumers of the most popular artists in music.

    Even when brilliant writers like Joe S. Harrington and David Keenan show Michael Jackson was no innovator whatsoever in purely musical terms, it is still important to understand the nature of his legacy (something I overlooked reasoning those and similar writers’ arguments). I agree that people today have trouble mourning deeply for the issues that are critical and that many will focus on a person who had a amazing level of visual talent and significant business acumen - together it was capable of making him into a superstar. Even to very conservative outer suburbanites Michael Jackson was a significant force - judging by Thriller’s seven hundred thousand sales amongst a population of fifteen million in Australia. To the young people in these suburbs Jackson’s music was easy entertainment that they could like without effort, and which they will remember forever even without listening to it for a long time.

  91. Anna Marieon 15 Jul 2023 at 2:35 am

    Seems to me MJ was a pretty easy target because he literally never grew up. Did he show good judgment? Absolutely not. Did that mean he left himself wide open for accusations? Sure. Does that mean he was a pedophile? All we have to go on is the legal record, and the law said “no.” I am chary of branding someone with a label because “most people” (whoever they are) think it is so.

    He was also ill with lupus which caused a pigment disorder, his scalp was scarred where his hair had caught on fire, and he was addicted to painkillers. He had to lighten his skin to even out spotting and wear a wig from a young age. He was a child star abused by his father, and he seemed confused about his sexuality. He was odd-looking and acting as a result, and people of odd appearance and behavior often attract rumours and sometimes unfounded accusations. Particularly those with money. But again, I note that innuendo and rumor aren’t the same as a legal conviction.

    And despite all that, Jackson was a very gifted dancer and performer. I was not a big fan of his music when I was a teenager in the 1980s, but I could not deny he was a cultural phenomenon. It is the juxtaposition of the two images of misfit and cultural icon that people find fascinating, probably something Maya Angelou found fascinating. Maybe that is why she decided to write about it.

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