Yesterday was a weird day to say the least, an odd confluence of events that left me feeling nostalgic.
I had been following the Michael Jackson trial with a combination of revulsion, sadness, and hope; revulsion because of how far he’s fallen, how weird and repulsive he has become, sadness for a broken man, broken lives, and an uncertain future, and hope that a beloved figure from my youth wouldn’t end up being a total lie.
You see, I didn’t want Michael Jackson to be guilty. I didn’t want that man who made such great songs throughout his life to be something so horrible as to make his entire life a lie. I didn’t want my youth to be trashed. He’s gotten weirder and weirder throughout his career, but it’s been in discrete steps. I can deal with that. Okay, between "Off the Wall" and "Thriller" he got a nose job. That’s okay, I guess. Between "Thriller" and "Bad" he became white. Okay, nose job, white, maybe something else. It’s weird, but okay. And it went from there, little by little the man that was Michael Jackson became someone else… but slowly.
I still liked his music. That was the one thing that remained constant. It was always great stuff.
The accusations of pedophilia had been mounting throughout the 90’s, and I remember many a conversation with fellow Jackson fan and friend, John, "Do you think it’s true?"
"Nah, you see it’s – " And on we would go, justifying Michael’s behavior, weirdness, and a media and populace eager to tear down stars, thirsty for bloodsport only too common in our society of idol worship.
It reminded me of conversations that I had with friends in the latter half of the 70’s and on into the 80’s throughout the unrolling of George Lucas’s Star Wars.
"Do you think Darth Vader is Luke’s father?" We would ask each other.
"Naw, man, no way. Darth Vader is evil." And our eyes would go wide at the possibilities. We would debate it for hours. It consumed us as we waited what seemed an eternity for Return of the Jedi. Three years is an eternity to a 10 year old.
I guess in some ways yesterday was too bizarre for words. I silently cheered that Michael Jackson was declared Not Guilty. My heart beat in fear before the verdict was read, not for Michael Jackson, but for my youth, my ten year old self, for pureness, passion, and love. If Michael was just another sick twisted bastard, what can a child believe in? Are we all to become jaded, cynical, and empty at such a young age? Is there any place for a child to find refuge in the pure and the clean? Does everything always have to soiled with the muck and sludge of our failures, our inadequacies? Is there anything pure and noble left for which to strive?
Laura, Olaia and I watched Return of the Jedi last night. Laura and I had finally gone to see Revenge of the Sith and afterward had undertaken the trek through the first three movies. It was weird watching them again, blasts from the past. Olaia watched them with us, full of questions about who was bad, why they were bad, who was good, why that guy was trying to kill that guy etc.
So we were watching Return of the Jedi last night and Yoda was on his deathbed. I looked over at Olaia and she was crying. Tears were welling up in her eyes as Yoda lay dying. "Daddy, why does Yoda have to die?"
"Because he is old, Olaia. It’s okay, Yoda is going to be Luke’s guardian angel." She focused on that and seemed to be take heart.
When the movie was over, she came to me and gave me a hug. "Daddy, I loved that we watched that movie together. I really liked it."
"You are the sweetest little girl in the whole world. I’m glad too."
And I basked in the warmth and glow of my daughter’s innocence, her pureness, her faith.
I sit here reflecting on my own. Maybe, just maybe I have retained a portion of my youth today, or if not real, at least I have plausible deniability, and I’m gonna go with that.