July 5, 2009
It is said that by age 50 we have the face we deserve. For most of us that is a reflection of life and experience.
At middle age, we can polish that face with a smile or, for women, a bit of lipstick and blush. However, except for extreme plastic surgery (and excluding the picture of Dorian Gray), we are pretty much forced to wear the results of the life we lived. Events and emotions of our past are etched around our eyes and impossible to hide with anything offered at a cosmetic counter.
These last two weeks we have been forced to see Michael Jackson''s garish face ad nauseam. Television seems to be all Michael, all the time. Throughout the country fans are wailing, in the throes of inconsolable grief over the death of an (alleged) pedophile. Why?
He is being lauded for dance steps and music videos. He had talent, to be sure. But, in my mind, he will always be a monster who was accused of abusing children. From "innocently sleeping with little children" to dangling his own (?) progeny from a balcony, this man was vile.
Historically, evil outlives good in human memory. Does anyone remember that Hitler was a painter? Did you know that Charles Manson was a musician and wrote songs that are still performed by Guns N'' Roses? Probably not.
My friend, Karen Berger, writes from New Orleans, "I believe Michael Jackson is responsible for young men walking around all the time with their hands on their crotch. He introduced America to this by doing it to himself while dancing."
But, this column is not really about a has-been pop star and the circus that surrounds his death. His eulogy will by written by better scribes than I.
My real concern is why we let people get away with such wickedness. It appears that we are blinded by fame or wealth or status. Why are some acts criminal only for some people? If a local child were molested by a trench coat-wearing stranger at the Riverwalk, the citizens of Columbus would be relentless in our search for the offender. Why is it different when malevolence wears glitzy clothes and picks that child up in a stretch limo?
And why do we cover up and excuse horrifying behavior in those who should be role models?
A few years ago, in New Orleans, there was the sensational case of Boy Scout Troop leaders abusing the scouts on campouts. For decades, the Catholic Church reassigned pedophile priests, covering their tracks and horrific actions. Sometimes very sick people choose honorable professions, like coaching and education, based on proximity to children. Often, they get away with it for a very long time.
The idea of blind justice is a farce. She peeks from beneath that blindfold, modifying her verdict based on the prominence and affluence of the accused. Those who have the right connections and the right clothes appear to be immune to retribution.
I truly believe that Michael Jackson hated himself. The well-published defenses of his actions do not ring true in the knowledge that he paid vast sums of money to his victims. (As did the Catholic Church.)
But, my theory of his self-loathing is based primarily on his face. With multiple cosmetic surgeries he transformed a relatively nice face into a horror movie-type man/woman mask. We must wonder what he really saw when he looked at "the man in the mirror"?
For the rest of us, I suppose we should learn to love those little lines, they tell much about our journey. We might try, however, to peek behind the masks of others. Not all monsters have faces that are bleached and terrifyingly distorted like the late, and very talented, Mr. Jackson.
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina. E-mail reaches her at [email protected]
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.