Which is your favorite Michael Jackson song? Your favorite Michael Jackson memory? Your earliest memory? A lot of our "firsts" involve the King of Pop. I'm reading and seeing and hearing about a lot of first albums, first concerts, first music videos that people remember, coming courtesy of Michael Jackson. Super Bowl halftime shows, Pepsi commercials, single white sequenced gloves. Michael was the man. A strange man, yes. But when he was on that stage, there was no one better. Not even close. And there may never be anyone better.
As I danced with my daughter to my favorite song of his, the appropriately named "Pretty Young Thing," shortly after the news of his death was confirmed, video of Michael silently played on the television behind us. And I was once again reminded of the awesome responsibility I have as a dad to introduce my daughter to as many of the world's wonders as I can, the best that I can, with minimal spin. Let her form her own opinion, develop her own tastes, accept - or not accept - things for what she thinks they are, not what I think they are. It also, sadly, reminded me of my responsibility to protect her from the dangers as best I can.
If you set aside the scandals, the strangeness, the sordid stories, I'll set aside all of my jokes, wisecracks, and irreverent puns that I've uttered in the last 18 hours. For example, I suggested "Off to Neverland" should be the front page headline in the NY Post (it turned out to be on page 2!). I said other things, too. Regardless, Michael Jackson was a phenomenon. He is a phenomenon. He always will be a phenomenon.
A few days ago, a bizarre coincidence inspired me to write a post relating to the life and death of Ed McMahon. I don't usually do that. I don't usually shine light on obscure and otherwise inconsequential social or cultural events as they relate to my experience of parenthood unless their magnitude warrants it. But the timing struck me: I had introduced my daughter to a McMahon-ism just the night before the man died. Eerie.
So I would be remiss if I did not also share my feelings about the life and death of Michael Jackson, a man with immeasurable talent, an unimaginable legacy, who left an indelible mark on all of us. Good or bad.
I talk a lot about links to the past, and the importance of making them relevant now. The amazing thing about Michael Jackson is that you don't have to try and make him relevant now. His songs still play on the radio and in bars and clubs. His moves are still emulated on dance floors from the big screen to the smallest of social circles. In backyards, basements and bandstands across the country, Michael Jackson will live forever.
Set aside the freakshow, and look at the man on the stage. The Man in the Mirror. Not him. His imperfections, impurities, inconsistencies are well documented and fodder for another debate on another day. Take a look at yourself. You. The words that brought him fame and made him a legend can still echo in the teachings of parents, even if he was by no means the best role model for parents.
I'm kind of going against what I believe a little bit in saying "do what he says, not what he does." I always thought parents who used that phrase "do what I say not as I do" were being lazy and setting the worst possible example for their children.
But, there is an exception to every rule. And here's mine: ignore the bizarre behavior and promise to make a difference, to make it right, as he sang so beautifully. The world can indeed change for the better for the generation that we leave behind if we make even the smallest of changes. His words, not his actions alleged or otherwise, can be used to inspire, to challenge, to motivate. Live. Love. Laugh. Enjoy every minute of it. Protect your child by protecting yourself. Stop smoking. Eat well. Drink less. Cut down on the swearing. Talk nicer. Create. Relate. Educate. Make that change.
If you've ever found yourself saying, "Oh, baby, give me one more chance, " then here's your chance. It don't matter if you're black or white. Break down barriers. Agree to disagree, but respect each other's different opinions. If you need help, just call my name and I'll be there. Be there for each other. Your kids. Your spouse. Your family, friends, and neighbors. Make that change. I'm looking at the man in the mirror. It starts with me. It starts with you. Make that change. We never can say goodbye, girl. There may be times when you want to give up, give in. Don't. No one said it's gonna be easy. Make that change. Don't stop until you get enough. Make that change.