JAFO

Just Another Effin' Observer

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Location: Huntsville, Texas, United States

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Not Guilty

The verdict is in: Michael Jackson has been acquitted on all ten of the charges against him. Now, I am not a fan of Michael Jackson’s, and I never have been. I think his music pretty much sucks, and you don’t even want to get me started on what I think of his – for lack of a better word for it – dancing. And as for Jackson as a person – well, let’s not go there. (Well, not yet, at least. But we will, in a moment. And if you want to take that as a threat….)

Now that the verdict has been rendered, we can only hope that, if nothing else, he will take his recent experience as a wake-up call. A report from the BBC implies that this may be the case. But somehow, I doubt that he will. More likely, he (and his teeming hordes of sycophantic followers, a.k.a., “fans”) will see yesterday’s verdict as permission to “carry on”, which means that we’ll probably see a replay of this circus in, oh, I’m guessing about ten years down the road.

For what it’s worth, let me say that I agree with the verdict the jury handed down. Nor am I at all surprised by the verdict, but not for the reasons you might think. I refuse to believe that we, as a society, have become so jaded, that we have “defined deviancy down” to such an extent, that accusations of child-molestation no longer rise to the level of criminal behavior. I think the reason for the acquittal is much more prosaic than that.

Ever since the infamous McMartin child-molestation case (which took place in California in the ‘80s), prosecutors have had to be relentlessly careful in bringing formal charges of sexual abuse of a child: the evidence has to be rock-solid, the witnesses above reproach. This, I would argue, is as it should be; the potential consequences of mistakes – whether it be losing a case against someone like Arnold Dean Corll (who actually never went to trial) or John Wayne Gacy, or a wrongful prosecution against innocent defendants, as in the McMartin case – are too great to allow any carelessness or half-measures in building the case. This was where the prosecution failed the test. The principal witness against Jackson (the alleged victim’s mother) was, shall we say, less than sterling, and the jury was reluctant to convict on the basis of her testimony; there was simply too much extraneous baggage carried into the courtroom, too many questions about the mother’s motives. This is not to say that the jury concluded that the charges against Jackson were baseless: at least one member of the jury acknowledged that she had reason to believe that Jackson had, in fact, molested two of the prosecution’s witnesses; unfortunately, neither boy was Jackson’s accuser, and the jury could only convict or acquit Jackson of the charges with which he was accused. The verdict, therefore, was the correct one.

That said, I do have a few thoughts with respect to Mr. Jackson himself. (I did warn you.)

You can say all kinds of things about Jacko and his general weirdness (and just about everybody with a Web presence has), but for reasons that I really don’t want to explore too deeply, I feel kinda sorry for the “guy” – and yes, those were irony quotes. Not in any Shakespearean, tragic way, mind you (although God knows there is ample cause for that); no, this is a more detached, clinical-researcher type of response. Every time I see photographs of The Gloved One, my first – and only – reaction is an intense desire to snag a tissue sample (just be close-by the next time his nose falls off) so I can count the chromosomes.

Jackson has been in the public eye for more than forty years, since he was five years old, when he made his singing debut with the Jackson Five. As a result, he was deprived of a normal childhood, so he has had to compensate for that lack by indulging in an abnormal childhood since his mid-thirties. Much speculation has revolved about the name of his Neverland Ranch, and I am personally of the opinion that a lot of it is valid: he really regards himself as a modern-day Peter Pan, because he really is the “boy who never grew up”; he never had the opportunity. This in no way excuses his behavior over the past couple of decades, but it does offer an explanation of sorts. He has spent his entire life as a rich and famous celebrity, and he has undoubtedly been convinced that there is nothing – absolutely nothing – that he cannot get away with; he has been surrounded by people whose job it is to make all these troublesome situations “go away”, to shield him from the consequences of his actions. Not only did he never have the opportunity to grow up when he was a child, he has never known the need to grow up after he became an adult. The result is the tragic-comic farce of a human being we see before us today.

So I guess there is an element of Shakespearean tragedy in this story, after all. It is a common thread in all of the Bard’s tragedies that a fatal flaw in the central character’s makeup is the trigger for all of the unfortunate events that ensue, without which none of those events would have taken place. Michael Jackson’s flaw is that he never grew up. And I think it’s too late for him to start now.

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