Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson: Jew-baiter

They suck - they're like leaches. I'm so tired of it. They start out the most popular person in the world, make a lot of money, big house, cars, and everything, end up with, penniless. It is conspiracy. The Jews do it on purpose.

Those were the words spoken by Michael Jackson nearly four years ago, regarding his financial and professional woes. They were underreported by a media which had already written off Michael Jackson as a man whose disturbing idiosyncracies and bizarre antics had become old news (unless they involved allegations of child molestation or baby dangling). At roughly the same time he also released a song, "They Don't Care About Us" that featured these lyrics:

Jew me/Sue me/Everybody do me/Kick me/Kike me

Why do I bring this particular piece of news up so soon after Michael Jackson's death? Because I want to explain why, despite the heaps of praise being lavished upon his immediately post-mortem (which is more than a little distasteful, considering how many of these same media outlets held him up to abject ridicule only days before), I find it hard to sympathize with him. If you put aside the fact that he almost certainly molested children, that he definitely behaved in inappropriate ways with those same children, that he took advantage of Beatles songs to which he had acquired the rights in a manner that did a grave injustice to that band, that he spent the last decade of his life bandying about the "racist" card whenever misfortunes of his own making plagued him (such as when he accused Sony's CEO of racism because his album underperformed, even though they sunk $30 million in it and it was widely views as being well beneath the quality of his earlier work, or when he accused prosecutors of similar motivations in his child molestation cases), and that in general plunged into narcissistic indulgences and self-pity in his later years... if you ignore all of that, I have a very personal reason for lacking sympathy. You see, I am Jewish, and whether I am told that I should take comments such as these personally or not, the fact that I am a Jew means that they are now and always will be very personal.

Michael Jackson, the man who preached compassion and empathy throughout his work, reverted to scapegoating the Jews as soon as the chips were down for him, and I do not believe this aspect of his character is at all inconsequential. Where here was the loving man who he so often trumpeted himself as being? Was it the Jews who caused him to destroy his reputation by sleeping in the same bed with little boys who were not his own children, or bankrupted him by splurging on lark projects?

I know that you aren't supposed to speak ill of the recently deceased, but just as I will understand when African-Americans seethe after the death of Michael Richards and homosexuals after the expiration of Isaiah Washington, so too am I feeling less than distraught over the loss of Michael Jackson. Granted there is a part of me that is stunned - he was a major cultural figure from my childhood, and it is hard for me to imagine a world where he is not in the news. What's more, his contributions to the world of American music and pop culture - from the rise of the Jackson Five in the late-1960s to the release of Thriller and Bad in the 1980s - are undeniable, and overwhelmingly positive. Nevertheless, my sympathy is mitigated by my sense of self-respect.

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