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Dear Mr. Jackson: I would like to start off by saying how sorry I am about your childhood. I saw it all on VH1’s Michael Jackson program, so I am well versed on how the Jehovah’s Witness people are to blame for your erratic behavior. I would also like to say that I don’t believe that at all. I mean, it was on VH1, so that pretty much makes it completely false. Frankly, Mr. Jackson, I don’t know what to think. I know that you had a hard time growing up. Of course you did, being in the spotlight all the time, constantly under scrutiny. It could not have been easy. However, does a not-that-great childhood justify a bizarre adulthood?

Allow me to be blunt, Mr. Jackson. I didn’t really know who you were until I was around nine years old. I had heard of you, but I thought of you as “the weird-looking person” (I had a hard time distinguishing your gender). After I had established that you were a pop star, it wasn’t until I was 13 and watching “Thriller” on Halloween that I discovered you used to be black. So, I need to thank you because up until that point, I was convinced that a person couldn’t change his or her skin color.

Upon turning 14, I took an interest in the Beatles and therefore hated you for stealing their song rights from Paul McCartney (my idol). I mellowed out a few years ago, but then a new sentiment replaced hatred: pity. I know it’s strange. There is no reason for me to feel sorry for you, but I do. You’ve been cut a raw deal. Even still, I don’t know what to make of you.

Okay, it is totally true that the American public can’t pass judgment on you because of that special on TV a few years ago. But, come on! Bubbles? Lisa Marie Presley? Neverland Ranch? Dangling a baby over a balcony? Showing up to court in pajamas? These actions make it pretty clear that your thinking is a little out there. Good luck in trial, Mr. Jackson. I have a feeling you’re going to need it.

  • — Anne Baker,
  • Carlsbad H.S.

Dear Michael Jackson: I can remember thinking you were the coolest guy in the world when I saw the “Thriller” video from the early ’80s. Now, more than two decades after the release of that song, I couldn’t be more disappointed or disturbed over the behavior of one of music’s greatest pop icons.

Because you don’t think what you’ve done is wrong, there is no point in berating, preaching, or damning you because it would fall on deaf ears. Rather, I am sorry for whatever motivated you to hang a baby over a balcony. I’m sorry for whatever caused you pain and for whatever leads you to such actions. However, there is no excuse for compromising a child. I don’t think you should rot in jail, but I do think you should never be allowed near another child again.

As for a fair trial, money is the greatest protection against punishment, and you have plenty of that. I think that the ratio of people who idealize you because of your music and the people who recognize your actions as sick will be close to even. People rally behind you because of your music, because they remember being young and crazy and dancing to your songs, learning your choreography, and buying your tapes. In my mind, I can separate talent and character, creativity and honor. Brilliance or originality is neither exemption nor an excuse for disgraceful actions.

I think you’re beyond hope, and as to what will become of you, I would never give the system the benefit of the doubt. Most likely, you will grow old in the public eye and the media will always be waiting to pounce on the next piece of disturbing information about your questionable conduct. The next generation will know you as a pseudo-creepy old man whose songs they burn onto their “vintage mix” CDs and rock out to, saying, “Wow, this is so old school!” And after your death, conservative mothers across America will breathe a sigh of relief.

  • — Gabrielle Clifford,
  • La Costa Canyon H.S.

Dear Michael Jackson: I’m tired of you. You haven’t made a decent song in years, you’re the most reliable joke for late-night comedians on a slow news day, and there are hundreds of junk e-mails with bad jokes about you filling up my in-box. I’m tired of seeing your face on television screens and in newspapers, if only because it is so disfigured.

I never was a fan of your music. To be fair, I wasn’t alive during what I’m told was the peak of your popularity. I can’t name any of your songs besides “Bad” and “Man in the Mirror.” Oh, and didn’t you do something called The Wiz? I never saw it, but I’ve heard it wasn’t very good. The DJ at my bar mitzvah played some stuff by the Jackson 5, but that’s about as far as my knowledge of your work goes.

The first time I heard about you, it was in reference to your milk-white skin tone. Kids on the playground said that some guy named Michael Jackson used to be black, but he took a shower in white-skin dye and became permanently white. Even at six, that sounded pretty strange.

A few years later, I saw a 60 Minutes special about the controversial Martin Bashir documentary that was being made about you. You talked about how you thought it was fine to sleep in bed with little boys and how perverts twisted the truth to make you seem like a bad guy. Sorry, Michael, but I don’t think a grown man should be sleeping in the same bed as little boys. You don’t need perverts to make that look bad.

I want to be tolerant of different people, of different ideas. But yours are so far from normal and presented in such a startling package that I think the best thing you can do for yourself is to disappear for a while. The only person I know who still supports you is a young woman at my school who paces across campus dramatically bobbing her head to your music blasted through her iPod and who submits fictional poetry to our literary magazine about encountering an angel in the forest named “Michael.” Like this girl, you draw attention to yourself, and I’m tired of it.

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