Ten years ago today, I ran alone into the deserted streets of a small coastal town in the south of England, whereupon I tore off my shirt, fell to my knees, and wailed incoherently with primeval, ecstatic joy. Because a woman had just released fourteen white doves: one to represent each of Michael’s acquittals in his 2005 trial for child molestation.
And, admittedly, that sounds like somewhat melodramatic behaviour. But it was an instinctive response. Such was Michael’s touch.
I never met Michael. The closest I came to realising that oft-recurring dream was when I desperately clung onto the back of a car he’d just got in. Attached by mere fingertips, I bounced along behind the vehicle, with all the joy and manic apprehension of paraphernalia attached to the rear of a wedding car.
I can also lay claim to being the recipient of the gift of pizza and blankets from Michael, which he had sent to us whilst we waited outside a concert arena in sub-zero temperatures. It was acts of caring such as this delivery that became the reason why a teenage boy from the north of England covered his bedroom window with the words: MJ IS INNOCENT.
As well, having been a regular front-row concert attendee, I’m convinced I did once lock eyes with him: in Dublin, where it had still been daylight when the show started. I was certainly doing my bit to be noticed, anyway. To the extent where I imagine Michael might have been thinking, “Well, that’s one I’m definitely staying away from.” I also once caught the hat when it was thrown out during ‘Billie Jean’. Before losing my grip in the ensuing ruckus.
It’s easy to judge those of us that did things like that. But the euphoric frenzy the man inspired – the piquing of anticipation – was like nothing else. Michael’s presence had a unique property: it osmotically transformed the atmosphere in a room – a change sensed by fan and non-fan alike (at least – you used to be a non-fan.) That very particular sense of butterflies in the stomach being simultaneously shared by thousands of people; with everyone feeling the experience as a reciprocated love for each other. It was inimitable.
How does one explain the magnetism of Michael? How so many are so heartbroken and mournful at the death of someone they never met – to the same extent of sadness that accompanies losing a close family member?
There are many reasons: Michael was an engine of pure prolificity in providing the world with quality, unique, timeless rhythms and melodies divined with the purpose of healing the world; he was the plausible, flesh-and-blood superhero; he was a surrogate parent; he filled the vacuum of self for so many people confused by the tragedy of loss; he was the Unknown Soldier, with millions of identities willed onto him by the bereft.
The world talks about Michael Jackson as an unbreakable enigma. But he wasn’t. Not to us. Not to those of us that walked through hell with him, its raging fires starkly illuminating the man’s vulnerabilities and faults – for anyone that cared to see. What he gave us in return is this: he gave us musical flags to plant as life milestones – points of reference galvanized by the soul orgasm of zeitgeist; he was our support system; he was an indicator for our identities – our very souls; he was our moral paradigm, a totem for our tried-and-tested, stoic-and-steadfast belief in the power of the truth – in the indefatigable advocating of it when confronted by egregious, audacious and unrelenting slander.
The fable of Beauty and the Beast tells the tale of how decency is perennially ostracised by the cynicism of a society obsessed with superficiality. How scapegoating, promoted by the insecurity of bullies fearful of deviants, manifests in the Beast as his becoming more and more isolated. The love story in the fable demonstrates how two people find solace in each other after this rejection from society. This is the same as between Michael and his fans. Michael would not give up because he had the love from his fans. And we would not, and will not, give up because we had his.
With the increasing brutality Michael endured, the more we were drawn to him. The poor black boy born as a single permutation of the infinity of fate into – to borrow Janet’s phrase – “a world sick with racism”, who went on to defy the odds by escaping poverty and using his sacrifice of self to influence and help transform the world into a better place.
And in this is where the most significant answer to the conundrum of the world’s sense of grief at his death lies: simply, that the world is mourning en masse at the instinctive tragedy of our losing an opportunity for peace.
What kind of man inspires such depth of devotion where, in the absence of any official Mecca for their martyred hero, fans organise pilgrimages to the impenetrable gates of his house? What kind of man generates a loyalty entirely unfazed, infinite and unwavering, despite daily ad hominem attacks on him and his supporters? What kind of man invokes rapture at the slightest sight of his twitching a curtain? What kind of man enkindles vigils?
It is the kind of man who transformed the curse of a disease into a totem of equality; who – singlehandedly, using his unparalleled level of fame – attempted to undo centuries of blackface minstrel mockery of his race, yet not with a sense of vengeance, but with a motive for human unity; it is the kind of man who made a concerted effort to be Christ-like, who poured his wealth on the poor and emulated the children; it is the kind of man that taught us that perception is merely a reflection of oneself, that love is truth, and that sacrifice is something to aspire to.
Michael holds up a mirror to humanity. His fans were given the opportunity to perceive the world through his own particular pane of the prism: one painful, yet privileged. Each of us fans as individuals is in some way a reflection of the man himself, with his common goal: to help heal the world. Those who project themselves onto Michael and see a monster are merely construing themselves. The only monster is the one interpreted. There is no evidential basis whatsoever for a belief in Michael as a monster. It was envy and extortionists that did that. As Michael sang, “The heart reveals the proof / Like a mirror reveals the truth.”
Gaunt as the ordeal had made him, ten years ago today, Michael walked tall on his way out of court; a paradigm of persistence and innocence.
Michael Jackson fans are honoured. We have been dealt an ace by the cards of destiny. Our hero is peerless in his example of humanity.
We love you, Michael. And we will never forget.
In celebration of the tenth anniversary of Vindication Day, Voice As One Anti-Defamation Group have organised a Twitter Thunderclap to raise awareness. Let’s get Michael’s innocence trending! Sign up here: https://www.thunderclap.it/…/26490-michael-jackson-innocent…
This article is comprised of extracts from The First Book of Michael by Syl Mortilla, available in paperback and on Kindle at http://amzn.to/1GycUw1 and for all other eBook devices at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/511371