I said that I was done with the subject last week. I planned to not even turn on my television today. I just wanted to keep my head turned as much as possible. But after stillness and meditation, I realized that the very strong desire to turn my head away might actually be the very reason not to do so as Michael Jackson’s death might be my good enemy.

The good enemy in Native American teaching is the concept that sometimes the person or situation that causes the most discomfort carries the greatest lesson. Issues raised in the media coverage since Michael Jackson’s death are serious, emotionally evocative, and personal to a great many survivors (a statistically larger group than commonly believed). So I decided to bear witness to Michael Jackson’s memorial service on television today. I prayed for an open heart while I did.

I found myself profoundly moved during parts of the memorial service, a celebration of an extraordinary entertainer and his almost half of a century of global humanitarian, social, cultural, political, and musical influences. Maya Angelou’s poem was brilliant and poignant. And (don’t hate me) I thought Al Sharpton delivered a compelling message in parts, especially to MJ’s children. It was nice to see Martin Luther King’s family, and hear their words of love and compassion. I also thought Brooke Shields had a unique perspective and her tribute was fresh and full of grace. These people clearly had special personal relationships with MJ.

In my opinion, all that is left to make today’s service an honorable tribute is for AEG and/or the Jackson family to reimburse the financially indebted City of Los Angeles for the extraordinary expenses today’s service will otherwise cost taxpayers.

Grasping for release from the negative feelings that I had about (what I believed to be) the skewed perspective of the media coverage of MJ’s death, I watched again many of Michael Jackson’s videos (Thriller, Billie Jean, and the like) this week. I was reminded of how MJ’s artistic genius, spirit, hopes, power, light, darkness, and energy spoke to me when his music and videos (especially from the mid-1980s and before) were first released. They still speak to me now.

I know that his path was not easy from beginning to end. He was a victim and a survivor too. But that isn’t all that he was.

If you read my blog post (and comment section) on MJ last week, you know that I do not share in the fervor of the world as it travels along this bizarre trajectory of mourning a man who was so brilliant on the one (-gloved) hand, but so deceptive, dangerous, and destructive on the other.

After bearing witness to his memorial service today, and watching his videos/listening to his music here and there over the last week, I have this perspective to share:

I am sad for the loss to the world of the artist and human being that he was.

I am sad for the absence in the world of all that he might have been if his response to the damage inflicted on him in his life had been different.

I am sad for the suffering that we all watched another human being both endure and inflict upon himself and others.

I am glad that he is finally at peace, and I hope that the human beings whose lives he affected both positively and negatively will find peace too.

The good enemy had some lessons for me.

Did a good enemy find you this week? What did you learn?

34 comments on “The Good Enemy”

  1. I didn’t watch it, but I didn’t move to a cave and hide from it all week, either. I didn’t have much choice other than to hear about it every time I turned on the radio or pulled up a news site on the internet.

    Surprisingly, I feel much the same way you do. I hope he is finally at peace, and I’m sad for the pain he endured during his life and for the loss of a great talent.

    However, most of my sadness, and all of my heart, continue to go out to the people whose lives were negatively impacted by the way he chose to deal with his own pain; for it was a choice whether he realized it or not.

  2. The enemy stalking our extended family is mortality… a death in the family 2 weeks ago, and now a young relative is in ICU and it doesn’t look good. What have I learned? Only what I always knew. Love your children and hold them close to your hearts, and in your arms if you possibly can.

  3. Well said and good point about the the cost to the city…we are laying off teachers because there’s no money, but there was certainly enough money to hire massive amounts of police to control the mob of the memorial service. Now this “thing” makes me feel even more upset!

  4. I’m amazed, yet again, at your thoughtfulness, your depth, your humanity. I’m really glad you married me.

    Also? When I tried to type those first two words I’m amazed I actually typed I’m amazing. Heh. Freudian slip.


  5. I didn’t watch. I couldn’t. Circus poodles in all their glory and the media creating the perfect venue for their prancing and preening…no. Just…no.

    Whatever Jackson gave to the world was what he gave. That makes him no greater nor lesser a human being than the rest of us.

    For the City of Los Angeles and the State of California, really? On top of everything else, we really needed this extra expense? I think not.

    He was a man. I don’t care how big an “icon” he was, this is just too much.

    As for my good enemy, I continue to struggle.

  6. and yes, i agree, everyone becomes a victim sooner or later.
    and i like to believe that we emerge stronger for the struggle, and sometimes we do. but sometimes we don’t.
    life altering things happen, and it’s not always somebody’s fault. or maybe it is. shit happens.
    being right is sometimes only a moral victory. sometimes you lose more being right than you gain.
    and even though life feels like a slow-motion train-wreck, the blessed among us feel the good outweighs the bad.
    love is stronger than hate.
    how we live life is more meaningful than how we die.

  7. I’m certainly no Michael Jackson fan, but it’s hard to deny his impact on pop culture.

    Of note, frequently when cities spend a lot of money on an event, they tend to forget to mention the revenue they make for that event. For example, there was a lot of hoopla over the City of Pittsburgh paying for a victory parade for the Steelers back in February, but estimates from parking tax revenue increases for the day alone were astronomical. Local businesses reported benefits in the millions, including restaurants, hotels, and other retailers. When it was fully assessed, the city actually made money. Who knows if that will be the case for LA, but it is interesting that the full story is generally not reported.

  8. @Burgh Baby: I thought about this, but I’m not sure what revenues the city can actually make with this one. The tickets were free and no (authorized) food or souvenir items were sold at the venue to tax. I suppose some of the costs will be defrayed by the swarm of media and fans who increased tax revenues by staying in local hotels, eating at local restaurants, etc. I’m just not sure what other sources of revenue (besides the donations the city requested) there are or whether what they’ve got will come close to covering it. It just seems a shame when the state is handing out IOUs and teachers are getting pink slipped.

  9. I thought I was the only one with this view point! I am totally disgusted with all the pomp and circumstance that has surrounded MJ’s death. Even my hubby and I don’t agree on this subject.But as a strong,independent thinker, I refuse to back down, and follow the heard like a sheep( or Lemming).

  10. I love to read your posts, Cherie. This one was especially timely for me because I also am fighting a good enemy this week. Just yesterday, I took a deep breath, and stepped back from the edge of intense anger and hurt to be the bigger person (again.) and after reading your post today, I have maybe a better insight into why.

  11. I did not watch, but generally don’t watch tv during the day anyway.

    I just think that as a society we are skewed if we expend so much time, emotion, fricking electricity on the death of an entertainer (who was an artist and did good, entertained well) but don’t we have more important things to do?

    Fix health care?
    Feed hungry children?
    Take care of some abandoned dogs or cats or kids?

  12. I’m glad you found a way to find some lightness here; you are a lovely & smart woman.

    I think my Good Enemy is Emotional Pain, followed closely (to the point of them actually holding hands) by Death. When I start feeling angry about them, I try seeing the lessons.

  13. You really captured much of how I have felt this week.

    My kids wanted to listen to the Thriller album and we did, and I remembered how moved I was years ago. How The Jackson 5 christmas album was always my favorite…

    And I grieved for that boy that went the wrong way.

    The media has been silly the past two weeks; we tend to idolize the dead in crazy ways.

    Thanks for this perspective. You said it just right.

    (I am struggling with nerve pain again, right after deciding to become a Zumba instructor. I think there is a lesson here too and if I SIT STILL long enough this week – ha! – I might see it.)

  14. My comment last week was pretty strong (for me) “… a bat-shit crazy, child molesting freak show, shell of a human being.”

    But the truth is I watched the show yesterday, twice and I thought is was incredibly moving. Tears poured down my face through most of it.

    He grew up a very damaged, sad, mess of a child/man with plenty of enemies (good and bad) of his own.

    He was still a genius, that left us with some really incredible music and 3 sad, sweet kids.

  15. Wonderful, uplifting perspective. I loved reading this.

    And I DO have a good enemy. It is someone who is really getting under my skin and I imagine retorts to her all the time and I know my extreme reaction to her is supposed to be teaching me something…but I’m not open to it (I guess) yet.

    She’s been bugging me for years and I’d love to move on.

  16. You know, I tried, but failed, at writing a blog post about one of his videos that I saw while looking at a bunch of them.

    It was the video of “Rock With You”, from when he first broke out on his own – he must have been maybe 18 or so.

    The video (you can find on YouTube) is crude, early – just him in a glittery suit, dancing by himself in a wobbly pool of colored light.

    But he looks so young, and unspoiled, and full of promise. And of course, he is a polished and extraordinary performer even in that setting.

    It reminded me, as the mom of a boy now a young man – of that time when my son was that age, and developing, and full of promise and uncertainty and vulnerability. He was probably at that age, wrestling with all those feelings, and his sexual issues, and the abuse from his father.

    And it just made me want to weep, because we know the story, of course, how it turned out. But I look at that face in that video, when none of this had happened. And I wonder what he could have been had he not been so damaged.

  17. I also didn’t really watch the memorial. I saw the news later. I hated the way they replayed his daughters’s tears over and over and over again – how exploitative is that?

    I heard some citizens donated up to $17,000 to offset costs. Folks are calling for AEG to pony up for the security costs.

  18. Many vendors could not make their regular deliveries to their customers for almost a week because of the early closure of certain roads and because of the ensuing cleanup. A friend of mine works for a certain beverage distributor that rhymes with smoka-smola and for each of her 12 drivers who cannot make deliveries, it costs the company at least $25,000 each day. While that’s nothing for the company, the drivers do depend on making those deliveries to earn their pay, feed their families, contribute to society through taxes. They’re essentially sitting around with their hands tied.

    Take every company that depends on delivering goods to businesses along various routes and you have people who can’t deliver and people who can’t provide. It’s a huge loss all the way around and it doesn’t matter how many people you have pouring into the area because you simply can’t get things to them.

  19. the good enemy concept is also called the petty tyrant by yaqui native americans and was elaborated on in the don juan series by carlos castaneda… great books. mj is not a petty tyrant for me. i don’t believe being talent, super-talent, tortured etc. makes anyone eligible for deification by the media… in other words this human is not necessarily a better human (whatever that means) than any other less talented, less tortured human. we are in a period of time in this country where this will happen to a greater or lesser degree with all celebrities. so far princess di is now queen and mj is now king of all humankind. they’ve even gone so far as to deify ronald reagan and gerald ford, what next? george bush sr. and jr.?

  20. Aunt Joan. Her (and my mother’s) brother died last week. She hadn’t spoken to him (or my mother) in over 20 years. She wouldn’t even talk to my mom at his funeral.

    I’ve learned to not hold a grudge. I vow to get in touch with
    my siblings at least once a week.

  21. Thought it might be an interesting point for folks to read this article from WENN, wherein the Mayor of L.A. is asking fans to help pay for the memorial service. (Is it okay for me to be just a bit grumpy over this?)

    “Los Angeles’ mayor has called upon Michael Jackson fans help pay for the mammoth memorial service the city hosted on Tuesday.

    Thousands of the Thriller legend’s friends and fans flocked to L.A.’s Staples Center to remember the star who died suddenly of a cardiac arrest on 25 June.

    Despite dozens of superstars offering to perform for free, the scale of the service meant most of Los Angeles had to be closed down in order to accommodate the legions of fans who flocked to join in the mourning.

    The Lapd deployed 3,200 officers on the streets to ensure the safety of the 700,000 people who gathered around the city – more cops than were used at the 1984 Olympic games.

    Officials also had to pay for a Swat team to join the motorcade that escorted Jackson’s body to the Center.

    The event was slated to cost more than $3.5 million (£2.3 million) and ate away at most of L.A.’s ‘extraordinary event’ budget.

    And to recoup some of the money used on the memorial, L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has called on Jackson devotees to pay a donation to the state.

    He wrote on his Twitter.com page, “Help the city of Angels provide the extraordinary public safety resources required to give Michael the safe, orderly and respectful memorial he deserves.

    “If you’re a Michael fan, consider giving a small donation to help us celebrate his extraordinary life and music.”

    Councilwoman Jan Perry insisted fans were keen to get involved, claiming she had already been inundated with email offers.

    She says, “I’ve received emails that are really kind of touching because they’re obviously coming from fans. They’re very sweet, saying things like, ‘I can give $10, $25 and I can organise my friends’.”

    An online PayPal account has been set up for fans to donate towards the memorial service, with officials insisting all payments are tax-deductible.”

  22. You are so thoughtful! I really appreciated this perspective, and I grow and learn every time I come here, even when you talk about that “hawt doctor.”

    I have a few good enemies right here in Korea. The way they treat women makes my blood boil! And I’ve had to really get quiet and listen to what it is I am to learn.

    About MJ. I can’t even talk about the taxpayers’ money. I am here with a brilliant teacher who just got laid off from Venice High School. It’s atrocious! She is fabulous!

  23. I did my best not to watch any of it, and I’m not sure this would be my good enemy. I like the concept of exploring what my good enemy might be, though, and I’ll give that some thought.

  24. I watched the whole thing…I do hope the city of LA doesn’t have to foot the rumored 4 million dollar bill…that hardly seems fair.

    I agree with your post al the way. Well put.

  25. I didn’t watch any of it. But, I was nodding along with every word of your post. I did love his music. Especially in the 80s.

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