The Washington Times - June 29, 2009, 12:50PM


It is nothing short of disgraceful. The way in which he lived, died and the legacy his children are left. 


His death is nothing short of sad, to be sure. Sadder yet, is that it didn’t have to happen. While it is impossible not to recognize the musical genius and multi-generational inspiration of Michael Jackson it would be foolish to ignore what he had become.

He lived a child-like fantasy that allowed society to excuse away a grown man’s obsession with fictional cartoon characters and self-professed admissions of sleeping with other people’s children. All because of his celebrity. A black celebrity, no less. Actor Jamie Foxx (like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson) made that point as if to send out a warning:

“We need to celebrate this black man. He belonged to us.”

Color and celebrity apparently trumps reality and sanity. Politics like entertainment has its double standards too yet no one queried whether something in South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s childhood might have led him to to cheat on his wife. Perhaps Sanford is just as misunderstood as Michael was. Maybe the governor ‘s actions represent what happened to him in his youth. How about Anna Nicole Smith? At the time of her equally untimely demise, a few entertainment shows mentioned the glamour girl’s estranged relationship with her allegedly abusive mother. But no one ever suggested that the models’ mother be blamed for her death. It was drugs that killed her. And although at least two of Smith’s “enablers” have been charged in connection with providing her illegal doses of prescription painkillers, at the end of the day it was Smith who ingested, agreed to be injected and poisoned herself to death. The same can be said of Jackson – if as the family and medical experts are predicting – drug use is ultimately attributed to his death.

But the public wants a straw man. A conspiracy. Someone to point to. Pin this on. Blame. It can’t be real. Someone must pay for the untimely death of such an “icon,” as the reasoning goes. It’s easier to accept. As arguably “iconic” as he was, the reality is, the buck stops with the man in the crypt (or hyperbaric chamber if you prefer.) Jackson chose his course. And because he alone was inherently aware and in control of his own life choices and the consequences of those choices, he eerily predicted his own death. A death, according to reports, he feared would come similarly close to Elvis’.

How about trying to explain that to his children. 

That sad reality is that dysfunction begets dysfunction. There is plenty of it American society to keep the likes of Jerry Springer and Dr. Phil in business for decades to come. Mocking and ridicule aside, it is a serious matter now on public display and it should be examined (not how many needle marks were found on Jackson’s emaciated body or the number of cosmetic surgeries performed on his deformed face.) Celebrity “eccentricity” should be exposed for the dysfunction that it is.

It’s happening in too many families and affecting too many children. Children, who, when they become adults are affected in different ways – some thrive, others struggle. But no matter what happens in one’s childhood it doesn’t excuse away the choices they make as adults. Many child abusers and molesters were themselves victims as children. A sad cycle, but one that doesn’t give them license to continue the cycle. It must be exposed and broken.

The “King of Pop” was a talent beyond what this world may ever see. He was an abused child at the hands of his father. He was also a self-destructive drug addict whose narcissistic indulgences have now left his own children fatherless. Beyond the Hollywood story, it is a sad and telling story. One that further highlights the decline of the American family. Among the many great, loving, and nourishing homes in this country, one cannot disregard the broken ones. Those that aren’t just in the inner city or urban centers but also in middle America and the upper echelons of society. Hollywood is hurting and those kids are also falling through the cracks, fostering another generation to continue the cycle. The Jackson tragedy not only proves that what appears on the surface is not always reality but what can happen when society ignores the warning signs.

It is my suspicion that the days and months (and court proceedings) to follow will only reveal just how dysfunctional the Jackson clan was and is. While most assuredly they are wrought with grief, they also can’t be too surprised at the pop star’s death (as most families dealing with addicted loved ones can attest.) A revealing Joe Jackson, Michael’s controversial father, appeared to be in some kind of a drug stupor of his own when he told a reporter over the weekend:

“He’s the greatest star in the world and too bad he had to be passed away the way he is.”

When celebrity trumps sanity and the sanctity of a stable family is broken it is a sad state of affairs. Here’s hoping that Michael’s children will be the beginning of the end to that cycle for the Jackson family.

-Tara Wall is a news anchor and political analyst at The Washington Times and editor of