The Wrong Way to Remember Michael Jackson
By Alexandra Petri
Has anyone actually read H.R. 600?
On its face, the resolution commemorating Michael Jackson that Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) is attacking might not seem like such a bad idea -- a more permanent way than, say, a moment of silence, to recognize the King of Pop’s impact on our culture and national consciousness.
But H.R. 600 is not the way to do that. Its sponsor, Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) completely misses the point of Jackson’s significance if she thinks that Congress should honor him as “a global humanitarian” before recognizing him as an entertainer. Yes, she calls him, “an accomplished contributor to the worlds of arts and entertainment,” and later lists off some of his hit songs. But she lumps that in with his work on “scientific advances in the treatment of HIV/AIDS, and global food security.” I’m sure when most people remember Michael Jackson, they think of him as “that guy who contributed so much to global food security.”
This misplaced emphasis dominates the whole resolution. After a scant six entries describing his musical career -- “Whereas Michael Jackson was labeled `The King of Pop', Jackson's music is internationally recognized and critically acclaimed” -- the entire rest of the resolution is taken up with such significant milestones as:
Whereas, on April 9, 1984, David Smithee, a 14-year-old boy suffering from cystic fibroses, was invited to Michael's home, in response to a dying request to meet Michael. David passed away 7 weeks later...
Whereas, on July 25, 1992, at his concert in Dublin, Ireland, Michael announced that he will give 400,000 pounds of the tour earnings to various charities...
Whereas, on September 13, 1987, Michael supported a campaign against racism...
Whereas, on February 28, 1986, after having had a heart-transplant, 14-year-old Donna Ashlock from California received a call from Michael Jackson...
Whereas on April 1988, Michael Jackson ensured that free tickets to three concerts in Atlanta, Georgia, were specifically set aside for the Make a Wish Foundation...
And, most importantly: “Whereas in December 1991, Michael's office MJJ Productions donated more than 200 turkey dinners to needy families in Los Angeles.”
No one is denying Jackson’s substantial record of charity. He was in the Millennium Edition Guinness Book of World Records as, “the Pop Star who supports the most charity organizations.” (That’s a “Whereas” as well, in case you were worried they missed something.)
But the Michael Jackson who has brought millions together in mourning over the past week and a half was not the Michael Jackson who apparently airlifted 60,000 flu vaccines to Tblisi. And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was right when she suggested that this measure might raise unpleasant questions, since it essentially amounts to a litany of times Michael touched the lives of children. That’s why H.R. 600, though clearly well-intentioned, is so wrong. If Congress recognizes Michael Jackson for anything, it should be for what really made him matter: his music.
| July 10, 2009; 2:40 PM ET
Categories: Petri | Tags: Alexandra Petri
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