Letter: Man In The Mirror

Jose Vilson Jose

Michael Jackson's Moonwalker

Michael Jackson's Moonwalker

Dear Michael Jackson,

First, let me say that I’m deeply saddened by your death. Your passing ranks up there in the moments where people had to remember where they were standing when they heard the news. On a day when a fellow 70’s-80’s icon in Farrah Fawcett died and so did Ed McMahon, the news of you dying seems to have washed away most news about Middle East and Asian conflict, the NBA Draft, and second-to-last day of school for NYC students. And deservedly so. You were a legend of immense proportions and even with your less favorable traits you still managed to inspire, mystify, and amaze so many of us who only wished they could maximize their potential.

You were often this caricature of yourself, and the older we got, the more your public persona became a caricature of the last image we caught from scenes all over the world. Even still, the music always kept hitting us hard. You already had #1 hits back in your childhood with your brothers as part of the Jackson 5, and as you grew older, to make up for that missing childhood, you pushed the limits of your stardom. For a good two decades or so, you captured our imagination and had the nerve to call yourself the King of Pop, busting through the doors of MTV when they wouldn’t play your videos (they apologized by stealing the whole theme of your greatest contribution to dance).

Personally, Michael, you’re easily one of the greatest musicians ever. I still remember the Moonwalker video and wishing I could lean really hard to my side in a primped white suit, blasting guns into my enemies in slo-mo, or walking through the world made of clay and manipulating my shape however I pleased just to get myself through life. Or how about the time you went into space and spent $10 million to collaborate with your sister on a song where you tell the media off once more? And remember when you scared every person aged 17 and under but had such a fly rhythm you made us all wanna wear red jackets, tight jeans, and cat eyes? Remember when you gave Blacks a social consciousness song  or two every album just to let them know you were still down, plastic surgery and all?

Isn’t that what you were all about, though? While on the one hand, your musical genius is almost universally unquestioned, the personal sacrifices you made to reach that pinnacle (some from you, some from your family) almost made it not worth it. It’s almost as if to say, “You mean, to be like this Mike, I gotta do THAT?!” While many have tried to replicate your successes, or sample from the tree you planted, they fail in ways only true fans comprehend. There’ll never be another Mike, on any end and all ends of the spectrum.

What’s most striking about you Michael, more than anything else, is the reverence people have for you as a legend and man. Your dominance was unmatched, and as the media and others in the general public made you into a leper and a circus creature all at once, you still managed to touch the hearts of so many of us who grew up idolizing you. With every child case, your fans surrendered their innermost wounds and exposed them in some sort of catharsis, forming a crowd of the judges versus the pardoners.

You indeed were the man in the mirror, making us take a hard look at ourselves, attempting to answer those questions by looking backwards and moving forwards at once …

Jose, who’s remembering the time …