By Jack Engelhard
Jonas Salk was never mourned like this – and he cured the world of polio.
No disrespect to Michael Jackson the pop star, pay him whatever tributes you wish, but I wonder how many other Jacksons live and die good ordinary lives and yet we do not call out their names. I wonder how many Michael Jacksons there are in our military, in harms way right this minute in Iraq and Afghanistan, who serve without recognition.
This wall to wall coverage, these mobs grieving over an entertainer, all of it, in such excess, approaches ghoulishness. The last time this happened was when silent screen idol Valentino died young and, as H.L. Mencken tells it, Valentino was startled by his fame and uncomfortable in his skin as a sex symbol — so surely he would have been horrified by the multitudes who grieved his death.
Obviously many of us lead lives of “quiet desperation” (Thoreau), so we live vicariously, through the lives of others, mostly entertainers and athletes. Nathanael West covered this in his Hollywood novel “The Day of the Locust,” about those lonely people who have turned fetish in their adoration of celebrities, alive or dead. Their sorrow becomes dangerous when it marches as a mob.
Let’s not dwell on the value of Pop to our culture, nor of the public crotch grabbing (simulated masturbation) that taught us to accept and even to welcome vulgarity. Never mind all that, though it’s true that another entertainer of that same period, Pee Wee Herman (Paul Reubens) was actually arrested for doing something like that in private. We get it from Wikipedia that “In July, 1991, Reubens was arrested for indecent exposure while masturbating during an adult theater performance in Sarasota, Florida.”
Let’s not touch on whatever urged Jackson to make song from such lyrics as, “Jew me, sue me, kick me, kike me.”
There’s that other business as well that is best left alone.
Let’s give him his due that he was an entertainer blessed and cursed by an overabundance of talent – to borrow from what the writer John W. Cassell told me over the phone, “That he could never live up to what was expected of him. That’s what destroyed him.” I’m buying that because what Jackson is to others, Elvis was to me. Only I began to appreciate Elvis when it was too late, after he was gone.
At the time, back then, I thought he was all wrong. How I’ve changed about Elvis! Maybe one day I’ll change about Michael Jackson.
Elvis came along when there was a cultural void to fill and I guess the same goes for Jackson.
But this is not about either of them. This is about adoration and adulation that gets out of hand. This is about idol-worship.
There is something sick in our culture when the earth stands still for a man who could sing and dance.
There is something misplaced in our priorities when our news media goes gaga over one Jackson above all the other Jacksons.
About the author: Novelist Jack Engelhard’s latest thriller, “The Bathsheba Deadline,” which centers on media deceit against America and Israel, is available in paperback at Amazon. Engelhard wrote the international bestselling novel “Indecent Proposal” that was translated into more than 22 languages and turned into a Paramount motion picture starring Robert Redford and Demi Moore. The book version of “Indecent Proposal,” that inspired the movie, is a microcosm of the Arab/Israeli conflict. Engelhard can be reached at www.jackengelhard.com