This rambling note is about the power of politics to remake a man, and the power of fame and infamy to recreate a great man. This morning, I saw US President, Barack Obama, immediately and publicly lauding late CBS News anchor, Walter Cronkite; an official White House statement, if ever I heard one. I wondered how come he could not do the same for Michael Jackson, until asked to, by an Associated Press reporter days later. His mealy-mouth response can be seen and heard here:
At his age, he had to listen to Michael Jackson in 1982, the year of Thriller, it was almost inevitable. Michael J and Cronkite, are iconic figures in their respective professions, but the immediate silence by certain leaders on Michael, to me, is instructive. The Black power elite in the US were ambivalent to him; privately, they danced to his music, publicly, they swayed with the wind, and the wind in America said that Michael was a child molester, and nobody wants to embrace that.
A blogger, Jason A. Clark, captured the spirit of America thus:
“Don’t get me wrong, I liked a lot of Michael Jackson’s music and there’s no denying the impact he’s had on the music world in general. But has everyone completely forgotten that a couple of weeks ago he was widely believed to be a child molester?“Jason A. Clark blog, July 7, 2009
“…he was widely believed,” is said to be the imprimatur of American society. If a number of people believe it, regardless of factuality, then it has to be true. Worse yet, “either you are with us (in our belief) or you are against us.” That Bush-ism has now gone forward to Obama.
Years ago, when Bill Clinton was campaigning, he pledged to reverse a Bush Sr. policy of repatriating Haitians caught at sea coming to America, to give them parity with Cubans caught in the same circumstances. Days after winning the election, he said and did otherwise with a reason only Americans would understand. He was an American president! When Obama campaigned, Black Caribbeans like me, felt a genetic pride that “one of us” was making it, however remote the connection really was between us. After his win, he settled in and became just another American President, this one from Hawaii via Kansas! His African roots are as plain as his skin, but he is an American, and he is proud of those mid-western roots. Votes count, and they don’t have colours.
The US House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi (Democrat, California), recently shot down a congressional resolution by Sheila Jackson-Lee (Democrat, Texas), honouring Michael, and the members of the Congressional Black Caucus did not wholly endorse it either. There was a coolness from them. A moment of silence. Nothing to say. No love for Michael J.
© 2009, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.