Thursday, May 30, 2024

People You Don’t Want to Kill…

September 23, 2009 by  
Filed under Entertainment, Music, News, Weekly Columns

( Lately I’ve been thinking about the man accused of killing Michael Jackson. I try to imagine what his life has been like since June 25.

Can he savor a meal? Is there such a thing as a “good day?” How do you lose yourself in a movie, the Internet or especially music, when you’re the guy they say killed Michael Jackson?

I wonder where he finds empathy. Sympathy. I would think some friends, even family have changed up on him. Imagine phoning your mother, who is so proud of what you’ve become, and hearing in her lilt the pain and disbelief. “Oh, no, baby, not Michael Jackson.”

To be accused of taking the life of any human being is horrific. To be accused of taking the life of a cultural icon carries a distinction all its own. There are people in the world you just don’t want to kill.

These are people to whom you could do something and have the universe really, really pissed at you for as long as you live and pissed at the memory of you long after you die.

The handful of people capable of making masses weep in the streets and erect memorials are not simply famous; their life contributions have somehow touched the collective spirit of modern mankind in a way that made the world an easier, more thoughtful ride.

Granted, compiling a list of the earthly divine for this particular conversation is a morbid proposition. But I was fascinated to see how short my list was. More intriguing were the opinions of friends and strangers to whom I casually presented the notion. You’re defenseless: it’s one of those questions you declare silly and immediately proceed to answer.

The names people agreed and disagreed with–and the ones they offered themselves–spoke volumes about how we think, what (who) we deem important and our ability to think outside our own little box.

There were some no-brainers. Like President Obama. Everyone I spoke with, whether they like him or not, agreed that the person who touches a hair on Obama’s head would have to live with near universal scorn. I said near: an overwhelming number of people in this country would dance with glee. For most of the world, though, it would be a very sad day.

You don’t have to be Catholic or religious at all to grasp the anger and grief bound to accompany the offing of the Pope. Sure, compared to the exceedingly cool and down Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI seems like a stick in the mud. But harming a Pope–ANY Pope–is not something you want on your life resume.

Nor is Nelson Mandela. The South African antiapartheid activist, political prisoner and first South African President elected in a democratic election personifies goodness, character

and the relentless pursuit of what is right. During his more than two decades of incarceration, even the prison guards fell in love with him. That Mandela ended up President of the very country that once enslaved him has earned him the respect and admiration of the world. You don’t want to interrupt that.

You’d be submitted to industrial hate if you tried to take out Paul McCartney. It’s not just that the Beatles forever altered popular music; the message of love and peace in much of McCartney’s repertoire both as a Beatle and on his own have made him an indispensable source of good vibes in the late 20th Century.

The person who messes with Muhammad Ali may as well take himself out. The world is only so big.

I was surprised at those queried who didn’t think Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom should be on this list. People love this old lady the world over just because. She’s the Queen, for Christ’s sake. And when she issued a press release firmly stating that First Lady Michele Obama violated no royal protocol whatsoever in embracing her during the President’s visit to the U.K. (Obama wasn’t out of line, she said pointedly; I was hugging girlfriend back), Your Majesty’s stock went up even in the ‘hood.

Unless your ambition is to come back to earth as a roach, you don’t want to fool with the Dali Lama. And if you don’t want to be squashed like an insect in this life, you’ll leave Stevie Wonder be. Eddie Murphy learned just how the world feels about Stevie, who has long used his music to bring change, when during his “Saturday Night Live” days he crafted a parody of the singer/songwriter. “Stevie BLIND, man!” went the cry. “That shit ain’t funny!” But it was.

Oprah. Everyone with a television from Idaho to Israel knows who Winfrey is and what she stands for–even the salespeople at that swanky shop in Paris who refused to let O and entourage in after closing time. It’s gotta be difficult to resist the opportunity to give an icon an occasional sip of mortality.

Bob Dylan. Madonna. I know. You never bought a record by either of these two. But step beyond yourself and understand that the former helped create the soundtrack for a certain Americana, while the latter, in her heyday, spoke for generations of rebellious, misunderstood young music lovers around the world. Not saying Madonna altered the atoms of our existence in any special way. However, a sexy, indifferent pout knows no language barrier.

Neither did the onstage prowess of Michael Jackson, who routinely embodied a sheer, funky genius the likes of which the world may never see again. Truth is, Jackson could have met his end under the watch of any number of doctors who served him. As fate would have it, he put his desperate need for sleep in the hands of this man. And now, for the man accused of killing Michael Jackson, I suspect there is little rest.

Written By Steven Ivory

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