On the Left, Jackson Memorial Reminds That America's a 'Dishonest Custodian of Black Life'
In a day dedicated to overcoverage of the Michael Jackson memorial service in Los Angeles (complete with Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson on the morning shows today dismissing any notion that the pop star ever had an unhealthy relationship with children), some on the left are championing the freakish side of Michael and bashing the rest of America as sick.
At The Nation magazine, Laura Flanders dug up a 1985 tribute by gay black author James Baldwin:
"The Michael Jackson cacophony is fascinating in that it is not about Jackson at all," Baldwin wrote. "All that noise is about America, as the dishonest custodian of black life and wealth....the burning, buried American guilt; and sex and sexual roles and sexual panic; money, success and despair…"
Baldwin put his finger on it: we're provoked -- and call "unstable" those who actually destabilize us. While Jackson may have been struggling with his own demons, he powerfully stirred up ours.
"Freaks are called freaks and are treated as they are treated -- in the main, abominably" continued Baldwin, "Because they are human beings who cause to echo, deep within us, our most profound terrors and desires."
Freaks, so-called, destablize notions we're more comfortable keeping fixed, and mess about with ideas we prefer to box in -- like ideas about identity, sexuality, race, and control. "Freaks" destabilize. They also release something, if we let them.
So thanks to Michael, and to freaks and transformers everywhere. On a good day, loosening up that previously fixed-space opens up room for change.