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At the risk of falling prey to yet another Michael Jackson tribute on the Internets, I was listening to this song again, and it moved me to tears enough to reinforce my beliefs on how I never want my two children to feel as alone as this man did in his short life:


Credit: Alex No/Phong VSN (Flickr)

***IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER***: I want to preface this diary by stating clearly that I don't want to argue about the innocence or guilt of Michael Jackson with regards to the predatory child sexual abuse allegations against him, first in 1993 and later in 2005. Frankly, I don't know whether he is guilty or not of these crimes, and I don't think any of us here will ever know.

In my heart, I hope not, because I truly want to believe in the wake of his death that he was genuinely a good person who simply wasn't capable of such evil. Maybe this is wishful thinking on my part, but I catch myself wondering that possibly he was so naïve and immature in his trust for other people that he left himself vulnerable for the most horrible accusations of bad parents, evil-hearted people who misused their children and exploited the singer and his childish slumber parties for fame, sympathy, and profit. Either way, the circumstances of these accusations, as well as Michael Jackson's own childhood abuse, are tragic.


Credit: CrackABottle2618 (Photobucket)

As I have diaried about on a couple of occasions, my husband and I are adopting two young sons, now aged 7 and 9-1/2, out of Florida's foster care system. To respect their privacy, I am not going to divulge their names or launch into a detailed account of their past histories, but I can attest that our two beautiful little boys have been the victims of indescribable abuse at the hands of both their biological parents and other prior guardians in their lives.

To this day, even after countless hours, weeks, months of individual and group psychological as well as behavioral therapy, both experience the constant trauma of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Like the surviving veterans of a war yet only much younger, they often feel and act apart from the rest of the world, detached from the lives of people around them--even us--even the shared experiences of each other as brothers--because no one but they can fully understand what it was like to be put where they were forced to go. As their parents, we are aware that our two sons are feeling the unimaginable pain of these past memories; but like many people in their new lives, we cannot possibly "know what it's really like." All we can imagine is that it's lonely.

Excerpt from the song "Society," linked to above and below:

When you want more than you have
you think you need
and when you think more than you want
your thoughts begin to bleed

I think I need to find a bigger place
'cos when you have more than you think
you need more space

Society, you're a crazy breed
I hope you're not lonely without me
Society, crazy and deep
I hope you're not lonely without me

There's those thinking more or less less is more
but if less is more how you're keeping score?
Means for every point you make
your level drops
kinda like it's starting from the top
you can't do that...

Society, have mercy on me
I hope you're not angry if I disagree
Society, crazy and deep
I hope you're not lonely without me

-- Written by Jerry Hannan and performed by Eddie Vedder on the Into the Wild soundtrack

Vedder performed the song in reference to the tragic story of Christopher McCandless, an intense, idealistic young man who was disillusioned by the materialism of his family and university environment--and of the era of the 1980s and early 1990s--and later starved to death, alone after years of living on the fringes of society and finally in isolation on the Stampede Trail in the Alaskan wilderness. Although the song and the film were a tribute to a young man who died at the age of 24 nearly 17 years ago, the song bears echoes of the same loneliness and self-imposed isolation of an equally intense 50-year-old man who lived very differently than Chris McCandless.


Credit: jmerelo (Flickr)

In a stark contrast to McCandless, Michael Jackson sought refuge from his tormented childhood and eternal loneliness in the very excess and material things that the young man who died in Alaska repelled and rejected wholly. Jackson died last week with a reported $500 million in debt to his name, even despite having one of the most successful and financially lucrative musical careers in modern history.

When you want more than you have
you think you need
and when you think more than you want
your thoughts begin to bleed...

As I mentioned in my very first diary about my two sons, the disillusionment and loneliness that both Chris McCandless and Michael Jackson--and to a very large extent, my sons--have felt is what results when a society as a whole fails to care for the weakest and youngest among them. Following the 10 p.m. showing of Countdown with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC last night, my husband and I watched Martin Bashir's 2003 documentary--widely criticized among his fan base, but in my opinion, for no good reason. Even Jackson himself was angry with the work; he even had his own filmmaking crew develop a "rebuttal" documentary because he felt Bashir's documentary didn't portray him in a sympathetic light.

In my opinion, the documentary's perspective is very sympathetic in the purest sense. I genuinely felt sympathy for the pathos that had become Michael Jackson's life, as a result of the possibly wrongful accusations against him, the pressures of his money situation due to his extremely excessive spending that bordered on the pathological, and the abuse and torment he felt from both his father and his older brothers in his formative years. I wondered aloud to my husband, if the Jackson children had gone into the foster care system and had been adopted into a loving household--even if they had to sacrifice monumental fame and fortune--wouldn't they, and particularly Michael, have grown up to have been happier people with genuine, healthy relationships and outlooks on life?


Credit: pookie2214 (Photobucket)

I suppose I am not the one to judge, but I can only wonder.

I sometimes see the same sadness in the eyes of my two sons that I see in young Jackson's eyes in the photo directly above. My sons do not always convey their feelings, their fears, their heartbreak verbally, but I can sometimes see it in their small faces. It is at this point that all I can do is hold them, tell them that they are loved, and that no matter what, my husband and I and our extended families will always be here for them, and that is why we are adopting them.

I would be a liar if I said it was always easy to do this, especially when--as happened just yesterday--either of them gets a demerit from school or a temporary suspension from summer camp for telling other kids or even teachers to lick their butts or to fuck off. (Yes, this is coming from small children who are only 7 and 9-1/2!) As parents, we do our best to correct this behavior and lack of respect for other people--we not only remove their TV and video-game privileges, but we reinforce the good behavior and teach them how to treat others kindly. We do get angry with them and scold them when they behave in a manner that is not conducive to treating others as they would want to be treated. That is part of our job as parents. What we need to keep doing, hand in hand with that, is to tell them we love them, hug them and keep them close, and let them know that no, they are not alone.

Shortly after Jackson married Lisa Marie Presley, many people were, in my opinion, too quick to call bullshit and to call their marriage a "sham" and a cynical ploy to cover Jackson's ass for the 1993 child molestation accusations. These public sentiments were reinforced by the video of "You Are Not Alone", in which a naked Jackson and his bride are shown on stage getting saccharinely lovey-dovey (in a PG, MTV-friendly way, of course). I have to admit, I believed both Jackson and his wife when they asserted that their affection in the video, and their marriage, however short-lived it turned out to be, was genuine while it lasted. Jackson seemed to me a desperately lonely figure trying to convince himself he wasn't alone by singing about it to his love, a woman who had shared the experience of losing a childhood to fame and legend after she, as a young child, witnessed her father die.

Lonely people seldom want to be alone. Even Christopher McCandless, who willingly lived in solitude in an abandoned bus in Alaska, was reported (Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild) to have written in a dog-eared copy of Doctor Zhivago as one of his last observations on earth, "HAPPINESS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED."


Credit: Self-portrait found in undeveloped camera film following discovery of McCandless's body (from the collection of nightdementia on Photobucket)

Last night, in plf515's haunting edition of The Grieving Room, I commented on my ambivalent feelings toward saying "I love you". An excerpt:

My husband brought up a good point about saying "I love you" too often--he says that doing so often trivializes the meaning of the words--and the real love--and should be uttered sparingly.

I, on the other hand, see his point, but do feel that there should be a happy medium. True, you don't have to say "I love you" a thousand times to get that point across; your actions should speak louder than those three words when showing love to someone. OTOH, an occasional verbal reminder every now and then isn't a bad thing. Besides, what if I got hit by a bus tomorrow and never got a chance to say "I love you" to the ones I really love the most?

The Grieving Room diarist's reply to my comment was wise in its stark simplicity (emphasis mine):

It does children little harm to hear the words too often; it can do them a lot of harm to not hear the words enough.

It is well known that a public memorial service for the late Michael Jackson is taking place in a few hours. Whether or not you choose to participate in or even watch or listen to this memorial via broadcast, a sad and important lesson to take from Jackson's tragic death, and his equally tragic childhood, is this: Hold your children close. Tell them you love them, always, and often. Let them know that they are not alone.

With that, I leave you with an earlier call to action from my above-referenced diary from last year--consider loving the lonely children, and bringing them into your home and hearts:

For more information about becoming a foster parent, go to AdoptUSKids.org.

For a great primer on what being a foster parent entails, see How Foster Care Works.

Originally posted to http://everythingisas.blogspot.com/ on Tue Jul 07, 2009 at 09:02 AM PDT.

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