The news of Michael Jackson’s passing sent shockwaves around the world on Thursday, June 25, 2009. Like the most tragic events in history, such as the attacks of 9/11, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I first heard the news. By the same token it was even sadder to see the whole planet mourn his passing. It is rare that one individual can affect the lives of so many generations through music and dance. One must admire the worldwide response to Jackson’s death—from the fans that crowded around his birth home in Gary, Indiana, to the Hollywood walk of fame. From the singing and dancing fans that crowded Trafalgar Square in London, to Shanghai, where candlelight vigils were held in his honour. This illustrates the fact that music, as well as other forms of art, transcends all cultural and political boundaries. Furthermore, it should be a government priority to ensure its survival.
Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, was criticized for his plans to cut funding the arts in 2008. He infuriated many Canadians when he said that ordinary Canadians were not particularly concerned with the arts (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canadavotes/story/2008/09/24/artist-protests.html). To no surprise, he never gave the definition as to what an ordinary Canadian was, nor has he ever apologized for the insult. Yet, many of us ordinary Canadians are proud fans of artists such as Celine Dion, Avril Lavigne, Jim Carrey, and many more who have gained an international fan base. Interestingly, these first three artists might not have gotten as far in their careers had they not ventured to the United States. With government cuts to the arts here in Canada, one must wonder how many future icons, like Michael Jackson, our country will probably never know of because they never got their chance.
Many people would rather remind us of Michael Jackson’s scandals—from the alleged skin bleaching to the outrageous child molestation charges. Fewer would want us to remember the millions he donated over the years to charity that helped sick children. There's also his donations to AIDS research. Less we forget the We Are The World project that got other artists involved in order to help fight famine in Africa.
When I was a youngster everyone wanted to be like Michael Jackson. My classmates and I tried to dance like him, I went even further, learning to sing like him. I even learned the dance moves to Thriller when I was about 6 years old (Okay, I confess. MC Hammer came a little later but I won’t get into that right now). As it turns out, even today, people around the world from my generation and others, notably those from different ethnic backgrounds, are no different when it came to Jackson’s music.
It was reported a while back that Saddam Hussein was a huge James Bond fan (http://www.007.info/News12.asp). There are even photographs of Kim Jong Il impersonating Elvis circulating the planet. I wouldn’t be surprised if Osama Bin Laden listened to the Jackson 5, Beyonce, or 50 cent on his I-pod—who knows. But if there’s one thing that can unify a planet, it is the arts. As to why anyone would want to do anything to suppress the one thing that unifies us all—as Stephen Harper has done—is beyond comprehension.
Personally, I was anxiously awaiting Jackson’s comeback tour and would have paid big bucks to see him perform in Montreal, had he ever come here. But the fact is that he was under a lot of pressure and had health problems, as was reported a few times earlier this year. It is very sad for the world to lose such a gifted artist. He was and will be one of the greatest people in history who wanted nothing more than to heal the world. With a planet in mourning, many of us only wished that he was strong enough to heal himself.