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June 25th, 2009
08:59 PM ET

Andrew Sullivan on Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson 1958-2009
Michael Jackson 1958-2009

Andrew Sullivan
The Atlantic

There are two things to say about him. He was a musical genius; and he was an abused child. By abuse, I do not mean sexual abuse; I mean he was used brutally and callously for money, and clearly imprisoned by a tyrannical father. He had no real childhood and spent much of his later life struggling to get one. He was spiritually and psychologically raped at a very early age – and never recovered. Watching him change his race, his age, and almost his gender, you saw a tortured soul seeking what the rest of us take for granted: a normal life.

But he had no compass to find one; no real friends to support and advise him; and money and fame imprisoned him in the delusions of narcissism and self-indulgence. Of course, he bears responsibility for his bizarre life. But the damage done to him by his own family and then by all those motivated more by money and power than by faith and love was irreparable in the end. He died a while ago. He remained for so long a walking human shell.

I loved his music. His young voice was almost a miracle, his poise in retrospect eery, his joy, tempered by pain, often unbearably uplifting. He made the greatest music video of all time; and he made some of the greatest records of all time. He was everything our culture worships; and yet he was obviously desperately unhappy, tortured, afraid and alone.

I grieve for him; but I also grieve for the culture that created and destroyed him. That culture is ours' and it is a lethal and brutal one: with fame and celebrity as its core values, with money as its sole motive, it chewed this child up and spat him out.

I hope he has the peace now he never had in his life. And I pray that such genius will not be so abused again.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Michael Jackson
soundoff (75 Responses)
  1. katrinamc

    Thank you so much Andrew for putting into words what has been heavily on my heart since we first heard this. I love that you always take an objective point of view in your writings. Thankfully, Michael Joseph Jackson is now at peace.

    June 26, 2009 at 10:04 am |
  2. Sufyan

    I will be have new music for him goodbye king

    June 26, 2009 at 10:02 am |
  3. anna

    there is always a price to pay. it is almost always related to drugs, alcohol, etc...when will we ever learn? how many more great artists do we have to lose? mj's death is another reminder but there will still be others who will go the same way......so tragic.....gone too soon

    June 26, 2009 at 9:47 am |
  4. Danielle

    As I watched the news last night unfold, I was tremendously saddened. To know that we have lost such an amazing talented human being, at such a young age breaks my heart.

    How many people will we have to lose in such a tragic manner before something is done? I believe, and only time will truly tell, that he suffered from addiction and the enablers around him should all be held accountable. It is disgusting that he had no one by his side who truly cared about his life.

    Elvis, Monroe, Anna Nicole and so many many others who have died prematurely at the hands of doctors and pharmacists and sycophants.

    Something must change.

    June 26, 2009 at 9:14 am |
  5. Josh darius

    Yeah if he was poor and had sex with children you would be damning him, but because he sang a few songs you are mourning him...what hipocrates...jerry lee lewis did far far worse and the world scorned him and yet you ignoranimi praise this piece of slime........he is in hell and all of you should join hm I hope

    June 26, 2009 at 6:27 am |
  6. Angelo

    A truly remarkable pop Legend, who had a tremendous impact on my life as a child. You will always be remembered forever as the world's greatest Michael. Michael Jackson was and always will be the greatest pop artist. The media tarnished his image, and I am ashamed that they placed so much negativity on him. What disappoints me and hurts me the most, are the child allegations, that dragged Michael's name in the dirt. The King of Pop prevails as #1 in my heart always and will forever be remembered and cherished. God Bless you Michael.

    June 26, 2009 at 5:13 am |
  7. mark

    Let us not forget that people die by the dozens in Iran, Iraq, Gaza, Afghanistan, Somalia... and unfortunately don't get the same coverage

    June 26, 2009 at 4:34 am |
  8. natasha

    this is no loss .. anyone that harms a child deserves to be gone... good by perv... once he harmed children.... i lost all respect for him... good bye perv

    June 26, 2009 at 3:53 am |
  9. Edward

    I remember my first album i received for christmas "thriller" i was 9 years old.I played it until it wore out.Michael your pain is over iam sure in my heart that you have found everlasting peace in heaven.

    June 26, 2009 at 3:51 am |
  10. Kirsten

    Thank you for talking about the elephant in the room. Well written as usual insightful and soulful. You are always getting it right. Keep on....

    June 26, 2009 at 3:42 am |
  11. April

    I must agree with Todd: the lives being lost in Iran's struggle for freedom deserve time. I think we are over-saturated with celebrities and celebrity coverage. Michael did contribute a lot to music and was a wonderful entertainer. But there is much grief and misery in Darful and elsewhere.

    June 26, 2009 at 3:29 am |
  12. Simone

    I am in the medical field. I am writing because I just have to say to someone, anyone, that any doctor will tell you that there is a more than even chance that the "family physician" needs to be taken into custody now. His presence is more than suspicious. Otherwise he will most likely flee. There is a better than even chance that he overdosed Michael with an intravenous drug. If so, it was negligent homicide. No wonder the Homicide Department is handling that case. Dr. Feelgood did it his way, instead of hustling Michael Jackson to a cardiologist on Wed. night. Very very sad. Thank you for giving me this forum. Perhaps now I can return to my practice tomorrow and no feel so badly about this profession.

    June 26, 2009 at 3:27 am |
  13. Oti Brown,

    (Michael Jackson, the music Messiah)

    I like to give thanks to God almighty for blessing the whole World
    with Michael Jackson the greatest Musician of all time.

    Michael Jackson is not just a music Legend, but a music Messiah to the whole World.
    Michael Jackson was my favorite & will always be.

    Thanks Michael Jackson. R.I.P.

    June 26, 2009 at 3:24 am |
  14. abdirahman

    Iam big fane of micheal I grew up back in africa watching him iam gona. Miss him very much he was my hero. My heart goes out to him.

    June 26, 2009 at 3:20 am |
  15. Lisa

    i was looking forward to the concert in London Michael was preparing.
    And so were all the others who were going to make it a sold out event.
    Amazing talent he was. My regards to his family and loved ones.
    I will miss him very much.

    June 26, 2009 at 2:55 am |
  16. DLFarthing

    Goodbye Michael jackson. When I was 17, I took my girlfriend to see the Jackson Five perform at Madison Square Garden in NYC. it was a concert for the ages, because it is remembered very well. I still have the ticket stubs, too!

    We enjoy the sounds that Michael made over and over again. We will listen to them over and over again. Bob Hope would say, "Thanks for the memories!!"– "Can't stop this thriller!!!"

    Oh Yeah! That girlfriend then, is now my wife!

    June 26, 2009 at 2:48 am |
  17. george gamberucci

    all my respect to michael jackson "the king of pop", but he looked rather frail later, he should have kept his debts and lived longer

    June 26, 2009 at 2:28 am |
  18. Rick

    Maybe now he can be in peace...

    June 26, 2009 at 2:07 am |
  19. Akira Clark

    AC THANK YOU...That is all

    June 26, 2009 at 1:21 am |
  20. Akia Allen

    Is upset at Jeffrey Toobin and his judgemental attitude towards Michael Jackson..This man just passed, give him the proper respect that's due. He's history and the King of Pop. Why bring up how unhealthy he looked and the molestation? What is this, this man always opened the doors to others, such as the song We Are the World. This started all of the humanitarian efforts for thise less fortunate, and all they can do is sit up and talk about the negatives? So uncool, and Mr. Toobin, I wonder what negative things America doesn't publically know about you???

    June 26, 2009 at 1:18 am |
  21. Madilyn

    I've appreciated your views, voice & insight for a long time Andrew. Thank you

    June 26, 2009 at 1:06 am |
  22. Ololade Majolagbe

    Sleep well michael. Allah love you more. Sleep well, king. you are the world and you are the child of the world

    June 26, 2009 at 1:05 am |
  23. amir ghayas- india

    love you bro r.i.p

    June 26, 2009 at 1:01 am |
  24. Barbara Liebowitz

    Rest in Peace

    June 26, 2009 at 12:54 am |
  25. Edwin Castro

    There are no words to express the great lost. We as a nation have lost one of the greatest entertainers of all time. I grew-up listening to Micheal Jackson. Although, I am 5 years older I was impresssed with this music and dancing. I love you very much. There will never be another like Micheal. My heart goes out to his family. May you rest in peace the King of Pop.

    June 26, 2009 at 12:48 am |
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