Maya Angelou said, "We had him" and it's true. For the past half century, we had him, we just didn't hold on. Until now, there were no street-side kiosks selling his youthful image on t-shirts. There were no hour-long specials on prime time documenting his artistic prowess, his distinctive look (albeit ever-changing) and his unbelievable movement through dance.
We're happy to say now that he, a Black man, was the best to ever do it. Spike Lee even said, "He belonged to us" at a memorial at the Apollo theater. If he did in fact belong to us though, did we claim him? Did we embrace and support him when he was mocked and branded "Wacko Jacko" and holed up in Neverland? Did we believe him when he said he would never and could never harm a child? Or did we simply trade in "white Michael" for the countless acts that came after him, who in hindsight could never and will never replace him?
As yet another medley of songs from the Jackson 5 and beyond plays symphonies in my head, I realize I know every lyric or at least can hum along with the bass line even though some of these masterpieces were written before I was born. How many artists can take credit that kind of inter-generational reign? Timeless, boundless music fills me; but those notes, pitch-perfect and pure, must share a space with the sadness of losing one of the greatest ever. And now my "man in the mirror" is ashamed and guilty of taking it all for granted.
So many have tried to cloud his talent with the details and inefficient facts of his 1993 settlement with a young boy's family or his 2005 child molestation trial where he was ultimately found not guilty. Now as the media outlets play past interviews with the tragic star, I hear him explain that he settled in order to avoid a lengthy trial and all that would have come along with one, and it sounds believable. It makes sense.
While to some, for the past 15 years, he became a pervert and a pedophile, now in death, he is a mastermind and a genius. He is "our" star and we want him back.
But we let him down. We forgot that it matters not how much you tell someone you love them once they have departed this life. It's how you treat them and what you tell them while they are here, alive, and moonwalking on the Earth.