It's about our community and our spirituality!

Our Very Own Golden Calf


To say that the untimely death of Michael Jackson not quite two weeks ago has impacted the world is an understatement.  As I write this, Mr. Jackson’s public funeral is being held in Los Angeles’ Staples Center.  I just heard a clip of Stevie Wonder singing his tribute to the King of Pop.  Another clip had a sample of the eulogy given by Reverend Al Sharpton.  A quick glimpse of the news on the internet showed a headline of Michael Jackson’s tribute with a gospel choir opening the service.

Hundreds of pictures of the event have already been posted.  Millions of people all over the world applied for tickets to the event even though there was scant chance that many would be able to attend even if they had won the lottery known as the Michael Jackson funeral.  Hundreds, maybe thousands, of people traveled to Los Angeles from around the world without a ticket to the memorial just for the privilege to be denied access to Staples Center.  One woman interviewed on television said she spent three thousand dollars to buy a last minute ticket from the United Kingdom to pay her respects and to gain closure.  So many people took the death of Michael Jackson to heart.  This event is truly unprecedented.

This is my third Michael Jackson themed article since his demise.  Unlike the vast majority of people who have written about Michael, my writings have not been all that kind.  Most people who respond to my articles reprimand me for being so harsh with a man who appears to have done everything imaginable, and some things beyond most people’s imagination, to put his blackness behind him and become a bona fide member of the racially generic dominant community.  I didn’t forget the bleaching of his blackness before he died and I’m not going to forget it just because he died.  Mr. Jackson was a strange and complex figure and his death will not change that.  At least it doesn’t change anything for me.

Mr. Jackson’s death has catapulted him into people’s hearts in a way and on a scale that is hard to imagine.  No one will ever enjoy such love and such worship for a long, long time if ever.  You can compare the impact of his death to the death of Elvis Presley or you can compare his death to the passing of Rudy Valentino or to the death of anyone else to determine who had the bigger impact to the people of his or her time.  Who is bigger and who is greater is moot.  It really is an argument of apples and oranges as to who is the greatest star.  Today is the day that many of us want to celebrate this man’s life.

I was listening to National Public Radio and heard that Michael Jackson was being buried in a golden casket.  The allusion was much too stark to simply let it go by without saying anything.  I searched the internet for a picture of the casket and found it within seconds.  I saw Michael Jackson’s golden casket and all I can think of was the golden calf from the book of Exodus.

According to the Old Testament, right after the greatest manifestations of the power of the Supreme Being, some of the people needed decided that what they needed was something shiny and expensive to hang their worship on.  The people gave of their selves, gave up their gold, so they could help build the golden calf.  And once they were done, the shiny golden calf sat on an altar for all the people to see and celebrate.  I’m sure if you ask some of the people why they did it they could have said that they needed some kind of closure from the past as well.

When most of us learned that story back in Sunday school, we probably thought we’d never do anything remotely similar.  We would never worship idols in such a way that we lose perspective of our sense of spirituality and our sense of community, our relationship with each other.  However, if today’s events are any indication, many of us appear quite capable of repeating the story.  Many of us appear happy to give of our wealth in an effort to help create the greatest spectacle of a tribute possible to give a man.

Once the memorial is done we will come one step closer to putting this unpleasant affair behind us.  It might take a week, it might take a month, but eventually, Michael Jackson will fall back into the cobwebs of our conscious and the vast majority of us will go back to the lives we led before he died.  It will take time but all of us will move on to find another idol to worship.  We will always have this time to look back on and shake our heads in amazement at the fact that for a few days the global collective took a moment to worship Michael Jackson in unison.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009 - Posted by | Life, Michael Jackson, Spirituality, Thoughts


  1. I hope Michael can finally rest in peace. Although he was certainly blessed with a God given talent, maximized it’s potential with hard work and enjoyed worldwide popularity, he was indeed a deeply troubled individual who died a tragic death.

    I also hope that God brings consolation and protection to his children. It appears that they will be going through legal and media storms themselves in the days, months and years to come.

    Comment by asabagna | Wednesday, July 8, 2009 | Reply

  2. This is Elvis all over again. The way people scoffed at all the Elvis fans seeing him everywhere and wanting to see all the idiotic impersonators.

    These people are now doing the same thing. It is incomprehensible to me that these people have formed this fantasy relationship with this man. So much so that they have to have closure.

    Who needs closure from someone they don’t know personally? That makes absolutely no sense. He was a man plain and simple. A weird eccentric man, a talented man, but yes a man. Not some second coming or any other craziness they are portraying him as.

    I just think this should stop. I am surprised you haven’t had death threats for writing anything at all not going with the worship that has been going on. I personally see exactly what you are talking about and it disgusts me. I will be damned if I start worshiping a person who stands on the same ground as me.

    And as close as I can get to the adoration that these people have for him is for my children. And that will suffice for me at this point.

    Thanks, great post.

    Comment by theblacksentinel | Wednesday, July 8, 2009 | Reply

  3. Funerals are for the living, not the dead. The amount of people that show and extent of expenditure is directly related to the amount of devotion and income of the dead person’s followers. My mentally limited great aunt had a couple dozen family members at her funeral. My very outgoing and sweet mother-in-law had almost a thousand show up to see her off. Michael Jackson wrote and performed in such a way as to touch souls of a quarter of the earth’s population. He is in the Guiness Book of World’s Records for the amount of his charity. The man touched a lot of people in such a way as they felt they knew him. I’m sure that a lot of the people who showed up for my mom-in-law’s funeral didn’t really know her as well as they thought they did either, but that didn’t stop them from feeling blessed for having been a part of her circle. I don’t think they should be chastised for their emotion at their perceived loss. I hope they get their closure.
    Personally, I don’t thoroughly get it. The man’s music did touch me as a youth and I do miss him already in a small way, But I didn’t personally know him so it is difficult for me to shed any tears or feel a need to go to his funeral (other than to see the show-something I’m sure that a lot of the people there were there to do). It does intrigue me, however, that the same kind of chastising of mourners didn’t happen when people who never knew MLK, Jr. or Reagan flocked to those funerals and lined the streets tissues in hand.

    Comment by Carlton | Thursday, July 9, 2009 | Reply

  4. Thanks for the feedback Carlton,

    But now I’m intrigued. You see, although I enjoyed Mr. Jackson’s music, I would never compare his achievement in the world of entertainment to the achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who worked tirelessly and sacrificed his life for the benefit of the community. And forgive me but I don’t think former President Ronald Reagen’s passing achieved the notoriety of Mr. Jackson’s death.

    There have been many entertainers who entertained the world who have passed over the years. Some of my personal favorites were Barry White, Bob Marley, and Biggie Smalls (at least he was a favorite when he passed) never received the amount of attention the Jackson circus achieved. If the man truly meant so much to so many people he probably would’ve been a hot commodity prior to his death like he is now.

    I understand that funerals are for the living. But it is interesting that so many of the living are putting so much of themselves into a high profile expression of personal loss to a man who knew few if any of them. So many people shed so many tears for a man who could not care less about them, while the passing of their mentally limited great aunt would barely register.

    But because we put so much emphasis on our American idols we perceive their loss as greater than the real loss of family and friends. In typical modern culture fashion we have yet another manifestation of how skewed our lives really are.


    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Thursday, July 9, 2009 | Reply

  5. We have similar ideals. I personally don’t think Mr. Jackson’s earthly deeds were as “important” as MLK’s or even Reagan’s, either. However, we aren’t everybody and it does us no good to disparage people who did feel as if Michael made their lives a little better or even saved them in some way (and maybe he did). I had kids who weren’t even born when “Thriller” hit the stores tweeting me and calling me to express their dismay. I don’t see it for most of them as worship but rather honoring his contribution to their happiness (of course the media does nothing but focus on the most obsessive of the pack).
    Michael gave all in his endeavors. His mission was to be the most popular entertainer of all time. He was a sponge soaking up what was most effecting and entertaining about evry person he met, then left it all there on the stage. He did whatever it took. When he felt blackness and maleness got in the way of him touching a larger group of people, he became less of it or more of it; whatever his fans asked at any given moment. Michael didn’t want to be known as a good black male singer. He wanted to transcend sex and race and just be known as Michael-an enigma and amalgamation of everything – yet nothing but the music. I think he did it. But it cost him. He was seen as a freak and a weirdo when all was said and done. Near the end when he talked about racism he endured, people laughed (including me). He was physically burned, scarred, broken (bones) but he continued to do what he felt he needed to do to be stage worthy. It killed him in the end.
    As for Ronnie’s death I remember well almost two weeks of talk and the week-long schedule of events that filled to overflowing at every turn There may not have been as many of us black folks there, But it was THE event-until Michael.

    Comment by Carlton | Thursday, July 9, 2009 | Reply

  6. Carlton,

    We may have similar ideas but not on this particular topic. It does as much good to disparage people who worship idols as it does to disparage people who write articles about people who worship idols. The fact that it doesn’t do us any good never stops people from making disparaging remarks. I find it bizarre that some people only focus on the disparaging of others and never examine their own.

    Whether you call it worship or not doesn’t matter. You are more than welcome to write your own articles about what constitutes worship. In my article, I see the connection between the golden casket and the golden calf. You are free to disagree (as if you need an invitation). But it is here nevertheless. You have people tweeting you about Michael Jackson and honoring his contribution to their happiness. It only confirms our skewed collective of what constitutes a personal loss. I enjoyed some of Michael Jackson’s songs as well. Yet, his death is in no way, shape, or form a personal loss for me. I have experienced happiness from a wide variety of forms from people who have done a lot of things. None of them have a personal connection to me and I have no problem saying so. I find it rather interesting why we as a global collective will focus on the death of this one man while looking over the mentally impaired family members. It appears that this is a case of the perception of happiness being thicker than blood.

    Michael was a sponge. So was SpongeBob SquarePants. I seriously doubt if Mr. SquarePants being cancelled will impact me. A lot of entertainers do their all to become important to their fans. Mr. Jackson is no different. He pandered to his audience. He would do anything to get people’s attention. Grab his crotch. Perform in a corset. Sleep in an oxygen chamber. He did whatever he thought it took to remain relevant. Yes he transcended race and gender and it cost him. And just like the disparaging comments you mentioned earlier, where did it get us? A little happiness? I get more happiness from listening to the Diane Rehm Show these days. But I seriously doubt if Ms. Rehm’s passing will impact any more than Mr. SquarePants being cancelled.

    As far as Ronald Reagan’s death having the same impact as Michael Jackson’s, I’m afraid I’m just not convinced by your link. Just another one of those instances where we have dissimilar ideas. I don’t remember getting any phone calls or emails or tweets or people coming by my cube telling me that President Reagan died. However, I will say that I find it natural for a nation of people to mourn their former president. If Michael Jackson was the president of the world I could see the comparison. But he was just an entertainer that a lot of people seemed to have lost perspective on.


    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Thursday, July 9, 2009 | Reply

  7. [Comment Deleted]

    Comment by Carlton | Thursday, July 9, 2009 | Reply

  8. Carlton,

    Thank you for your permission to do whatever I wanted with my column. And if you believe that I have decided that accuracy is to be discarded then I might as well pull out the old censor wand and go to town as well. The only view that matters is mine so you’ll excuse me if I dismiss yours. It is my column after all. And like some of my unruly guess, who cares about civility?


    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Thursday, July 9, 2009 | Reply

  9. …everytime you delete me, you lie to yourself and your followers. Question: if you have followers, does that make you a golden calf?

    Comment by Carlton | Friday, July 10, 2009 | Reply

  10. Carlton,

    “…everytime you delete me, you lie to yourself and your followers.”

    Again we have a difference of opinion. I was under the impression that every time I allowed you to post your comments I was allowing you an opportunity to mislead the people who come to my blog. I have no problem with deleting or editing distasteful comments. You’d be surprised how many times I’ve been called a coward, a fucking nigger, or something really nasty. You probably think I’m misleading people when I don’t post those comments as well.

    However, I made the decision a long time ago that I am allowed to delete lunacy and comments from people who have no sense of etiquette. People who make it a point to blatantly wear out their welcome cannot really expect their comments to be published. People who come to my blog should understand that this is not a public forum. This blog is a reflection of me and the things that I value. And one of the things I value most is other people’s opinion. A dissenting opinion is always welcome as long as we can maintain a modicum of civility.

    But when people, such as you for example, accuse me of trying to manipulate people, then I really don’t think I’m under any obligation to post such defamation. I believe the work that I put into my blog entitles me to reject comments at my discretion. The way I see it, it is no different than someone coming into my house and provoking an argument or just making a nuisance of his or her self. I would have every right to ask people to leave my property. I have every right to relieve myself of people I don’t particularly care for.

    You think I lie to the people here? That’s your opinion and you are more than titled to it. But like you said in one of your earlier comments, your disparagement gets us nowhere. But one place your disparaging comments will get you is edited or deleted. People who come here don’t come to hear from you. I have yet to receive a comment from anyone asking for more from that Carlton fellow. In fact, most people who come here and left comments regarding you were more likely to ask why I indulged you for so long when you’re obviously more concerned with protecting the dominant community’s interest at the expense of the black community’s interest.

    You may have felt you were making strong arguments to support your less than enlightened position. But the majority of people here recognized your arguments as nothing but bold faced justification for acquiescing to the racially defined status quo of disparity. While it is a fact that there are many people who share your thinking, generally speaking those people do not frequent here. I think I know my audience. You simply are not that important here. If none of that convinces you then let me say that I no more lie to the people who come here than you lie when you make your selective cuts of the exchanges we have and make edits to prove your point to the people you try to convince to ingratiate themselves to the racially generic dominant community at the expense of the black community.

    ” Question: if you have followers, does that make you a golden calf?”

    This is a rather simple question of comparison to support a simple argument. The implication would be that since I have an audience of regulars then I have an appeal that on a small scale mimics the overwhelming support given to Michael Jackson by his global audience. I dare say the implication is one that borders on an accusation of hypocrisy. And a simple question deserves a simple reply.

    You have your own group of people who follow your word. I do believe the last time you gave a progress report you said I was scoring about thirty five percent while you were making a killing with a majority of sixty five percent (click here to refresh your memory). Would that make you their golden calf? You may have a different opinion but I really don’t think so. When you die, I seriously doubt if anyone is going to put you in a golden casket and mourn you from the far corners of the globe because of the incidental happiness you brought into their life. The people who will mourn your passing will be people who have a direct relationship with you and you have a relationship with them. Your comparison might be rather simple, but it is also rather ludicrous. Maybe I’m wrong, but I really don’t think you’re that important.


    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Friday, July 10, 2009 | Reply

  11. To me he was just a singer and now hes a dead one. That might seem cold but thats the cold hard truth, he ISNT a legend, a legend is someone who did something selflessly for the good of others and for no personal gain or publicty e.g Ernesto Guevara who fought to relieve his country of a great tyranny, William Wallace for the same reason, the list is endless but if I remember correctly Che was dumped at the end of an airstrip and William Wallace was either cremated or chucked in a hole in Scotland no gold coffin for them because if you offered them one they would melt it then give it to the poor as would any decent human being. This false idolship is rife in our world but its the unsung heroes who should be worshipped! When I was told of Michael Jacksons death I was speechless, not in the grieving way but in more of a “FINALLY!” fasion. To be honest the MJ we enjoyed died when he first went into the surgeon for superficial reasons.

    Comment by hateracism lovelife | Monday, July 13, 2009 | Reply

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