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July 8, 2009

Rest in peace... - *

I try to focus this blog on spiritual things, and so I didn’t think I would talk about what everybody else has been focused on for the past few days: Michael Jackson. But then an Associated Press article said, “Watched by millions around the world, the memorial struck a tone more spiritual than spectacular Tuesday, opening with a church choir serenading his golden casket and continuing with somber speeches and gospel-infused musical performances.” So I thought I’d say a few words about the Michael Jackson story, especially since it was “more spiritual than spectacular”.

This whole thing has been just a bit over the top, don’t you think? I still find it hard to fathom that more than 1.6 million people were vying to attend the service. For those who weren’t able to be part of the ceremony, the progress of the motorcade between Forest Lawn cemetery and the Staples Center could be followed thanks to helicopters hovering overhead. There were mementos galore as street vendors for blocks offered memorabilia such as T-shirts, buttons, and photographs. More distant viewers watched as the event was broadcast live around the world.

Rev. Al Sharpton consoled Jackson’s children with these words: “There wasn’t nothing strange about your daddy.” This statement was incorrect grammatically as well as factually. Michael Jackson habitually swam against the tide. He was a bit of an odd duck, and that was reflected by his mourners. As the AP article said, “Those who gathered constituted a visual representation of Jackson's life: black, white and everything in between, wearing fedoras and African headdresses, sequins and surgical masks. Fans with a ticket wore gold wristbands and picked up a metallic gold program guide on their way in. Acting as pallbearers, Jackson's brothers each wore a gold necktie and, in a touch borrowed from their brother, a single spangly white glove and sunglasses.” (The full text of the AP article can be found here. )

Grief-stricken mourners were consoled by the minister officiating at the service, Rev. Lucious W. Smith. He assured the mourners that, "As long as we remember him, he will always be there to comfort us."

I hope he will comfort the city of Los Angeles as well. They’ve set up a web site “to allow fans to contribute money to help the city pay for his Staples Center memorial service. Mayoral spokesman Matt Szabo estimated the service will cost $1.5 million to $4 million.”

Before Jackson’s death, we were assured by the media that we are in the midst of economic hard times. A report released by the University of California at Los Angeles projected that California’s annual state budget deficit would reach $24 billion and that the state would experience 60,000 job losses by the middle of 2010. (See here.) Somehow, I find it hard to reconcile this financial crisis with a golden casket and a memorial service costing well over $1,000,000. The taxpayers of California are already strapped, but surely there are worthier charities than this.

I hope that Jackson and his family will find peace and consolation, but I will be glad to see other news headlines at the top of the page.

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