Have words to thank for their positions
Words that scream for your submission
And no-one's jamming their transmission..."
-The Police, De Do Do Do De Da Da Da
So many fond memories throughout my life related to music. And many not-so-fond either. Music that's inextricably linked to our living, reminding us again and again of where we've been, what we've seen, what we've done -- and what we hoped for and still do.
Then came the allegations in the early 1990's that Michael Jackson sexual abused children. The news sadden me then, and yet I continued to compartmentalize it from my memories of his music, even after growing up with sexual abuse myself.
Why would I stop listening? His musical talents have nothing to do with his fallibility and his alleged crimes. Right? I reconciled in my mind over time and never felt bad about listening to his songs again and again since. And yet, I would never fully forgive the man who abused me, never wanting to associate with any memory of him.
How many perpetrators have we had throughout history -- from painters to writers to musicians to politicians to religious and sports figures -- all of whose brilliance many still celebrate today?
But then my wife and I had children and every year they get older the above gets harder to reconcile. Because they're going to ask us -- why?
- Why do I keep listening to Michael after what we now know? (The same for those who keep listening to R. Kelly after what they now know.)
- Why do people still revere presidents who sexually harass and bully (note the plural here)?
- Why do people still go to church after priests and ministers sexually assault women and children?
- Why do I still watch football when the NFL goes light on players who commit domestic violence so they can keep playing to win (and make money)?
The list goes on and on. And even I bang my head against the wall with split indifference and well-meaning bias, trying desperately to understand the why of others and myself.
So, why do I still listen to Michael Jackson? My wife has decided she can't do it anymore, and now I find myself removing his songs from playlists, even the playlist we made for Bryce when she was born (we did one for Beatrice when she was born and one for us when we got married, but Bryce's is the only one with a Michael Jackson song).
As I've written before, I didn't have any evidence when the sexual abuse happened to me, but my mantra is still clear and definitive: I believe survivors; I am a survivor. Yet, what I grapple with is how I and others compartmentalize some of these examples over others, and how we will answer these same questions from our children when they're older. Will I forgo any and all forgiveness for those who fail around me, especially when the complexity of failure crosses over into abuse and assault? Or will I continue forgive some without forgetting and without associating the act with the artist? Or is forgiveness ultimately a death that gives us life renewed without compromise?
They will ask us soon enough.