A year ago today I hadn’t thought much about what happens when you die, or even what could happen when millions of people who feel a connection to a man like Michael Jackson suddenly lose him. I hadn’t considered the concept of collective grief or even had the chance to watch something I’d always known existed, collective backlash, play itself out. Since then I’ve learned that there are two types of people online: those who make it their mission to object to and criticize you when you chose to care about or discuss something that they aren’t interested in hearing, and those who stay focused on what they themselves choose to care about without tearing others down just for expressing grief, concern, or interest. Before Michael Jackson’s death I had no idea that for the next year, as we lost celebrity after celebrity, someone would always take the chance to add “well you know, people die every day, you didn’t know him!” or “there are more important things to talk about,” completely missing the point of free expression and failing to exercise the choice to read what I write or not (not to mention stating the obvious as only the truly stupid tend to do). Just writing this blog and filtering comments is an exercise on how mean-spirited and idiotic anonymous internet trolls can be, but it’s nothing compared to the semi-anonymous person who goes out of his way to tell you how unaffected they are by that which breaks your heart the way Michael Jackson’s death did mine.
A year ago today I was so sad that I allowed certain people back into my life who’d been cut out of it long ago for good reason, just so we could commiserate together, only to learn that no matter how much I need them at the time they will always ultimately drain my energy. I hadn’t realized until then that there are certain people in my life with so much respect for me that they’ll take care of me when they’re sad even when they’re not. I learned that when I’m upset enough that it feels like swift kick to my stomach the best thing to do is call my mommy, curl up in a ball, and cry it out. I learned that there are dozens of episodes of “The Jackson Five” variety show, not to mention clip after clip of black America’s first black family performing in that way only they could, and every Michael Jackson video that made me feel alive when I was a kid. I’ve discovered music that I thought I knew, fell in love with music that I thought I’d already decided not to like, and become obnoxiously knowledgeable about every single ad lib and video dance move from songs I’d always loved. In spite of the obvious tragedy, I can only be thankful for that.
I didn’t intend to write even this much about Michael today. These 450 words are all I can add to what I’ve already written the series of posts called “Michael Jackson and The Five Stages of Grief.” If you haven’t read that series and would like to do so, start right here with “Denial.” If you enjoy the series or remember enjoying it last year, please nominate the series for a Black Weblog Award in the Best Post Series category. It’s nice to win awards and everything but I’m asking you to do so because in retrospect a lot of people found closure in them and I’d like for more people to do so.