Sunday, June 28, 2009

Goodbye, Michael Jackson

Rest in peace, Michael. You gave so much joy to so many, only to be given back such venom and hatred from those jealous of who you were and what you accomplished. Your philanthropy to so many causes lives on.

You lived your life spreading love through your music and working to heal those sick and wounded by life by the numerous causes you supported. Yet so many tried to take advantage of your gifts of generosity. So many motivated by greed and jealously tried to bring you down.

You were proven innocent of the lies they tried to link you to. Unfortunately fueled by a press focused more on sensation than facts, some latch on to the lies because they cannot stand the truth -- that you were a visionary, affected by a disfiguring skin ailment and suffering like many of those who suffer from vitiligo do.

You were a former child star suffering like many who attained super-stardom before coming of age --but one who turned that anguish into creative brilliance.

You were a dedicated entertainer, afflicted with Lupus, a painful, autoimmune disease. Yet you carried on.

And because you were affected by two diseases that primarily strike African Americans, those who did not understand those diseases mercilessly mocked and mimicked you. What would happen if the cards were turned, if the press suddenly started to mock and tease those suffering from osteoporosis, a disease that rarely strikes Africans Americans. We'd be appalled, as we should be, when lack of understanding about any disease prompt public ridicule on the scale of that Jackson has faced.

Lupus is a painful, autoimmune disease -- where your own body attacks itself, including the joints, skin, heart and lungs. It is marked by chronic fatigue, swelling of the heart and lungs. Yet many wonder why someone who makes a living performing might wear surgical masks to avoid germs and infection or someone chronically fatigued might show up in court in pajamas.

Vitiligo is a disfiguring skin ailment that leaves its victims stripped of pigment in the skin. It also has origins as an autoimmune disease.

Friday night on MSNBCs Countdown with Keith Olbermann, author and TV talk show host Deepak Chopra was overcome with grief as he spoke of his friend Michael Jackson. He stated:

"Studies show…children [of abuse] will go on to develop auto-immune diseases, like Lupus and vitiligo, both of which he had, he was quite disfigured so he would avoid being seen, at least his body and therefore he would cover himself and that would lead to people making all kinds of fun of him and calling him all kinds of things, he would feel the cruelty of that, he didn’t understand that. And there no way -- people who knew the context of his behavior would have had a more compassionate understanding of why he did the things he did."

Thank you, Mr. Chopra. People who suffer from either are not "weird" or "freakish." They are not "wacky" any more than anyone that deals with any other pervasive illness is weird, freakish or wacky.

The real tragedy here is that someone with a chronic illness, namely Michael Jackson, who suffered from both vitiligo and Lupus, can be so dismissively labeled as "weird." Ailments that impact African Americans pretty much exclusively do not deserve to be summarily dismissed with awful labels simply because the mainstream population doesn't understand them.

As a performer, it makes perfect sense that Jackson might wear surgical masks to protect himself. When you suffer from a disease where your body attacks itself, one that's marked by fatigue, swelling of the heart, skin lesions and chronic pain, it makes sense to do so. When you so publicly suffer from a disease like vitiligo, that strips away the pigment of your skin, being a recluse again makes sense.

So many people who suffer from skin ailments hide away from the spotlight, something Jackson could ill afford to do.

It's all so sad and tragic, especially because your music begs for understanding and acceptance of differences among people. Your songs beg love and generosity, yet so many -- including the press -- gave you none in return.

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