US Congressman Peter King of Long Island is playing to the basest inclinations of the country in publicly trashing Michael Jackson as a sexual pervert. His charge is not based on any established fact. He is playing to the mob, a poisonous act. Certainly, the public data suggests that Jackson’s psycho-sexual development might have been arrested somewhere in pre-adolescence, and his affinity for young children, especially boys, would make any parent uneasy. But no one has made public any evidence of real harm Jackson has done to any child. A mature man sleeping with a young boy – merely sleeping – is neither a crime nor prima facie evidence of evil influence.
Congressman King’s calling attention to Jackson’s sexuality is worse than an unfair and sleezy accusation. It distracts from the more serious moral issue that Jackson’s life presents. His life represents a sacred cow of American social and economic life: the right to live an unrestrained life of self-indulgence without even the obligation to pay a fair share in support of the public welfare. Only his gaudy and idiosyncratic life style made Jackson different from so many others among the super wealthy.
A sacred tenet of American life is that the extremely wealthy should be relatively unfettered by tax burden’s and social responsibility. Michael Jackson is not the only American who ran through countless millions – maybe billions – simply to find pleasure for himself.
The communal life of the nation, if it has one, is poisoned when a very few have most of the excess wealth of the community, and when any proposal to levy fair taxes on their wealth is dismissed without discussion. So while the nation’s infrastructure disintegrates, public transportation deteriorates, millions go without health care, and most of the world’s population makes do on a dollar or two a day, the very few indulge themselves without limit. Michael Jackson is like many other self-indulgent multi-millionaires except that he was hanging it all out in public. He was more transparent and in that sense more honest.
The dream of some of the early settlers in this country was the creation of a commonwealth in which every citizen had a fair share in land’s bounty. That dream has been replaced with the vision of a nation that protects the right of any citizen to become excessively wealthy and to have that wealth secure for private self-indulgence.
Jackson may or may not have abused children. Since we don’t know we ought to withhold judgment on the matter, and presume him to be innocent. But he certainly set a poor example in the use of his massive excess wealth for his own self-indulgence. A community that lives by such ideals and permits such profligacy will not likely prosper for long.
Raymond J. Lawrence is an Episcopal cleric, recently retired Director of Pastoral Care, New York Presbyterian Hospital, and author of numerous opinion pieces in newspapers in the U.S., and author of the recently published, Sexual Liberation: The Scandal of Christendom (Praeger). He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org