Well, this was ugly. I do not refer here to Michael Jackson's memorial service.
Yes, too much of Jackson's service was too over the top. And the wife and I cut it off when congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee -- on behalf of the U.S. House, the Congressional Black Caucus and, no doubt, self-aggrandizing camera hogs everywhere -- stepped up to the dais and started throwing pipe wrenches into memorial gearboxes.
Personally, I think it would have been a fine and touching tribute to a great but tortured artist if the service had begun with Brooke Shields' touching and personal eulogy, brought down the house with Jermaine Jackson's touching version of Charlie Chaplin's masterpiece "Smile" -- Michael's favorite song -- and then ended with "We Are the World" and the family's goodbyes. But we live in a society that's just too "too," and you get what you get, considering.
SOMETIMES, you just have to take your Maya Angelou poetry and your Sheila Jackson Lee with your Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Jermaine Jackson and Mariah Carey's dress.
Over at Crunchy Con, however, the inclusion of a special poem by Angelou was reason enough for Rod Dreher to discard any public pretense of Christian charity and treat the whole thing as if it were the grandest, most craptastic Jerry Springer Show episode in TV history.
In other words, a man's death -- and the resulting memorial -- has become reason enough, secure in one's cultural superiority and aesthetic development, to glue oneself to the flat screen and yell "Look at the freaks! Look at the freaks!"
I turned it on long enough to hear Queen Latifah speak of the dead as the Alpha and the Omega of human existence, and then to recite a poemAND MANY of his commenters were far worse.
typed emoted dischargedcomposed by Maya Angelou, the Thomas Kinkade of American popular poetry, for the occasion. It was so purplishly, hathotically grotesque it would have made a Vogon blush. Naturally, it made me want to shout with glee at the Prytania screen, "Now I know why the caged bird upchucks!"
Please, Someone. Please give some lucky soul the opportunity to demonstrate that Richard Gatling did not live in vain.CLASSY, eh?
Please, O Great and Powerful Someone.....give some fortunate creature of Yours the chance to demonstrate that Hiram Maxim's invention can be socially useful.
Please, please, PLEASE, O Most High Someone. Bestow upon us Your gift of Steady Hands, No Wind and Good Aim, and let us advance the cause of the Improvement of the Human breed in quick, rapid, 500-round-per-minute bursts.
Not touched on by Mr. Dreher is how turning on the TV to laugh at the "freaks" and the sublime awfulness of it all still pays tribute (and buys into) to what he considers a disfigured and destructive culture. Tuning in to laugh at the weirdos, it must be noted, is a far worse sin than actually being a weirdo.
And musing wistfully about mass murder of "weirdo" mourners, as did the above commenter, is just plain evil.
The relative merit of popular poetry -- the philosophical and cultural deficiencies of a public sendoff -- is no good reason to touch off an Internet orgasm of self-righteous vitriol. Show the respect you chide others for lacking.
Whatever his dysfunction, Michael Jackson was damned talented and broke down damned stubborn racial barriers in entertainment. However damaged his psyche and his soul, Michael Jackson was a child of God. Everyone who was at the Staples Center today is a child of God.
And to the only One who counts, that's the only thing that matters.
And to a heartbroken child, losing her daddy is the only thing that matters. Lord have mercy.