I am a contributor to the eHow website, which is a place where people can share tips on aspects of life that they are expert at. (FYI, my eHow name is "jenniebrown".) I added two articles this evening (after not posting since December of last year), and then, out of curiosity, searched the site for "Michael Jackson". (No, the site did not freeze afterwards.)
Not surprisingly, I found articles titled "How to Mourn the Death of Michael Jackson" and "How to Think of Michael Jackson" and "How to Deal with Michael Jackson's Death", etc. This one stood out: "How to Not Care That Michael Jackson Died" (find it here).
The author, "edieness", takes a highly skeptical point of view about Michael Jackson, the person behind the "King of Pop". She includes some jokes which are not -- how do I put this -- tasteful, but then again humor is not BFF with good taste.
I thought "edieness" was interesting, even gutsy, because she went against the grain of the mostly reverent Michael Jackson coverage that is pouring out of major news outlets like water from a neglected faucet. I was so impressed that I went to Twitter and called it to everyone's attention.
Seconds later, regret crashed between my eyebrows like a tiny silver hammer.
Was I mean by "passing on" a not-so-nice article about a celebrity who died only a few days ago?
But who was I mean to?
No matter what you believe about the afterlife, it's unlikely that he cares now.
Michael Jackson's fans?
They would not likely read an article with that title, anyway, and if they did it would not change their minds.
The records of the Jackson Five were some of the first that I had ever listened to. I paid attention to the Jacksons throughout the 1970s, and listened to "Thriller" over and over again. No one can say that Michael Jackson is not one of the most important artists in popular music. No one can listen to one of his hits without recognition, if not tapping one's feet.
No one can say that he was not also an extremely troubled individual whose interactions with children were sometimes dubious. No one can say that some unpleasant truths are not about to come to light.
Must we be unswervingly reverent to people just because they die? Must we keep our opinions locked behind our teeth, or hovering at the edge of our fingertips, because you're just not supposed to speak ill of the dead?
I don't think so.
As writers, artists, and thinkers, we must not be afraid to express ourselves, as long as we are not gratuitously cruel to the innocent. We must not be afraid that some people won't like us for what we say. To try to please everyone is to turn yourself into tasteless mush - and it's impossible anyways. Don't be afraid to be contrary.
I guess I just answered my own question.