Wishing Them Home

Willa: Hi Lisha! Welcome back! Did you have a good summer?

Lisha:  Excellent! Busy as always. How about you, Willa?

Willa: It was a lot of fun, but bittersweet. I just dropped my son off at college – in fact, his first day of class was Michael Jackson’s birthday. And while I’m really happy and excited for him, I’m going to miss him a lot! He’s great fun to be with and talk with, and I just can’t imagine not having him here.

But as we were walking into the registration building, I heard a song playing on the sound system, so quietly you could barely hear it. In fact, I wondered at first if I was imagining it. But it was definitely there, quietly playing behind all the bustle: “Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough.” And it just gave me a little reassuring nudge that my son was right where he needed to be.

Lisha: That’s amazing! I love it when Michael Jackson shows up at just the right time. And how serendipitous that your son’s first day of college was on Michael Jackson’s birthday! No doubt you are really going to miss him this year, Willa. That will be a huge adjustment – so prepare yourself for the empty nest syndrome!

Willa: Oh, I know! In fact, a friend whose daughter just graduated suggested we start an Empty Nest Club. I think that’s a great idea.

Anyway, in a funny way, all of this has me thinking about “The Lost Children,” one of those neglected songs from the Invincible album that never seemed to get much attention. On the surface, it’s a song about children who’ve run away from home or been abducted – the “missing children” you see on posters sometimes. We took a ferry this summer from Washington state over to Vancouver Island, and as we entered into Canada the wall of the Customs office was covered with posters of missing children. It was heartbreaking – all those parents looking for their lost children.

Lisha: Can you even imagine living through such a nightmare?

Willa: No, I can’t. I really can’t.

Lisha: Michael Jackson empathized so strongly with these families. It’s inspiring to know that he offered a song, reminding us to keep them in our thoughts and prayers at the very least. The thought of a missing child is so overwhelming, it’s easy to block that out and not let yourself go there. Maybe that’s why it strikes me as such an unusual subject for a song.

Willa: I agree. It’s rare to hear a song about something as tragic as a missing child, and maybe that’s because it’s just too frightening and painful to think about, as you say. I can really understand that. But Michael Jackson frequently – and courageously, I think – broached difficult topics like this.

But he also tended to create multi-layered works that could be interpreted many different ways, and I see that with “The Lost Children” also. While the main focus of this song is definitely on children who have been abducted or for some other reason are “missing” from their homes, it also makes me think about children like the “lost boys” in Peter Pan who never really had a home: kids like my father who grew up in an orphanage, or kids who’ve had to grow up on the streets or bouncing from one place to another. These kids never had the kind of family life Michael Jackson sings about in “The Lost Children”:

Home with their fathers
Snug close and warm
Loving their mothers

Some children never had that, and simply don’t have a home to go back to.

Lisha: You’re so right. Of course there are children who live in beautiful homes with their parents, but they still lack the safety and emotional security depicted in this verse.

Willa: That’s a good point, Lisha. They may have a family and a physical house, but if there is physical or emotional abuse or simply coldness, it may not feel like much of a home. In fact, a lot of kids who run away do so to escape abuse, as Michael Jackson sang about in “Do You Know Where Your Children Are.”

Lisha: An excellent point. I am also thinking about children lost in early adult responsibility – like children working in show business – an issue Michael Jackson flagged throughout his entire adult life.

Willa: That’s true. He talked about that often, and sang about it in “Childhood.”

Lisha: Another good point!

Willa: But you know, there are other ways to interpret this song as well. While I think raising awareness about missing children was Michael Jackson’s primary motivation in writing this song, there are some interesting details that point toward other, less obvious interpretations as well.

Lisha: It’s always in the details, isn’t it?

Willa: It really is – especially with Michael Jackson. And one of those details is that throughout “The Lost Children” he repeatedly samples a Twilight Zone episode called “Kick the Can.” It’s most noticeable near the end, beginning around the 3:25 mark, but you can also hear it at 0:55, 1:45, 2:45, and 3:00. And thinking about this song in relation to “Kick the Can” leads to a very different interpretation of the song as a whole.

Lisha: Whoa, are you kidding me? I have to confess I am one of the ones guilty of neglecting this song! I totally missed the Twilight Zone credit on this track. I knew Michael Jackson’s oldest son, Prince, gets a credit for some of the dialogue. So I guess I assumed all the children’s voices were recorded specifically for the track. Now that I see The Twilight Zone credit, it opens up up a whole new world when approaching this song, doesn’t it?

Willa: It really does.

Lisha: Hey Willa, do you remember reading Darlene Craviotto’s book, An Agoraphobic’s Guide to Hollywood: How Michael Jackson Got Me Out of the House?

Willa: Yes! In fact, I read it because you suggested it, Lisha. You said there were parts of it that were pretty troubling, but it had some really interesting insights too. After you said that I just had to read it and, boy, you were right on both counts.

Lisha: It’s true that some of the author’s conclusions are rather disturbing and not well thought out, in my opinion. But at the same time, some of her stories are totally captivating. For example, she recalls several conversations she had with Michael Jackson about “Kick the Can,” which was in relation to a film project they were working on together.

In 1990, Craviotto was hired by Steven Spielberg to write the screenplay for a new musical version of Peter Pan, starring Michael Jackson. Unfortunately, the film was never made. Instead, Spielberg went on to release Hook with Robin Williams, a film that never lived up to its hype critically or at the box office.

However, Craviotto’s first-hand account of working with Michael Jackson is really magical at times, especially when she describes their one-on-one meetings. Because their discussions were typically recorded for study purposes, she seems to relate exactly what was said.

Michael Jackson was deeply involved in the creative process for Peter Pan. And he insisted that Craviotto watch “Kick the Can” to better understand his vision for the film. Here are some excerpts from the book:

“There’s a good movie you gotta see!” Michael says, excitedly. “It was on ‘The Twilight Zone.’ It has so much heart! And it reminds me of Peter. Called ‘Kick the Can.’ Gotta see it! Next time we meet, I’m showing you.” He laughs at the thought of it, brimming over with enthusiasm. “It has heart about it! That should be Peter!” …

“You’re gonna like it!” He beams. “It’s got heart!” he shouts. “You gotta see it!” He lowers his voice and says slowly, “It’s wonderful!” Snapping his fingers for effect, “It has in it what Peter should have.” …

“When I saw it, I loved it! And I thought, ‘This is me! This is me! This is me!’”

Michael Jackson was just so enthusiastic about this episode of The Twilight Zone! I got the feeling he strongly identified with the main character and felt his role was essential for understanding Peter Pan as well.

Willa: That’s interesting, Lisha. I agree he loved “Kick the Can,” but I actually interpreted this a little differently. To me, he was saying he really liked the feeling of “Kick the Can” and thought it was a good example of the kind of emotional response he wanted to create with Peter Pan. And he wanted Craviotto to see it so she could try to create a similar feeling in her screenplay. At least, that’s how I read it.

Lisha: Well, maybe that’s right. I could be reading way more into this than is actually there. But hearing how insistent he was that Craviotto watch The Twilight Zone before starting work on Peter Pan, I really got the idea there was a connection between the two.

Willa: Well, that’s a good point, Lisha. And it’s interesting that in those conversations Craviotto quoted, he kept saying that “Kick the Can” has “heart.” As I remember, she also included several conversations where he worried about Spielberg’s “heart” – specifically, whether he had the “heart” to make the kind of Peter Pan movie Michael Jackson wanted to make.

Lisha: Craviotto says that even though Michael Jackson was a huge fan of Steven Spielberg, he had serious reservations about whether or not Spielberg was the right director for Peter Pan. Spielberg had remade “Kick the Can” for the 1983 film Twilight Zone: The Movie, which left a big question in Michael Jackson’s mind. He felt there was something essential missing from that film that would be crucial to their retelling of Peter Pan. He even brought Craviotto up to Neverland Ranch so they could watch both versions of “Kick the Can” and discuss them.

Willa: Yes, I remember that! So maybe you’re right, Lisha – maybe he was suggesting a connection between Peter Pan and “Kick the Can.” You’re starting to convince me …

Anyway, back when I read Craviotto’s book, I was really intrigued about why he was so smitten with “Kick the Can.” So I went to the local library and found a copy of the original TV version and watched it, and I see what he means. There’s something very tender about it – a feeling that’s lost in Spielberg’s remake, which is kind of manic and has a harshness to it that isn’t in the original.

Lisha: I agree. The original develops the main character in the story so beautifully. You get a glimpse into his psychological makeup and genuinely care about his perspective. The Spielberg version, however, doesn’t really get into this kind of character development and uses a more controversial story device instead. It doesn’t work nearly as well, to my way of thinking. At any rate, it’s a wonderful exercise to compare the two versions, just as Michael Jackson suggested.

Willa: Yes, it is. And when you do that, you notice the remake has other problems as well. But the main problem, as Michael Jackson said, is that it lacks the “heart” of the original.

Lisha: I agree.

Willa: So as I was watching the original version, I was struck by these repeated scenes where children are playing the game Kick the Can (which I loved when I was a kid, by the way, especially at twilight – it’s just a perfect kid’s game). Each of those scenes begins with a boy counting off, like this: “…, 85, 90, 95, 100.  Ready or not, here I come! … Last one into the forest is a rotten apple!” That sounded so familiar to me, and then I realized it was in “The Lost Children.” In fact, Michael Jackson repeatedly samples these scenes from “Kick the Can” so they become a recurring motif in the background soundscape of “The Lost Children.”

Lisha: Now that I’m aware of The Twilight Zone samples in “The Lost Children,” they feel like such a prominent part of the song. I think I dismissed them before as a background layer that simply added a nice touch. You know, a song about lost children that includes a sonic memory of happy children playing without a care in the world. But now, I hear this a little differently and I’m starting to think “Kick the Can” should be required viewing before listening to this song!

Willa: It really adds a whole other dimension to the experience of listening to it, doesn’t it?

Lisha: Unbelievably so.

Willa: Especially when you know the plot of the story. The main character is an elderly man named Charles Whitley, who is living at Sunnyvale Rest Home for the Aged, along with his childhood friend, Ben, and many other elderly residents. Charles doesn’t want to be there, and he becomes convinced they all feel old because they’re acting old. After watching the children play, he tells Ben, “It’s almost as though playing Kick the Can keeps them young.” And later he says, “Maybe the fountain of youth isn’t a fountain at all. Maybe it’s a way of looking at things – a way of thinking.”

He becomes convinced that playing will help them all feel young again, so one night he encourages them to go outside and play Kick the Can, like they did when they were children. He describes that liberating feeling of play in such a wonderful way that many of them become caught up in the moment and go outside and play with him, but Ben refuses.

Lisha: Ben just doesn’t get it, does he? He warns Charles that these crazy ideas put him in danger of being diagnosed senile, which would greatly restrict his personal freedoms in the home.

Willa: Yes. In fact, he’d been threatened with that.

Lisha: True, but even so, Charles still tries to convince the others that play is the magical force that holds “the secret of youth.” He begs them to play Kick the Can and suggests they hold the empty can in their hands while contemplating the value of childhood play:

“Look! Think! Feel! Here, hold it! Doesn’t that wake some sleeping part of you?”

Willa: That’s such a wonderful scene! And it’s so Michael Jackson. I can see why he loved it.

Lisha: To my way of thinking, that entire episode has Michael Jackson written all over it!

Willa: It really does. Later on, Ben hears a group of children outside playing Kick the Can, even though it’s late at night. He goes outside with the facility supervisor, who chases the children away, but Ben recognizes one of the children as Charles – he’s become a boy again. Ben suddenly realizes that all the residents who went outside to play have reverted back to childhood, and he begs Charles to let him join them, but it’s too late. Charles runs away and Ben is left sitting on the porch alone, holding the can.

Lisha: The magic worked! At least in that spooky Twilight Zone kind of way, which might actually suggest that Mr. Whitley made his final transition. But this is also where I feel like there is a connection between lost childhood in “Kick the Can” and the “lost boys” in Peter Pan. Both stories depict a magical, idyllic realm where carefree youth is honored, valued and preserved. It is more of a metaphorical, magical place than an actual geographical location, as you suggested earlier. When we think of “The Lost Children” this way, it starts to get pretty interesting. We could even add “Childhood” to the mix here as well.

Willa: Yes, I agree. Looking at “The Lost Children” through the lens of “Kick the Can” expands the idea of “lost children” to include “lost childhood” – to adults who’ve lost the connection to that magical time when they were a child. And of course, that’s a central idea in Peter Pan as well, and his band of “lost boys,” though they’re “lost” in a different way.

But there’s an important difference between “The Lost Children” and “Childhood.” “The Lost Children” really focuses on the importance of the family as a whole, of the family being together, and it considers the parents of lost children as well as the children themselves.

Lisha: Wow, you’re right. I had never thought about that before.

Willa: It’s interesting, isn’t it? In that sense, it’s kind of like “Do You Know Where Your Children Are,” which begins with a mother reading a note from her missing daughter, and then shifts to the daughter’s story. For example, Michael Jackson begins “The Lost Children” with these lines:

We pray for our fathers
Pray for our mothers
Wishing our families well

And then in the bridge he sings those words I quoted earlier, but there’s more to it than that. Here’s the full bridge:

Home with their fathers
Snug close and warm
Loving their mothers
I see the door simply wide open
But no one can find thee

In these final two lines, Michael Jackson creates an image of a door standing open, waiting for a child to return home, which is a very important image, I think.

Lisha: The door is like the symbolic threshold that divides the “real” world from the magical, mythic realm. Just like the retirement home door in “Kick the Can.”

Willa: Oh, that’s interesting, Lisha! It also reminds me of Peter Pan. In the third chapter of the book, Peter teaches Wendy, John, and Michael how to fly, and they go soaring out of the nursery window just moments before their parents and Nana rush in to stop them. And while we spend most of our time following their adventures with Peter and the lost boys, J.M. Barrie also reminds us of how much Mr. and Mrs. Darling miss their children. They sleep in the nursery in hopes they will return someday, and as their mother says, “The window must always be left open for them, always, always.”

Lisha: Yes, that window is also a symbolic threshold, like the doors we were just discussing, and it is central to the entire story.

Willa: It really is. In Chapter 11, when Wendy and her brothers are feeling a little homesick, she describes the warm reunion they’ll have if they return home, and she emphasizes the open window waiting for them: “‘See, dear brothers,’ says Wendy, pointing upwards, ‘there is the window still standing open.’” She finishes by saying, “So up they flew to their mummy and daddy; and pen cannot describe the happy scene.”

This “sublime faith in a mother’s love” comforts her brothers and all the lost boys, but not Peter:

But there was one there who knew better; and when Wendy finished he uttered a hollow groan.

“What is it, Peter?” she cried, running to him. …

“Long ago,” he said, “I thought like you that my mother would always keep the window open for me; so I stayed away for moons and moons and moons, and then flew back; but the window was barred, for mother had forgotten all about me, and there was another little boy sleeping in my bed.”

Barrie then says, “I’m not sure that this was true, but Peter thought it was true; and it scared them.”

Lisha: Wow. That is scary. And really dark. It’s about a deep longing to return home. But home is a place that has been lost somehow, and there’s no guarantee the way back will ever appear again.

Willa: I think so too. You know, Michael Jackson loved Peter Pan, but he didn’t see it as a lighthearted kid’s story. It was tragic for him. Jane Fonda says he cried when he talked about it. And a lot of it has to do not only with a lost childhood, but also a lost sense of home – of a sheltered place to return after playtime where you are loved and safe and cared for, and free to be a child.

Lisha: That is so sad. These stories are really, really dark. And they completely change how I hear “The Lost Children.” I’m reminded of something else Michael Jackson said to Darlene Craviotto about Peter Pan:

“We’re playing into that part of everyone … The child,” he tells me. “The same thing that ‘E.T.’ did. And the ‘Wizard of Oz.’ That’s what I want to continue to have, that reality. It’s fantasy, but still … fantasy is reality. It becomes real … Even though it’s fantasy, it’s real! It’s inside of everyone!”

So what are the main ideas in E.T. and Wizard of Oz? “Phone home.” “There’s no place like home.”

Willa:  You’re right! I never thought about that before!

Lisha: And Peter tries to fly home. Charles Whitley longs to go home with his son and is psychologically shattered when he learns he can’t. And what about Prince Jackson’s voice at the end of “The Lost Children”?

“It’s getting dark. I think we’d better go home now.”

So what is meant by the mythic return home? What is the place inside of everyone where fantasy and reality meet?

Willa: Those are all really good questions, Lisha. Children need to be free to play and explore – both literally in real forests, and in the “forest” of their imagination – but they also need to be able to come home. It’s like “home” is this mythic place, and we need to know there’s a door there, open for us, waiting for us, “always, always,” as Mrs. Darling said. Even as we begin to explore and go out into the world, we need to know that door is still open to welcome us back home if we need it. Maybe that’s why I’ve been thinking about this song as my son goes off to college.

Lisha: Yes, there’s a deep-seated need to know the way back to the safety and security of home, even when off on an exciting adventure. And that seems true for everyone, except Peter!

Willa, I really hope your son has a wonderful and adventurous first year of college. Here’s to wishing him well, and wishing him home.

Willa: Thanks, Lisha! He sounds quiet but happy, so I think he’s transitioning well, and he’ll be coming home at Thanksgiving. So I just need to be patient until then and keep the door “wide open.”

So here are a couple of quick notes before we go. The Smithsonian’s newest facility – the National Museum of African American History and Culture – is opening soon, on September 24th. And they just announced on Monday, Michael Jackson’s birthday, that one of the inaugural exhibits will be a collection of costumes he wore during the Victory tour.  Here’s a link to an article about it.

Also, Raven Woods published two in-depth posts this summer in The Huffington Post about media coverage of Michael Jackson, and we wanted make sure you all knew about them. The first provides a reality check on the media hysteria earlier this summer about alleged child pornography at Neverland. The second discusses recent media coverage of Conrad Murray and his new book about Michael Jackson.

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About Dancing with the Elephant contributors

Joie Collins is a founding member of the Michael Jackson Fan Club (MJFC). She has written extensively for MJFC, helping to create the original website back in 1999 and overseeing both the News and History sections of the website. Over the years she conducted numerous interviews on behalf of MJFC and also directed correspondence for the club. She also had the great fortune to be a guest at Neverland. She has been a Michael Jackson fan since she was three years old. Lisha McDuff is a classically trained professional musician who for 30 years made her living as a flutist, performing in orchestras and for major theatrical touring productions. Her passion for popular musicology led her to temporarily leave the orchestra pit and in June 2013 she received a Master’s degree in Popular Music Studies from the University of Liverpool. She’s continuing her studies at McMaster University, where she is working on a major research project about Michael Jackson, with Susan Fast as her director. Willa Stillwater is the author of M Poetica: Michael Jackson's Art of Connection and Defiance and "Rereading Michael Jackson," an article that summarizes some of the central ideas of M Poetica. She has a Ph.D. in English literature, and her doctoral research focused on the ways in which cultural narratives (such as racism) are made real for us by being "written" on our bodies. She sees this concept as an important element of Michael Jackson's work, part of what he called social conditioning. She has been a Michael Jackson fan since she was nine years old.

Posted on September 1, 2016, in Michael Jackson and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.

  1. Oh ladies, welcome back! Wow, you’ve done it again.

    When you’re eight or eleven and you’re on the road in strange paces all the time, of course you feel
    LOST
    and sometimes you refuse to get on the airplane because you just want to go
    HOME
    and then you don’t move out of your parent’s house til you’re thirty because it’s
    HOME
    so you buy the place to make sure it doesn’t escape again
    while you build the
    HOME
    you were dreaming of all that time
    which you open up and share, to make sure no other children get
    LOST.

    And then they invade your
    HOME
    and all is ruined and you are once again
    LOST.
    And you are still out there searching
    when you are called
    HOME.

    • Hi D.B.,

      Great to “see” you here again! And I think you’ve hit the nail right on the head. I can barely get through this song now because it feels so heavy to me, re: Peter Pan and Neverland (Ranch). I’m embarrassed that I previously had a tendency to skip it on my way to “Whatever Happens.” Musically, “The Lost Children” felt like one of the lighter songs, but now I hear this unbearable heaviness in it. This has been a real reversal of consciousness and quite a shock to my system!

    • DB this is heartbreakingly beautiful!!!

  2. Another great article. I’m a younger fan and I just want to say I appreciate this blog and its writers. I never thought about The Lost Children this way! For fans who aren’t as familiar with certain aspects of films like the Twilight Zone (even though I did watch a little growing up) this is a refreshing and insightful perspective. You two seem to understand Michael’s intentions perfectly and you both inspire me as someone who loves writing about and researching Michael’s music. It just makes me admire him even more. He was such a deep introspective person who saw meaning in places that not many people bothered to go mentally. He drew inspiration from everywhere.

    • Hi Taylor. Welcome! It’s always nice to have younger voices join us. (I’m feeling kind of old at the moment!)

    • Welcome Taylor from an older fan well into her 60s but only an MJ fan for 6 years. You are so right, MJ did draw inspiration from everywhere, I draw it from him.

  3. Hi Willa, hi Lisha,

    Thank you for continuing your great blog, I’ve waited for it! With this topic (Peter Pan, Lost children/Lost boys) I always think Michael felt his whole life –since he was five – like a lost boy, a lost child because as a very young child he would be separated from his mother. Since the age of five he would work at night, going to school at daytime. A little bit later, still a very young child, he would travel around the world. He was away from home, away from his mother. In addition there was his dominant, rude father who wasn’t able to handle small and sensitive children. He must have been very lost. (Thank god, he had surrogate mothers like Rose Fine and Diana Ross.) But the years went by and he couldn’t make up time with all these important experiences as a young child as the foundation for all emotional development to follow. So you can’t turn back time, this door was shut for all time.

    • Hi Ilke. It’s true that he really seemed to identify with these “lost boy” figures, didn’t he? He told several people, including Jane Fonda and Martin Bashir, “I am Peter Pan,” and he told Darlene Craviotto, “When I saw it [“Kick the Can”], I loved it! And I thought, ‘This is me! This is me! This is me!'” And when you really look at those figures and what they represent, and then think about the circumstances of his life, it makes sense why he would feel such a strong connection to them.

  4. Fabulous post, and I’m pleased to see you make the connection between The Lost Children and Do You Know Where Your Children Are? At a stretch I can even suggest that Hollywood Tonight might be the story of one of those young people who has forsaken home for the bright lights of fame and fortune – which, even if obtained, come at a tremendous cost (as Michael certainly knew). Thank you for the wonderful, thought-provoking read. It’s been years since I’ve seen ‘Kick the Can’ (both versions) and now I’m promoted to re-watch them. And I agree with Michael on the dark tones of Peter Pan – Barrie’s Peter is not Disney’s Peter. I suspect Michael could identify with both.

    • Hi Kerry. I agree completely – “Hollywood Tonight” fits very well with “The Lost Children” and “Do You Know Where Your Children Are.” In the original demo version especially, it’s pretty clear that the main character is a 15-year-old runaway “who has forsaken home for the bright lights of fame and fortune,” as you say. Here’s a YouTube video of the demo:

  5. Hi, Willa and Lisha, and welcome back to the blog! wow–great post. I had no idea that Prince spoke those lines at the end. The focus on HOME is so important (thanks, D.B.). So much to say about that. This blog post inspired me to make my work on MJ’s “Childhood,” an ebook titled “That Wonder in My Youth: Michael Jackson and Childhood” available on Amazon as a free promotion, starting tomorrow Sept. 2 and going til Sept. 6th. I hope people will take advantage (Craviatto’s book is discussed and the importance of the Peter Pan nexus to MJ).

    I have not been posting much lately due to various health issues but also–guess what–I have been hit with a lawsuit and it’s giving me first hand info on what the legal process is like and how it affects a person who is a ‘defendant’ in a ‘civil suit.” Very eye-opening and very hard on the psyche, the body (from the stress), and the pocketbook!! My experience helps me to know more about what Michael went through–not that I can in any way compare the enormity of what he went through to my own situation. Just that it has given me some first-hand insight into how a sensitive soul is affected by being forced into the legal system, a whole other world that exposes one to all kinds of stresses. My suit was filed the week before Christmas–OMG! Reminded me of the body search that MJ experienced right before Christmas.

    Again, I do get that there’s no equivalence between my experience and MJ’s–but I got a taste of it. I also see how the people around me have really no idea what a ‘civil suit’ is. For example, a friend has said several times, in astonishment, ‘Isn’t that over yet?’ not realizing that a civil suit can drag on for years. If the “plaintiff” does not want to settle the suit, it continues–and if they have deep pockets–it continues. This is why people settle. In my particular case, so many people settled before the case went to court, my lawyer tells me, there is not a lot of “case law” on the books to guide me as far as how to approach the situation. The legal system needs revision. I tried to go ‘ad litem,” which is when you defend yourself rather than hire a lawyer–but that is really hard, as I discovered, esp. if the ‘plaintiff’s lawyer is aggressive. You are really at the mercy of lawyers and the judge. I wish people could be empowered to do more on the ad litem basis, that they could know what the laws are in the first place more easily, but it is what it is, as they say.

    Again–thanks for this important discussion of “The Lost Children.”

    • Hi stephenson. Welcome back! It sounds like you’ve been going through some really difficult times.

      I understand your hesitation to compare your situation to Michael Jackson’s. The sheer scale of his experiences – including the enormity of everything that was done to him, and the compounding effect of his extreme celebrity – make comparisons between our problems and his seem inappropriate. But I agree that we can use our own experiences to gain at least a glimpse into what he had to go through. For example, your struggle against that lawsuit sounds exhausting and demoralizing, and he literally had hundreds of lawsuits filed against him year after year, many of them frivolous. Just imagine what he must have gone through …

      Best of luck with everything.

      • Hi, Willa. (I’m responding via a cell phone with different acct). To imagine all those lawsuits and the sheer volume and intensity of what was thrown at him for almost 2 decades certainly challenges our capacity to walk in his moccasins (as he once asked us to do.) There are a few other well-known people who were put through the grindstones of prejudice, ignorance, greed, and vindictiveness, and no doubt many more unknowns we don’t hear of. Those who break the mold of status quo or refuse to ‘bend the knee’ defy the ‘way things are’ and Michael was remarkably and beautifully fearless in that regard and paid the price. In my present, limited experience with the legal system, I see it’s flaws in a way I didn’t before. For that I am strangely grateful–even though I hate this. As Nietzsche wrote, ‘What doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.’ I guess it’s how we respond to adversity that shows our character, and The Lost Children, appearing in his last album, shows us his great compassion and love. I love the children’s choir in this song–he was always advocating for children’s well-being and importance to us adults, and gave them a voice in his creative work front and center.

    • Hope all your “woes” are soon sorted Stephenson – sounds awful.

      • Thanks, Caro. (responding to you using a different account). I do appreciate your concern. This is been going on for over 4 years and it’s my next door neighbor, so it makes it that much worse re the proximity. Although Willa is correct that of course Michael’s ordeal was so much greater and he faced the loss of his home AND his freedom (going to jail with a maximum possible sentence of 20+ years!), yet even so I have been very distraught and will probably have to move in the end to get away from the situation. The conflict is escalating in an alarming way but I am trying to see how it can provide insights into the lack of protection a person (whether a hugely famous one or an average person) can have both from the police (tasked with protecting us from those who would harm us) and the legal system (tasked with meeting out justice). These systems, I find, are heavily male-dominated, were set up by males to structure the world at a time when women and children had little if any power, and still largely favor males today. We have discussed on the blog previously how Michael defied these male-dominated systems (those incorporating and solidifying values and virtues traditionally associated with men) to the detriment of other values, like play, so central to Michael’s ethos and world view, that are disregarded as the provenance of lower status beings like children and women (along with the Earth itself, animals, wildlife, wild habitats, and basic requirements of life, like air and water.) Values that define strength as denigrating play, rather than making play an important part of strength, go along with the tendency to denigrate the arts. Thanks again for your concern.

  6. Welcome back – missed y’all. If one listens to MJs songs on children & childhood with an open & pure heart, one can hear how he felt about chilldren with his pure & open heart. it is such a shame he was soooo misunderstood isn’t it.

    I seem to remember that as well as Prince, Eddy Casio was also featured with him on The Lost children

  7. Welcome back ladies. What a great piece. I appreciate your blog so much.

  8. Hi Destiny and Caro. It’s great to hear from you! Hope you’re enjoying a lovely end of summer, Destiny, and heading into a gorgeous fall. (As someone who grew up in the South, I think nothing is more beautiful than the South in the autumn when all the leaves are changing colors – except maybe the South in the spring when the azaleas and dogwoods are blooming….) And Caro, I hope you’re enjoying your final days of winter.

    I hadn’t heard that Eddie Cascio’s voice was on “The Lost Children” – I’ll have to do some research about that!

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