This past week, the world lost a major celebrity. Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you will be aware that Michael Jackson passed away. The circumstances surrounding his death are still not completely clear and the Los Angeles police are still investigating. An autopsy was performed, but the results of the toxicology tests won’t be known for a number of weeks.
Michael Jackson has been one of the greatest influences on pop music over the last 40 years. As has been said over and over, just about everyone is familiar with his music. Most of us played “Thriller,” “Off The Wall” and “Bad” over and over. I have owned LP, cassette and CD versions of almost all of his albums. Needless to say, I have always been a big fan of his music. It is amazing to me that Thriller can still be so current even after 25 years? I never get tired of listening to it.
Unfortunately, I cannot listen to a story about Michael and his musical legacy without hearing about the darkness that was a constant part of his life. There were allegations of inappropriate conduct with underage boys. There was the drinking and the drugs (pain killers and such). There was the craziness and eccentricity.
Was he a pedophile? I don’t really know. There is so much that seems to point in that direction, but it may be an illusion. This is a man who was never allowed to live his life. Sure, he had what many other people dream of – fame and fortune. But I look at him and I see a sad person. A troubled person. He was in the public eye from a very young age. His father is well known as being a difficult, abusive father. He did not have friends. I heard about an interview where he talked about seeing kids on monkey bars and not being allowed to play on them himself. So I think that it is really possible that he tried to rekindle that lost youth through friendships with other youngsters. Maybe he even thought his sharing a bed with a young boy was appropriate. Obviously, it is not. And whether it was “innocent” or not, it was wrong. But I can’t help the feeling that he might have been a victim in this too.
We have so many examples of childhood stars that have grown up being troubled adults – Liza Minelli, Elizabeth Taylor, to name just a few. Once Michael achieved superstar status, it only got worse. I personally think that he had some serious mental illness issues that were never addressed. The serial surgeries, the pain killers, creating Never Never Land – all of these could easily be just symptoms of his problems.
We will probably never know the extent of these problems. What I do know is that I am very sad about his death. I am sorry that the world will no longer have this gifted artist. Michael – in spite of everything – you were incredibly gifted and your talent touched us all. You are gone, but most certainly will not be forgotten.
I have not been able to stop listening to his music over the last few days. It still touches me to this day. I still am moved by Billie Jean and Beat It and Thriller. Stranger In Moscow, Man in the Mirror and dozens of other songs are also very much a part of my musical journey. He brought black musicians into the mainstream and he touched so many people. As I said before, he will be missed.
This is a post from my mother, Shoshana Kurzweil, continuing on my theme of changes needed to the process of electing a President in the US.
The problem with Presidential Politics is…well…politics. It’s a word that used to mean “statesmanship” but has come to mean anything but. It’s now just a four letter word with “tics” on the end.
Before the last Presidential election, I looked up the word “politics” and found the word “statesmanship” as a definition in several places on the internet. Today, I looked it up again and, just like magic, the word “statesmanship” had disappeared. What I did find was this:
• social relations involving intrigue to gain authority or power; “office politics is often counterproductive”
• the study of government of states and other political units
• the profession devoted to governing and to political affairs
• the opinion you hold with respect to political questions
• the activities and affairs involved in managing a state or a government; “unemployment dominated the politics of the inter-war years”; “government agencies multiplied beyond the control of representative politics”
Close—but no cigar.
Politics should be about statesmanship—about governing the people and doing it well. Instead, it has become a contest based on money, image, and popularity (for the wrong reasons).
As Robert wrote in his blog, the race to be president depends on money, time spent on the election trail, and more money. I would add to that the following:
- Threatens the powerful men behind the scenes the least
- A good public face and speaking voice
- The ability to be a good actor
- A brilliant speech writer
- A brilliant campaign manager
- Whether or not it rains in certain districts on election day
- Who can sling the most dirt—or just make it up
- Who can talk their way out of the dirt that gets slung
And, on and on and on. Then, there’s the counting. Was there fraud involved? If not, can it be made to look like there was fraud involved?
But, the worst part is that, after all that, there is the Electoral Votes. The Electoral College does not have to vote the will of the people. How dumb is that in a Democracy?
The process of electing a President in the United States has really gotten out of hand. I think that it is high time that we make some changes to the process. There are so many areas of the whole system that are out of hand, including, but not limited to:
- The amount of money it takes to get elected
- The amount of money it takes to even be a candidate
- The amount of time spent on the campaign trail
- The lack of real choice due to the duopoly of the Republican and Democratic Parties
- The lack of involvement on the part of the general population of the country
- The Electoral College
- The Primary System
- The toll that the election takes on the positions that the people running for office already hold (especially Senators, Governors and Representatives)
I invite and welcome any and all constructive comments on the topic.
So, let’s get started. One of the biggest problems that I see with our current systems is that it takes so much money to get elected. It is estimated that the cost of the Presidential Campaign in 2008 was around $1.6 billion. Wow! There are so many better uses for that kind of money. In a period of time where every state is having to cut its budgets due to deficits, and where the federal government is running obscene deficits of over $1 trillion a year, just think about having to spend $1.6 billion on electing 1 person to office. And then, with all of that money floating around, how is it possible for the candidate not to owe something to someone? I love President Obama, but I am not naïve enough to think that he is above that kind of control. When the big pockets are open to someone, one day they will come asking for a favor. That is a problem.
Another aspect of the money issue is that only wealthy people (or those that know a lot of wealthy people) can actually get elected. Again, this is plain wrong. This weeds out so many legitimate candidates and We, the People, are the ones that end up paying. Think back to the last 4 or 5 presidential elections. Did we really have the best candidates? In 1992, it was a choice between Bill Clinton and George Bush. At the time, neither one was a good choice, in my opinion. Bill Clinton did turn out to be a great President, so at least we had that surprise.
After Clinton, the choice was Gore and George W. Bush. This choice was so bad that the election was not even decided by the people. It ended up being decided by the Supreme Court (this is a whole other issue that I will not even get into here). Then in 2004, the choice was to re-elect an incompetent George Bush or another Democrat automoton – John Kerry. I know that I was never able to get excited about John Kerry as President. Was anyone? It still ended up being a close election (tribute to just how bad of a President W was more than how good of a candidate Kerry was).
In this past election cycle, I think we got the right person elected, but it still boggles the mind to think of the amount of money that he was able to raise (and spend) to get elected.
In a future post, I will discuss some of the other problems that I see with our current Election system.