The Bridge—The Sadness of The Man In The Mirror

By Darryl James

Dr. Conrad Murray has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Michael Jackson.

I wonder if those who ignored Michael Jackson’s drug addiction will give it any attention.

I wonder, because in America, the citizens tend to give celebrities an exalted status above others.

Jackson was given exalted status above other drug addicts.

Yes, I said it—Jackson was a drug addict.

Does that mean I disliked him?

No. Like other music fans, I loved the music of Michael Jackson. I loved his dancing and I loved growing up watching him develop—until he began to take actions against his beautiful Blackness.

But I’ll get to that later.

I remember when Mike got burned during the Pepsi commercial and I prayed that he would emerge whole—we all did. But even though he emerged and pressed on, apparently, he pressed on with a dependence on drugs that few of his fans knew about.

Ultimately, it was that dependence that blossomed into a full scale addiction that played a part in his untimely death.

“Untimely death.” As if death is ever timely for those we love.

At any rate, Michael Joseph Jackson had an addiction to drugs that was no different from the average crackhead’s addiction. The difference is that the average crackhead on the street is without fame, fortune or steady means to feed the addiction, and so must rely on crime at some point—something MJ never had to deal with.

Instead, he engaged a physician to commit a crime by supplying him with the drugs that ended his life.

And for that, the doctor will pay.

But apparently, that is not enough for the conspiracy theorists who have made wild claims of everything from the US government having MJ killed, to the Middle Eastern financiers of his ill-fated tour having him killed for the insurance, to his own father doing him in.

The conspiracy theorists are right in line with others who want to avoid the good old fashioned explanation of simplicity: Someone placed themselves in harm’s way and they were harmed.

We’ve seen this before with other celebrities.

Elvis Presley was fat and in very poor health, yet when he died, theories abounded regarding the “true” cause of his death.

And, some nutty Elvis fans refuse to let him die, claiming that he lives and even that he has been seen in recent times.

Let me be clear: I was and still am a huge Michael Jackson fan. I grew up on his music and watched his artistry develop beyond belief.

But I also watched him do things as a broken human being that I just didn’t like, even though I understood that his life without a childhood or a private life had broken him.

I watched his dance moves with individuality become as deep and funky as his dance with plastic surgery, until he became one of the greatest entertainers and one of the freakiest looking humans on the planet.

And I understood that being burned and dealing with the subsequent pain launched a relationship with pain killers that turned into a lifelong dance with drug addiction.

But these things having been said, I saw Michael Jackson as a human and not as a god. I loved his art, but I hated his self-destruction.

So, when I heard the news of his death and the manner of his dying, I was sad for his family, but not so sad for him. I couldn’t be sad for a man who made poor choices when better choices were available.

But the general public was sad. Sad for a Michael Jackson they held on to whether it was the real MJ or not. They were sad for the death of his music and sad for the death of his freak show on parade whenever he would hang his children over balconies or when he would be dogged by child abuse allegations from children he tried to help.

I believe that many so-called fans were sadder to lose the freak show Jackson had become rather than the immensely talented human being who had already begun to die long before he made his final transition from the world of flesh.

I pondered when he died: “Isn’t there something titillating about the freakish, hedonistic and/or downright debauched behavior of our artists that makes us pay attention while supporting the art they make?

“Is Michael Jackson, who became a physical freak and an emotional train wreck any different?  Sadly, no.”

The public loved the freak show Michael Jackson had become and when he died, they demanded someone to pay for his death.

And that someone was a greedy, foolish, pathetic clown named Conrad Murray.

Murray took a job that many doctors had probably refused, agreeing to be the de facto drug dealer for a man who was clearly a drug addict. High priced drug dealing, but drug dealing nonetheless.

And for that Murray must pay.

But many so-called Michael Jackson fans didn’t want Murray to go to jail for anything less than murder.  They didn’t give two damns about the law and wanted him to give a pound of flesh for the death of Michael Jackson.

And that is sad, indeed.

Murray will go to jail and lose his license.

Michael Jackson will still be a dead drug addict who brought the world some great entertainment.

I’m not certain that his fans care that a father and mother lost a son, or that siblings lost a brother, but some are happy that a pound of flesh will be delivered.

Earlier in this column, I asserted that Michael Jackson began to take actions against his beautiful Blackness when he began to cut and paste over his African features and bleach out his African skin color.

Michael Jackson went from being a beautiful Black man to a pale monstrosity and far too many were willing to excuse it because they loved his music. They excused his self-destruction as much as they excused his drug addiction as they sought someone to pay.

For the longest, Michael’s father was blamed for the self destruction.

For me, the blame game is less important than the sadness he must have felt and the untimely death his loved ones had to bear.

Perhaps the real tragedy in all of this mess is the pathology that perhaps created the need for drugs in the first place.

Not loving who you are is a sign of a deep dark hole in your soul.

Who knows what life was like for him having to look at what he had become in the mirror every day.

I just hope now that Murray has been convicted that we no longer have to hear about the blame and the unfortunate death. I hope we can focus on the good music he left us.

I hope we can now focus on drug abuse no matter who is abusing the drugs and make real help the goal.

At the end of the day, perhaps the man in the mirror looking at Michael Jackson wanted people to help him.

So many people failed.

Including the man in Michael Jackson’s mirror.

Darryl James is an award-winning author of the powerful new anthology “Notes From The Edge.”  James’ stage play, “Love In A Day,” opened in Los Angeles this Spring and will be running throughout 2011. View previous installments of this column at Reach James at



One Response to “The Bridge—The Sadness of The Man In The Mirror”

  1. This is a very intelligently written article and I am glad you wrote it. I found it after I wrote my own article discussing similar topics but on a more broader scale. My feeling is this should push the AMA to create laws against hiring private doctors to come to your home. If a celebrity needs a doctor, than they should go to the office like everyone else. This would preclude such instances.

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