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Thursday, January 24 , 2019, 1:35 am | Fair 42º


Susan Estrich: Let Jackson Rest in Peace

Jackson's death was no thriller; we know what happened, and now we should go back to more important things

Is there still a revolution about to happen in Iran?

Is my state going to run out of money tomorrow, and start printing IOUs?

Susan Estrich
Susan Estrich

Can the crazy North Koreans really attack Hawaii?

Was there a coup in Honduras? Do we care?

The short answer to all the above questions is: Who knows?

What I can tell you is that the traffic on Sunset Boulevard near Michael Jackson’s house is backed up. Again.

Living in Los Angeles, Ground Zero of the Jackson story, I am extremely interested in its implications for traffic, which — believe me — have been substantial.

I don’t mean to make light of Jackson’s passing. Of course my sympathies go out to his family. Jackson was a father, a son, a brother and a friend. I have no doubt those who loved him are suffering, and I can only hope that having the world, and the world media, treat this as the only story worth covering feels to them like the respect that their “King” was due.

What I don’t entirely understand, though, is why the rest of us are so endlessly and completely interested in the sad and sorry details of a talented man’s demise. Does anyone really doubt the story here? I met Jackson some years ago at an event, and he was frail then. I wouldn’t have asked the man I saw to perform one stadium concert, let alone 50, and that was before the trial and its humiliations

When, a few years later, my son called me in New Hampshire, where I was trekking around with the candidates in 2004, to tell me that he was playing at a school friend’s house and Jackson and his kids had come over to play with them, I got my son’s father on the phone faster than you could say “John Kerry” to get him out of there. Not rocket science. The guy was acquitted, and rightly so based on my following of the evidence at his trial, but that doesn’t mean you let your 11-year-old son play with him. From a parent’s perspective, this guy was the definition of “bad news.” A parent who wants to be a child is not a parent.

As for the poor doctor, his failings (CPR on the bed? could it really be?) prove only that my friend Maureen (a doctor herself) is so right when she says the celebrities here tend to get the worst medical treatment, even when their doctors are much fancier than Jackson’s, because their doctors treat them like celebrities and not patients. Would any doctor who was treating Jackson like a patient (and not an ATM) go along with the plan to prop up a guy who was having trouble talking and walking so he could sing and dance his way through 50 concerts?

Other big news is that the children were supposedly “cocktail” babies, conceived with donated sperm and eggs. Now, there’s a big surprise. Have you seen pictures of these children? They certainly don’t look like they have any biological connection to the Michael Jackson of the Jackson 5. I don’t know the details of the agreements surrounding the birth of the youngest child, but as to the older two, California law couldn’t be clearer: Debbie Rowe, who gave birth to the children, is the mother, and her husband at the time, Jackson, is the father. Relationships control, not genetics. As they should.

It’s not because we don’t understand how this could have happened that we’re all riveted by the story. We know. This is not a thriller. It is because the ending was a foregone conclusion that Jackson’s death makes us normal folks who don’t live (and die) like rock stars feel like we just might have the better lives — for which we should be grateful.

But enough is enough. I’m here not to praise Jackson, or to damn him, but to let him rest in peace, so that we can let the traffic, real and psychic, clear and turn our attention back to what really matters.

— Best-selling author Susan Estrich is the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the USC Law Center and was campaign manager for 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Click here to contact her.

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