Wednesday, July 8, 2009

How Long, Exactly, Can You Shield a Child?

Today, Rod Dreher blogs that - as moving as little Paris Katherine Jackson's heartfelt speech about her father was - perhaps it would've been better to shield the child and her brothers from the spectacle that was Michael Jackson's memorial service. As usual, Rod fails to look at the context to get the main point. In this instance, perhaps, sure, if you just look at that one piece of the afternoon, you might feel that way. But you have to look at other parts. What I took away from that memorial service was that this little girl was aware of what people said about her father. She wanted to defend him. I saw her jump up - she was one of the first, in fact - to applaud Al Sharpton's comments about her father not being strange, for instance. By many accounts, Jackson tried to shield his children from much of the mockery made of him. But I remember being an 11-year-old girl. I knew when my parents were fighting over the phone. I knew when the child support check was late. My mother rarely told me, but you can intuit a lot. I think she knew how the world saw her father. Whether the realization came over the past few days, after his death, or much earlier as paparazzi trailed them when Michael Jackson took her and her brothers out and about, she knew that part of the world saw him as a beloved entertainer, and another part saw him as something freakish to be mocked. I saw no coercion from the family - if that was the case, you'd think Jackson's oldest child would have been asked to speak, or even all the children. Instead, I saw a bright, grief-stricken, articulate child who wanted to humanize her father. It was a gut reaction that reminded everyone watching that they may have lost an entertainer, but she lost her daddy. And she certainly deserved to tell us that.