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What's So Wrong With Michael Jackson?
by J. Grant Swank, Pastor
16 February 2003

Are Michael Jackson's relationships with children really improper? A look back at Michael's own childhood.

So what’s so wrong with Wacko Jacko?

All this hubbub about molesting children possibilities. This talk about kids sleeping in his bed. The lawsuit of 1993. Its settlement.

When snippets are shown on TV, there is a wholly different picture of Jackson than when the full interview is shown. In the snippets all sorts of innuendoes are portrayed. In the full interview, one hears Michael share his rationale for the topic discussed. And in that is all the difference between rumor and truth.

I was troubled by the lead-up snippets. I was not all that troubled with the two hour Thursday 20/20 interview. No. Not all that troubled.

That is, when it came to the items of children sharing his bed, his reaching out to disadvantaged youth riding the train at Never Neverland, and his masking his children’s faces when they are in public. Michael’s explanations surrounding these situations made a kind of sense to me.

But what was terribly troubling was Michael’s father’s abusive treatment of Michael and his siblings. Now that is where the focus needed to be placed — and kept there. It’s more the story of terrible Joseph Jackson than oddball Michael Jackson. Truly.

The father beat the children when they were rehearsing dance steps. He kept a strap handy to hit their flesh. "If the dance steps were missed," Michael said, Joseph slapped his own children with a belt!

"He’d throw us against the wall as hard as he could," Michael shared with the world. Awful. "He’d hit us with ironing cords, whatever was around."

Michael went on with specifics in graphically picturing for viewers a tortured youth. "We were all very nervous. He was tough."

Many children are so mistreated. But no children should be so mistreated. Yet Michael Jackson’s young years were riddled with a selfish father’s blows. That is where the accent should have centered in the Michael Jackson interview; and that is where it should have ended.

Michael’s explanation of loving children is obviously because he lives with a daily vacuum of not having been loved as a child. His mother tried to shield her children from her husband; but her husband won out in being the czar of the Jackson performers.

If the law had known then what we are being told now, Joseph Jackson would have been jailed. Instead, he made money off his children’s popularity.

There were times when Michael was mailed a check for $200,000 for a performance. With that loot, he bought candy and bubble gum. The rest of the money? Dad took care of it.

Dad knew where his bread came from. It came from the offspring. They performed as dad wanted them to perform and so dad became rich. Michael was the lead performer. The others then were to be as perfect as Michael. Therefore, Michael got the heavy end of the stick — from father — when not pleasing father dearest. Imagine. Father slapped his children around in order to stuff the bank.

Michael, extremely sensitive personality, server-giver type, hungering obviously for love and affection, now at 44 seeks to build a childhood he never knew. With that, he fantasizes children discovering heavenly bliss in his Never Neverland. They could thus climb onto his bed — the shelter where intimacy in innocence, he states, is discovered with hot chocolate and cookies for dessert.

"We were terrified of him," Michael confessed about his father. "He’d tear you up. I ‘got it’ a lot of times."

Still more: "We were scared, very scared — until I would regurgitate. I’d vomit."

And still more: "Just seeing him! Sometimes I’d faint."

Michael breathed deeply with a painful sigh and then said he held against his father "a strong hate." Tears came to his eyes. At his age, Michael is still shattered because of his secret childhood years — secret then for fear of father’s retaliation if the world ever knew the awful truth.

But since becoming rich and adult, Michael has recreated a boyhood’s dream for himself and any children who would like to escape the humdrum of the usual world. That’s why Michael pleaded in the interview for more adults to take to their hearts the children.

Michael made his case for bonding as families, stating that families are broken, children are traipsing into schools with weapons to kill, boys and girls are left with play stations rather than parents, and basically homes are falling apart because love simply is not there for sons and daughters.

In his own way, Michael obviously is trying to make the world over. He said that if the children all of a sudden were wiped off the planet, he himself would jump to his death. The world would not be a friendly place if the children were gone.

Knowing that Michael has made these feelings some of his deepest emotions, is there any wonder then that he has opened his 3000 acres to children — disadvantaged in particular?

"I tuck the children in at night," he says. He gives them treats to eat, turns up the fire in the fireplace, plays soothing music and then goes beddy-bye with the children. In the morning, they wake up to the sunshine to play some more on the train rides.

If Michael comes into the money to recreate a childhood for himself and children, why not? If he gives his heart to his fans by hugging them in the shopping malls — instead of snubbing them in favor of snipping his nose in the air — why not?

"I am Peter Pan in my heart." Michael believes this. He has thought it through. He has lived with the persecutors who have tried to strip him of his fantasies but he persists nevertheless. Why not? Is there a crime in that?

So what if his favorite pastimes are balloon fights and climbing trees? He could be pushing drugs or gambling his money in Vegas. He could be a card carrying Mafia fellow.

And what about that Berlin scene of hanging his child over the balcony? Of course, since Michael is the center of eccentricities, it is the immediate impulse to broadside him for that split second act. But when listening to Michael’s rationale — his explanation of why he did what he did — I sat back and thought him to be quite the fun guy.

He did not mean to harm his child. He was simply in a typical playful mood by which, overcome by the adulation from his fans outside in the streets, he showed them his prize — his child. He never had any intention of hurting the child; one can easily reason that if one wants to reason that. And that is the reasoning I chose in hopes of being fair to Michael.

As a teen, Michael was taunted by his looks. There were the pimples. "I never looked at myself in the mirror. I had pimples badly. My father teased me about my appearance. He’d tease me real bad about it. He’d say, ‘You didn’t get it from my side of the family.’ I’d go to the bedroom and cry. ‘God! Your nose is big.’ I wanted to die and on top of it all I had to go on stage in the spotlight. I would’ve been happier wearing a mask."

So his three children wear masks in public so as to hide their identities. To this I ask myself: Why not? Why not indeed? It makes sense after what Michael has been through. Further, it makes sense when living with the daily fear that his children could be kidnapped.

Michael himself lives behind a mask. A mask of a troubled past. A mask of heart hurt because of a violent father. A mask of loneliness in exceptional hunger for connection, for approval, for family, for hugs and kisses that are real.

What is so sad is that Michael will never be able to go back as a little boy to find a caring, loving father. That is impossible. Michael knows that.

So what is there left for a wealthy man who reaches out to care and share? Well, one option is exactly what Michael has crafted for himself — a playland for children, including his own childlike heart.

Email J. Grant Swank


Joseph Grant Swank, Jr., Pastor, New Hope Church, Windham ME

Graduate of accredited college (BA) and seminary (M Div) with graduate work at Harvard Divinity School.

Married for 41 years with 3 adult children.

Author of 5 books and over 2000 articles in various Protestant and Catholic
magazines, journals and newspapers. Writer of weekly religion column for
PORTLAND PRESS HERALD newspaper, Portland ME.

Hobbies: Traveling to South America, Europe, Middle East, Canada; writing;
watercolor painting; meeting new friends.

Current occupations: Pastor; Teacher at Alternative Learning School for
at-risk youths.

Pastorates: Calgary, Alberta; Indianapolis IN; Akron OH; Fishkill NY;
Manchester CT; Walpole MA; Windham ME.

Winner of First Prize Writing Contest which yielded a three-week guided tour
of the Middle East.

Columnist for websites: MensNewsDaily.com, IntellectualConservative.com, MichNews.com,
Chalcedon.com, rePUNK.com, ConservativeTruth.com, FreeRepublic.com (USO Canteen Chapel link), WoundedShepherds.com (Insights link).