Dear Michael,

Dear Michael, killer who thrilled us all
Am I the last disciple with your poster hanging on the wall?
The last one to jam along to a Saturday bang?
The last one to wonder whether Annie is okay?

Dear Michael, they’re reanimating you again
With the funk of 40 thousand years, an unwashable stain
Splattered across the front page, cartoonish, bizarre,
Shattering the image of the world’s brightest star.

Dear Michael, staring in that mirror backstage,
I wish I could know the man you see peering back.
Is he making a change or inflicting pain?
Is he innocent or guilty, white or black?

Michael, maybe you committed unforgivable atrocities.
Perhaps you were the smoothest criminal in world history
But you wrote Will You Be There, Beat It, and Destiny,
Heal the World, Man in the Mirror – and your words are testing me.
Harvey Weinstein never wrote We are the World or Keep the Faith,
Never penned Not Alone, Cry, or Don’t Walk Away.
Kevin Spacey didn’t conceive of JamEarth Song, or Speechless,
didn’t give us Human Nature or They Don’t Care About Us.

I will never know if you were lying all along,
If you put on an act in every word of every song
But I do know that this time, it matters if it’s Black or White
You were either guilty, in the wrong, or innocent and in the right.
Those who have accused you were either lying then or are lying now
But the words they speak must be allowed to sound.
If we ignore the blood of victims, we are equally as guilty
As we are when we condemn those not yet proven filthy.

Dear Michael, I don’t want to believe you were a bad man.
At the same time, I don’t want to believe this is all a cash grab.
But humans are complicated, greedy, clever, grotesque –
I could believe that either side is lying, and that makes me depressed.
One thing I know for certain is that you can no longer speak,
And people want to delete your every squeal, squawk, and shriek.
Someone here is lying and we’ll never grasp the truth
But we can’t allow them to be silenced, nor afford to silence you.

Author’s Note: This poem was written within days of the release of Leaving Neverland and the rekindled accusations against Michael Jackson. The stance I had when I wrote it has not changed: all victims must be heard. If we do not listen to victims, we are as guilty as those who victimized them. Hearing means deeply considering their claims, offering them compassion, and working with them to understand their afflictions and find a path to justice. But hearing is not believing, and anyone who is accused has an equal right to be heard until all the evidence has been examined to determine the truth. When we exact vengeance on the innocent we create new victims rather than help them, and we turn an opportunity for justice into an unjust reality.

In the wake of Leaving Neverland, a large body of evidence has emerged that suggests the claims made in the film are inaccurate, inconsistent, and omit crucial details from its narrative. To my knowledge, none of this rebuttal has been meaningfully engaged with or opposed in any way by the creators of the film. As a human being, I find this entire situation appalling. I would be devastated if one of my musical idols had committed these heinous crimes, and I would be devastated if two men were using such accusations (which are so serious, significant, and so often not listened tosimply for selfish aims. It’s a no-win scenario. All we can do is listen to the body of evidence and let the court of law, not the court of public opinion, distribute justice. Till the day he died, Michael had never been found guilty and had been cleared of all charges, and in my mind, he remains innocent until proven otherwise.

Additional Sources:
Neverland Firsthand – A short documentary rebuttal to Leaving Neverland produced by Liam McEwan and featuring members of Jackson’s family, legal team, and staff at Neverland.

Why I Changed My Mind – A vlog which cultivates a wide array of original court documents and deeply engages with them. If it seems like too much trouble to hunt down these original sources yourself, this is a great resource for you. (Links for the sources are in the video description.)

Debunking Neverland – An off the cuff interview with Taj and Brandi Jackson on their childhood memories of their uncle, Neverland, and Wade Robson.

© Rylan Skelly, April 2019

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