I'm terribly, terribly sorry.  I lived outside the United States from 1967 to 2006 -- most of my adult life -- and besides, I don't pay much attention to the pop music scene or to the evolution of modern religions.  No one had ever bothered to tell me that pop music and revealed religion had merged here during my absence, thus the earthshaking event of last Thursday came as a great shock to me.

I had heard of Michael Jackson, knew that he was an entertainer -- knew, even, that he was odd looking and that he had a sister who had bared a breast, accidentally or otherwise, before the television cameras during some sort of sporting event.  (None of my friends in Europe, where I was living at the time, could understand why this had created a scandal.  "Was her breast ugly?" was the closest any of them, male or female, could come to fathoming the issue.)  What I did not know, however, was that at some point during my long absence from the country this Jackson fellow had replaced Jesus Christ as the primary object of worship for most Americans.

Fortunately, I was traveling in the Midwest from Friday until Tuesday morning, thus I had the incredible privilege of taking in an enormous quantity of television "news" in hotel lobbies and breakfast rooms, in restaurants, and in a few private homes.  My imagination was fired by the rare chance to see how the early prophets of a new religion manipulate the masses.  And on Saturday, when I realized what was about to happen, I began to tremble all over.  I may not be a follower of any religion, but I've studied the religious music of many great composers and can recite the Nicene Creed by heart; and I knew -- yes, I really knew -- what would take place that day: "Et resurrexit tertia die, secundum Scripturas, / Et ascendit in coelum"....  Thursday-Friday-Saturday.... it was the third day!  The new Savior would be resurrected, according to Scripture, and would ascend to heaven, just as his predecessor had done.

Midnight came and went, in Jerusalem, in LA, and finally at the International Date Line, and nothing happened.  I was horribly disappointed: I admit that I was hoping to see the clergy, who for centuries had been telling everyone about a first resurrection, thrown into disarray by a second one.  But my disappointment was swept away by a new shock.  It seems that millions of Americans were truly surprised to discover that a high-ranking politician -- the governor of a state that, as I recall, opted to fly a Confederate flag over its capitol building only a few years ago -- could be a lying windbag and a hypocrite and could use public funds to go off to Argentina to spend some quality time (is that term still in use, or have I missed the boat again?) with a lover.

These events have made me so ashamed of my ignorance of the society to which I have returned that I am thinking of taking a course in modern American mores, or of reading Mencken for the first time since my teens.  In the meantime, please send substantial contributions to this writer, who is planning the construction, in Manhattan, of the First Church of Michael. ( Look for my postal address in a forthcoming blog entry.)  I'm hoping that the resurrection has merely been deferred.

July 1, 2009 9:38 PM | | Comments (4)


I completely agree with your ideas. I was shocked when there was such an uproar when Michael Jackson died. I mean, yeah it is sad, but people treated it as if it was the end of the world. I dont have much sympathy for this situation.

Mr. Sachs is quite misguided about what was awry here, though understandably so. He mistook the media frenzy over Jackson's death as a reflection of a real frenzy of emotion over the part of the populace, not understanding that this was largely what the late Daniel Burstein dubbed a "pseudo-event." Not that there weren't many bereaved fans of Jackson, but this was nothing like the broad outpouring of emotion at the death of Elvis Presley, which the media of that time had no idea was going to erupt (having worked for a major newspaper back then, I know this for a fact).

Again, what Mr. Sachs should be alarmed by here is not the popularity of a figure such as Michael Jackson but the multifacted, deeply corrupting blend of abjectness and manipulativeness with which the American media has come to address the American public.

If it's any comfort, I'm a bit older than you and have never lived outside the US, and I, too, found myself flabbergasted by the fuss over Michael Jackson's death. The New Yorker, the NY Review of Books--for all I know someone may have exhumed Partisan Review for the sole purpose of bringing out a special number on the King of Pop. That title sounds in my ears like His Imperial Majesty's Chamber-Pot Rinser: what sane grownup would want the job? But plainly we're way behind the times.

So if MJ is JC…would that make Lisa-Marie Presley the new Mary Magdalene?

Furthermore, if my Jewish mother – your sister—shares(d) a birthday with MJ, does that mean she finally gets to celebrate Christmas?

And, finally, I don’t know how to break it to you but there’s a new Madonna, as well.

Love the blog! ~Ben

Leave a comment

Me Elsewhere


Ensemble for the Romantic Century

(These are two organizations that any music lovers in the New York area should get to know.)

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Overflow published on July 1, 2009 9:38 PM.

More NY stories was the previous entry in this blog.

Mostly Mozart, but a little Wagner, too is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.