Forgive And Forget

By , July 8, 2010 1:22 am

When public figures break the law or do something very bad, forgiving and forgetting can be two very different things.

Two weekends ago, Chris Brown tried to resurrect his career and redeem himself in the eyes of the public with a tribute to Michael Jackson at the BET Awards. The performance was almost a year to the day since Brown pleaded guilty to one count of assaulting his ex-girlfriend, pop singer Rihanna. The first half of Brown’s performance was a dance tribute to Jackson. The second half was Brown weeping to Jackson’s “Man In The Mirror.” He was supposed to sing the song, but Brown appeared as if he couldn’t hold back his tears. I say “appeared” because there are allegations that the tears weren’t real.

Another redemption story came to an end a few hours after Brown’s performance. Robert Byrd – the longest serving U.S Senator in history – died that Monday morning at age 92. Byrd was in the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940′s, voted against Thurgood Marshall’s appointment to the Supreme Court and filibustered against the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Then in the late 1960′s, Byrd had a turnaround on race. He supported the creation of the Martin Luther King National Holiday and endorsed Barack Obama for president. How’s that for a switch? A former Klan member endorsing the man who would become the first black president.

Also that same weekend, the world mourned (again) over Michael Jackson’s death. One year after he died, the media and some of the public rehashed the King of Pop’s life, death and money. Though he was never convicted of anything, the allegations of child molestation followed him for over a decade. Those allegations along with the years of strange behavior  - we all know he did, so I won’t list the incidents here – made the Michael Jackson who died into someone different from the one who made hit records. There was one Michael Jackson who was a megastar performer in the 1970s and 1980s and became one of the most famous performers on the planet. Then from about 1993 until his death, he was another Michael Jackson: the guy who once a megastar, but did a lot of weird things and was accused of molesting kids.

I think one reason Jackson’s death was so traumatic to so many is that it could’ve been fantastic to see him perform in his “This Is It” tour. It had the potential to remind both devoted and casual fans why the world loved and admired him so many years ago. But Jackson never made a comeback. We’ll never know if he could have regained his former respect and reputation had he lived and been physically able to tour.

Sadly, I don’t think he could regain them. The abuse allegations and strange behavior were a big part of his image. A child molester label is nearly impossible to scrub from someone’s image. It would have taken a lot for him to completely separate himself from that second Michael Jackson.

Yet, people still love him. The crowd at the BET Awards was cheering both Brown and Jackson.

Which brings us back to the 21-year-old Chris Brown. He is young enough where he has time redeem himself. He has said he grew up in an abusive household, so he could speak out against domestic violence. As someone who knows where that anger comes from and has been on the receiving end of it, he could be a powerful voice against domestic abuse.

West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd, the longest serving member in the United States Senate, died at the age of 92 on Monday, June 28, 2010. Bryd served more than 50 years in the Senate after being elected in 1958. He was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1952. He is shown on Capitol Hill in a June, 2008 file photo.  UPI/roger Wollenberg/Files Photo via Newscom

How long do you hold a grudge against public figures? Are some transgressions forgivable while others are not? You could hate Robert Byrd for being in the Klan back in the 1940′s and voting with segregationists in the 1960′s, but does being pro-Civil Rights since the late 1960′s – longer than I, and perhaps some of you, have been alive – redeem him? Byrd was constantly apologizing for being in the KKK, and he should have been. More than that, though, he tried to right some of those wrongs for more than 40 years.

Yet, even toward the end of his life and in death, some people couldn’t forget Byrd’s past – even if it might be to score political points. So, when Chris Brown is an old man, could he still be known as the singer who hit his girlfriend, even if he is an advocate against domestic violence? Jackson was never convicted of any of the child molestation allegations against him, but they still lingered along with his weirdness. Could he have ever broken away from the labels and caricatures to regain his Thiller-level cache.. and dollars?

When it comes to public figures, at what point do you forgive and can you ever forget?

Leave your comments below.

5 Responses to “Forgive And Forget”

  1. Beth says:

    The primary difference between Chris Brown and Senator Byrd is that Senator Byrd spent decades apologizing (not denying, but apologizing) for his previous involvements and viewpoints, and then worked for decades taking responsibility for his past, and fighting for a better cause.

    Chris Brown’s most famous act of all time was getting arrested for beating up a girl. Now what’s he doing to reform his image – volunteer at a battered women’s shelter? Nope. Speak out to other abusers? Nope. He’s trying to become a *bigger* star by tugging on the heartstrings in a sappy performance.

    When Chris Brown spends 40 years of his life embracing his wrongdoing, apologizing for his transgressions, donating time, money, and energy tirelessly speaking out against abusing women and not strutting on a stage to regain some of his lost stardom, I will believe that he’s reformed…and will consider forgiving. (Did he donate his payment for that performance to a battered women’s shelter? Hmmm…) Until then? I’m not cheering.

    As for Michael Jackson? He lost his way a long time before the child molestation allegations, and wasn’t ever going to find his way back… Sadly, the greedy pirhannas of the starstruck world were circling him and never let it go.

  2. Yeah, not a good start for Chris Brown. I’m optimistic and hope he’ll actually do something good apart from entertaining. Only time will tell.

  3. Denise says:

    Wow…I don’t think Michael Jackson’s name is at all synomous with child molestation. I think if we’ve learned 2 important things about Michael Jackson in the past year. “This Is It” showed he was ready, willing and able for a major comeback. His voice sounded even better than it did 25 years ago, and he could outdance much younger performers. We also learned that the allegations against him were just that. At his memorial service, 2 members of Congress made a motion to officially clear his name as part of the congressional record.

    I think too many people believe what they read in the tabloids because it’s easier than seeing that some celebrities are more normal than we give them credit for.

    Also, we know that Michael’s evolving appearance was due to his vitalgo (it was in his autopsy) and the severe burns he suffered in 1984.

  4. Michele says:

    MJ was an incredible performer – that is without doubt. And, he inspired many around the world.

    And, I have to say that he also had some serious mental issues. He had so many plastic surgeries that he hardly had any cartilage in his nose left. And, actually MJ did use skin bleaches as well. I have that news on good authority. It’s quite sad that someone would have so low self-esteem that s/he could never be satisfied with her/his true self.

  5. Michael Jackson was definitely talented. The This Is It tour and whatever else he planned on doing in music would have been an opportunity for the public to once again see how talented he is. No one said he was synonymous with child molestation, but those charges, the circus at the trial over those charges and everything else unrelated to the allegations – plastic surgery, wearing surgical masks in public, his two marriages, dangling babies, and much more – created an a image of Jackson that didn’t further his musical career or showcase his talent. So, as I said, the fact that he was possibly on the verge of a musical comeback, makes his death even more tragic.

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