I spent a couple of summer weekends of my adolescence in the sweet summer heat of Hunt, Texas located in the Texas Hill Country. There is a great facility out there by the name of Mo-Ranch which hosts large conferences and camps. Among it’s many amenities, I remember heading to hot springs in clear bluish green water and soaking in the rays, well past the expiration of my sunscreen. While I did receive a plentiful burn one year in particular, I still recognize the natural beauty that I was able to experience because of an ability to attend.
On the way to Mo-Ranch, I remember seeing Stonehenge II, a plaster and graphite metal mesh recreation of the original mysterious stones in England. At the time I passed them looking out of the windows of a white 15 passenger van, they stood on resident and patron Al Shepperd’s property, constructed by neighbor Doug Hill as an amusing art project. Since the same property was sold in 2010 and new owners reportedly considered tearing down the piece, The Hill Country Arts Foundation now hosts the works, a few 8 miles from their original location along with a couple of 13 foot Easter Island Heads.
When rushed-ly passing through Ingram on my way back from Big Bend, I stopped off at HCAF for a shot. The area around the work was covered with burrs, so be careful when you bring your crew out, and if you really feel like making a day out of it, there is a big Dam nearby that quite a few sun loving folks enjoy when the weather is nice.
The track this week is potentially controversial, but I also find it necessary to address some opinions that I hope will at least clarify my point of view on a topic. The track is “Rock With You” from Michael Jackson’s 1979’s “Off The Wall” LP. Recently, HBO released a documentary entitled “Leaving Neverland” which alleges sexual molestation nearly 20 years ago by Jackson. As a result, many radio stations have recently made a choice to pull Jackson’s music from their rotation across airwaves in light of the allegations.
I am the type of person that believes in listening to victims. Their stories, while haunting, in many cases provide strength and empowerment through sharing. There is a reframing of traumatic events that after experiencing near devastation, someone who has survived with time and work are able to declare victory over. They no longer have to be defined by that event.
I am also the kind of person that believes in a presumption of innocence until proven guilty. That is part of why I think the conversation around Jackson is something I struggle with. It is hard to try a person for any kind of crime nearly a decade past their death. Jackson spent many years denying similar allegations (once in 1993, settling out of court with a family and then again in 2004 where he was found not guilty by a jury).
The persona of who Michael Jackson was, in my opinion, played a role in the public not understanding some of his widely tabloid-publicized behavior. To be fair, Micheal did carry himself with seemingly peculiar standards of fashion, vanity, and friendship. I wonder how much of that was a press stunt versus who Jackson actually was.
But of the many questions that arise, I also find myself wondering what it is that as a society we can do to better understand the multidimensional lives of artists and how we separate the work they spent years creating from even alleged misconduct. To be clear, I do not support the abuse of any kind of any person. I just don’t think that the burden of proof was ever met for Jackson and his untimely death does not help to clear up the allegations.
Which, leaves me to stand by, at least that in the case of Jackson, because no jury convicted him of a crime, that we can keep a song choice in place from the 2018 scheduling of a blog post.
However, in the event that new evidence is presented which changes the understanding of events, I believe this to be a call to seek in equal measure; justice, mercy and humility. Justice for the victims. Mercy for the trespasser. And Humility to understand that someone’s action or inaction in a situation does not define a lifetime of decisions.
I hope the participants of the HBO documentary find the closure and strength that they are pursuing.
I’m still wrestling with work / life balance and how that applies to how we perceive and appreciate art including the execution of justice, mercy and humility.