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Gary, Indiana, and Michael Jackson

Updated: Sep 1, 2021

From Gary, Indiana, to Michael Jackson, the entrails of a dizzying trajectory

I truly believe that you should go to Gary once in your life, if possible, as much as it is nice to go to Los Angeles to walk in his footsteps or to visit his final resting place.

This idea never occurred to me until I found myself there myself.

Of course, the Gary of 2016 was a shadow of the Gary of the 1960s. The family members who were there and with whom we talked told us about the gradual desertion of this town, where most of the houses - especially in Michael's neighborhood, so close to the factory where everyone, including his father, worked - have their windows closed with nailed boards, like in the movies, and look dilapidated.

But you have to go there, at least drive across town, to see how he was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. You also have to stand in front of this tiny house, because it is really tiny, to measure the trajectory he made to get out of there. From this little mouse hole, we can better measure the heights he has reached. When you've been to Los Angeles before, or maybe when you've been near Neverland (which I wasn't, by choice), and you pass by Gary, and you go around, in a few small steps, that dollhouse where they lived so many of them, you understand that he didn't just travel a few thousand miles to the West, but a few billion miles, at the speed of light, to another galaxy.

I went to the maternity hospital where he was born and which looks like a desert. I tried to capture the air, the place, the spirit...

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I walked by the school the siblings attended, where they sang...

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Near the factory and the vacant lot, just behind the house...

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I was born in the Fensch valley (Florange and Arcelor Mittal, everyone, in France, at least, has heard of them) at a time when industry in Lorraine was flourishing, and I could never feel at home there, so it suddenly seemed to me that my home town was Monaco, next to Gary.

But seeing that Michael had grown up, like me, in his early years next to a factory, I thought he must have heard the same sounds of machinery that scared me at night. His endless vehicle bells, the sound of smokestacks venting, the smell of sulphur or hulls (the only thing I liked, oddly enough), and I thought that, without knowing it, all of this must have registered in him and perhaps echoed in me, in an unconscious, reptilian sphere that no one really masters or perceives with intelligence or the senses.

I didn't know all this, but there were some strange parallels in this childhood where music came before everything, even before school, where the hours of work had to be lined up, made up if they weren't done, written down in notebooks under the eye and the pressure of a parent who put everything on you...

Anyway, going to Gary and expecting Michael to be naturally celebrated there (how could it not be?), I fell flat on my face...

In Washington, D.C., where I was going the following week to give a lecture at American University on Dangerous, I was told that Michael was mocked by American academics who preferred Beyoncé or Madonna to him. That he was treated like a puppet, an outcast, a renegade. What a rock on the head! How could one call oneself a scientist and fall, and especially stay, in such clichés and biases?

But that weekend, I would first learn that Michael was also disowned in Gary.

I found this note, which I had written when I returned to Canada, before Washington, because debates were emerging on social networks about two short videos I had posted: it was about the family being forced to organize a tribute they did not want to do and that the presence of fans around the house was disrespectful to the grieving mother. I think this testimony still speaks for itself and highlights the situation as I encountered and felt it then:

1 September 2016

"Regarding Gary, Michael and Mrs. Jackson...

I don't think we can honestly talk about "stalking" or disrespecting Katherine, Michael or the rest of his family regarding the Commemoration they organized this weekend.

It seems to me that one should not judge things by two brief video clips.

Mrs. Jackson came of her own free will and organized this charity weekend of her own free will. In memory of her son and, no doubt, in the same way that she has accompanied him throughout his life, and even more so in the dark and daily hours of his horrific legal battles.

It seems to me that she is a lady who will be devoted to her son until his last breath, and there is nothing we can do about it. She wished to spend a few days in the house more for her son and his family than to comply with any restraint imposed by propriety or the public.

When she came out to see us on Saturday and Sunday, she did so again of her own free will, out of pure kindness, for a very short time. She didn't force it.

According to the family, inside, she spent her time looking at the small group that we were (at the main hours, about fifteen people, at the most, and that, I think, is unfortunate!!!).

The noises we heard were momentary, only due to the surprise and excitement of his sudden and unexpected presence in front of people.

For the rest, there were some musical sequences, but, I can say, most of the time I spent there was a time of recollection. Of silence. The people present were whispering or speaking low. The atmosphere was very fraternal. There was something so soothing about the place, even when there were 15 of us, that I thought it was a counterpart to Forest Lawn. I relived the same feelings.

I do believe, though, that the worst thing would have been to have NO ONE in front of his house.

Because Gary neglects Michael Jackson. No. Gary REJECTS Michael Jackson. It was explained to me that Gary's children don't even know he was born and raised there, and that for many adults, when he is mentioned, they barely respond, "Michael, who?"

Internal community racism? Jealousy? That's not the point.

Mrs. Jackson is fighting tooth and nail with the committee to honor her son's memory with dignity, and she's doing it on her own dime and with donations and contributions from everyone.

No institution, and especially not the city hall of Gary, however held by a black lady, participates and supports the things in NO CASE.

Should she be forced to do nothing, publicly, for her son? Not to lead her fight so that his memory lives on and is even rehabilitated in his fiefdom? Should she really see her doorstep sordidly deserted and empty, under the pretext of "respect"? Wouldn't that have the opposite effect?

I believe that, as always, one must take into account the context to make up one's mind, and not draw too hasty conclusions on the basis of a few images, in the manner of certain types of press.

I don't want to hurt anyone, and I too sometimes take things in a too sanguine and reactive way, but I couldn't not give you more elements, so that you can make, maybe, if you wish, a better idea..."


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