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Elvis Presley

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Elvis Presley

As a writer and also a sort of addiction-ologist I cannot help but observe and reflect on the division of our nation as it pertains to Michael Jackson. The overarching question seems to be should we revere him or should we condemn him? Was he a Semi-God, or a monster? And the whole climate of confusion, as well as the depth of mourning, harks me back to the age of 9 and the death of Elvis Presley. I can remember foggily asking in those sad days...How could this be?

And I can see that it is a question we are all asking again.

And if you expanded this question it might sound something like this... "How could someone so talented, so gifted, so powerfully able to touch human beings have come to this?" And the very way that we were touched by Elvis Presley and later by Michael Jackson seems to indicate a depth of humanity in both that is starkly contradicted by their behavior.

So how do we reconcile this seeming contradiction? We look here and we look there. We split up and take sides. Demi-God-ers face off with Monster-ites. We argue amongst ourselves. Those who want to deny and forget the monstrosities condemn those who want to deny and forget the greatness of The King of Pop. And the same also happens in reverse.

And so we create a house divided in our very nation. And it is the same divided house that has been in existence in millions of torn homes across our nation for years innumerable. And in our 'nation-house' we see the same denial, the same determination to take sides, and the same fierce loyalty and confusion about which side to take that has existed in torn homes forever. And in those torn homes as in our 'nation-home' we see aberrant and criminal behaviors like those of Michael Jackson. And in those torn homes as in our 'nation home' we see loose cannon behaviors like those of Elvis Presley. And in those torn homes, as in our 'nation-home', we hang on for the greatness, and recoil from the depravity. And in those torn homes, as in our nation home, there is one common denominator...the existence of a drug addict, alcoholic, or substance abuser. And now we uncover what is very probably the same common denominator in Michael Jackson in his abuse of prescription drugs.

As an educator in the field of addiction, I pray for the day that we truly understand that drugs and alcohol affect the very way that human beings think. I hope we will someday see that each and every drug, including alcohol, affects the functioning of the human brain in a multitude of ways. And when a person is on drugs and alcohol, he or she cannot be trusted to follow the rules of conscience or values. And the longer the person has been taking drugs or alcohol, the less conscience and values we will see. And as the drugging or drinking progresses, there comes a time when a person's behavior and thinking goes 100% opposite to common values, common sense, and even common human feeling. And there even comes a time when the person's thinking is so askew that he or she will justify the commission of atrocities and crimes even when the drug is not present.

I was a lover of Elvis as much as many of you are lovers of Michael. As such I am sometimes guiltily thankful that the king died before he could reconcile himself to doing something worse than shooting out a television set. I never would have wanted to see atrocity coming from the man who brought tears to my eyes when he sang words like...

"If I can dream of a better land, where all my brothers walk hand in hand, tell me why can't that dream come true."

And yet I have a fear that regardless of Michael and regardless of Elvis, we as a people will go merrily along on our well-worn path, drinking and drugging our way to our own personal versions of Neverland. We will continue to use prescription drugs, over the counter drugs, alcohol, illicit and illegal drugs, club drugs, and some of us will even suck on aerosol cans or drink rubbing alcohol to alter our brains and get high. And we will believe with all of our hearts that what happened to the King of Rock and Roll and what happened to the King of Pop will never happen to us. We will believe that we will never become like them. We will believe that we alone are impervious to the affects of drugs and alcohol on our minds. We will believe like Elvis believed and like Michael believed- thereby creating our own real-world version of "Thriller Night."

Elvis Presley Jailhouse Rock 1957 colour

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