Beliefnet
Rabbi Shmuley Unleashed

America
continues to be gripped by Jon and Kate Gosselin whose marriage has now
gone belly up and whose TV show seems to be following suit. After TLC
informed Jon that he will no longer play a significant role in the
show, he informed TLC that he is pulling the plug on his children’s
participation. Many cried foul. Was this a form of perverse payback?
Was he pulling his kids from the show for the right reasons or was it a
selfish comeuppance?

For his part Jon says that he planned to
pull his kids from the show way before TLC took their action and that
his only consideration was the welfare of his kids.

My response: who cares? Does it matter what the motive is. Get the
kids off the show. They don’t belong there as they suffer through the
anguish of their parents divorce. And clearly someone here has to be
the adult. And it seems to me that TLC, as a responsible broadcast
network, has to understand that now that the Gosselins experiment in
fame has ended in disaster it is time to give this family some alone
time whether they want it or not. And that especially applies to
vulnerable young children.

(Full disclosure. I spent a very brief time counseling Jon Gosselin to do exactly this. Get your kids off the show).

My own parents divorce was about 35 years ago. I don’t think I have
still completely recovered. I cannot imagine what it would have been
like to have TV cameras in the house as it happened. I was in enough
pain without having to become a fish in a fishbowl or wonder how people
pitied me.

What is even more puzzling is that TLC really is a different kind of
network. They spent millions of dollars sending me around the United
States healing families in crisis on ‘Shalom in the Home.’ And yes, it
was for TV. But a boatload of extra money was spent keeping me in
people’s homes well after the shows were completed to try and offer
some help. So why would they now fiddle while this family crashes and
burns?

Then there are Jon and Kate themselves. In a recent interview Kate
joked that ‘aliens’ had come and abducted her real husband and replaced
him the partying animal portrayed by the media. She was both right and
wrong. It wasn’t an alien. It was something called fame. And it wasn’t
just Jon. It affected Jon and Kate, both Jon and Kate were carried away
by its current until the entire family crashed against the rocks.
Clearly before the show these were good, balanced people. They loved
kids, had a huge family, and loved each other. They started the show to
help pay their bills. As a father of nine I know the astronomical costs
involved. But little did they realize that fame exacts a far higher
price.

It’s not that fame is itself a bad thing. Judaism argues, wisely,
that everything in life is neutral and it is the use to which you put
the item in question that will determine whether it is a blessing or a
curse. Many celebrities – Bono and Oprah are fabulous cases in point –
have not only survived fame but have consecrated their notoriety to
causes larger and more worthy than themselves. It is, rather, fame
without foundation, celebrity without balance, that is so deeply
corrosive. And once you see that the fame has become an addiction and
that you can no longer eat breakfast without simultaneously blogging
about it, it’s time to go cold turkey, at the very least until you can
once again find your bearings.

Above all else, you dare not infect your children with your own
insecure need to always be in the spotlight. Kids are naturally
natural. They have no affectations and they don’t care what people
think of them. Why rob them of that innocence by thrusting them in
front of a camera in their formative years? And why continue making
them live their lives in the public glare when they are having to deal
with extremely painful emotions?

In my new book The Michael Jackson Tapes: A Tragic Icon Reveals His
Soul in Intimate Conversation, Michael is positively eloquent about the
scars left by being forced to become a childhood performer at such a
young age. He relates how trapped he felt as he travelled in his limo
to recording studios, all the while eyeing other children who were
lucky enough to simply play on monkey bars and have their parents push
them on the merry-go-round. Funny thing, that. All of us wish we were
the ones in the back of the limo. Yet all Michael wanted was the
trappings of a normal childhood. We all know the rest of the story. And
there is no happy ending.

Since the book’s publication I have discovered many critics who
object to my using Michael’s life as an American morality tale, even
though one of Michael’s principal purposes in sitting down with me to
do the interviews for the express purpose of publication was to warn
parents of the dangers of childhood neglect. In particular, many in our
celebrity-obsessed culture have reacted negatively to Michael’s
warnings about fame. Shooting the messenger seems alot more convenient.
Michael has been criticized for being a poor spokesman for family
values and I have been accused by some of Michael most diehard fans of
publishing the book for profit, even though the book was sold for an
extremely modest advance and a large portion of any potential profits
will go to fund my and Michael’s longtime dream of a national family
dinner night, which I am realizing through an initiative called “Turn
Friday Night into Family Night.” But does it really make sense that the
most famous entertainer of our generation should die under such tragic
circumstances and the rest of us learn nothing from his life?

And the main lesson? All the cameras and adoring fans in the world
can scarcely heal the broken heart of a child forced on a stage too
soon.

Rabbi Shmuley has just published The Michael Jackson Tapes: A
Tragic Icon Reveals His Soul in Intimate Conversation (Vanguard Press).
http://www.shmuley.com

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