Michael Jackson passed away today, and immediately, my cellphone was possessed by a most demonic spirit as tweet after tweet poured in about the subject. My Facebook page is now full of Michael Jackson references, weaving lyrics into their short sentences mourning his death.
In the midst of it, I don’t feel much at all.
While talking to a friend, I mentioned I don’t know what the socially acceptable reaction is supposed to be. Am I supposed to feel sad? Do I wish condolences to his family? I never grew up familiar with his music; while growing up in grade school, he is more the butt of jokes than the subject of adoration; his later life was marred with plastic surgery and dubious acts questioning his mental stability. The later Jackson is the one I am familiar with, and subsequently, I do not mourn much of his passing.
He passed away, from what I understand, unexpectedly, but not terribly violently. He was not the target of a crime, nor did he die after a long, bitter fight against the inexorable march of a terminal disease. He simply went into cardiac arrest, and moments later, he was gone.
My brow has knitted itself now several times as headlines about his passing push out what I feel is more important information – how to deal with the rising cost of healthcare, or the continuing drama of Iran’s citizens as it attempts to establish itself decades after the Islamic revolution. I have never fully immersed myself in the cult of personality, and snobbishly have proclaimed how our culture’s current obsession with the cult of personality often skews us of our priorities. I have been told multiple times growing up that I am an overly serious person.
At this moment, I find myself in an awkward position, surrounded by a thousand eulogies to his life and death, 140 characters long or less. Everyone seems to be sharing memories of his music and their experiences with it. While I pay my respects to his contribution to music and American (and global) culture as a whole (both the good and the bad), other than that, I feel nothing. He has passed, as millions of people do every day, at the twilight of a life filled with both success and hardship. While I feel he deserves respect and mourning, for me personally, there is nothing more special to news of his passing than my periodic glancing over the obituaries in the morning paper.
This worries me somewhat (am I calloused for feeling so?), and certainly puts me at odds with the rest of the world. Older and a bit wiser now, while I am still frustrated his death dominates the news feeds rather than more pressing global issues, I do not think this is particularly bad or good. All I know is a giant, old and weary, at the end of his long life has fallen. I observe with some ruefulness that many of those who now sing his praises and place the laurels upon his tombstone now probably did not think of him once in the past six months; if they did, it was out of scorn or ridicule. But no longer, I suppose. The giant is at rest, and we pay our dues to his memory. While I don’t know him or feel all that connected to him personally, I will pay my respects to him and quietly move on. And hopefully, for the sake of a man I never really felt any emotion for except pity, the world will quietly move on as well, and that the media will leave his memory alone rather than parade it for days, the carcass of a once proud show horse dragged around for the sake of ratings and sentimentality.