We came of age with Obama.
This past November our generation, reacting to the final painful throws of our Bush puberty, elected a leader that reflected all the ideals we’d developed through our twenty-plus year childhood. His ascension and election was nothing less than the passing of the crown- now it was ours, now we were admitted into adulthood, now it was our voice heard around the world.
Only six months later, our generation has to carry the burden that comes with adulthood- facing the spectre of death and the irrevocable loss of childhood with the passing of the King of Pop.
Obama is our JFK. Michael Jackson is our JFK. The two of them are our Christmas and Easter, respectively. As hyperbolic as it sounds, culturally they defined our generation like Kennedy did his. One defined our childhood, the other continues defining our first mature steps. Add Kurt Cobain and you have all of our developmental touchstones personified.
We’ve always been finicky about naming our generation- blame postmodernism, the information excess, or our worldwide ADD. The two names I hear often are The Star Wars Generation and The Nintendo Generation. But if I think about my childhood, I would have to add The Michael Jackson Generation to the list. What were we twenty-thirtysomethings doing back then but playing Nintendo, watching Star Wars on repeat and blasting Thriller?
My brother and I used to put on Michael Jackson concerts in the backyard, blasting our Thriller record and rocking out to the entire thing- who didn’t? When Bad first came out the radio would play it on repeat and we wouldn’t change the station. All of us watched not only Thriller but The Making of Thriller more than once. Recently when it was rereleased on its 25th Anniversary the critics were awed- the record hadn’t aged a day.
Michael Jackson’s passing brings to mind the end of my all-time favorite poem, Wallace Steven’s Postcard From the Volcano.
Still weaving budded aureoles,
Will speak our speech and never know,
Will say of the mansion that it seems
As if he that lived there left behind
A spirit storming in blank walls,
A dirty house in a gutted world,
A tatter of shadows peaked to white,
Smeared with the gold of the opulent sun.
R.I.P. MJ – our childhood is amputated, but our generation is fully defined.