Obama Elected, Michael Jackson Dead, Our Generation Defined

Michael Jackson Tribute

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.

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6 Responses

  1. Matt says:

    The man was undoubtedly an unparalleled performer and a musical genius, but maybe it’s best if we don’t try to whitewash our memories of him. Much of what went wrong for Michael was caused by the schism that we imposed between his public persona and his true self. We, the American public, did to him what we do to so many of our celebrities.

    We built him up with praise and adulation of his talent, then turned on him when his popularity had reached saturation and our appetite could no longer be satiated by simple enjoyment of his art. We feasted like starved rats upon the corpse of his career and public persona, and now some seek to purge our shared conscience of the guilt this brings us after his death by eulogizing his greatness, safely tucking away all memory of the sadistic glee we took in endlessly discussing his every bizarre and eccentric act.

    We do a great disservice to public figures when we whittle down their existences to a mere litany of virtues and sins. Michael, like all people, was neither saint nor demon, but a mixture of both. Hopefully when we remember him, we will remember a human being, one much loved and much abused by the public he worked to entertain.

  2. Matt says:

    Man, that Matt dude sure is a preachy, pretentious son of a bitch, ain’t he?

  3. Man, that Matt dude has probably summed up the MJ problem better than any journalist I’ve read in the past few days (and I’ve read them all). Wonder why he doesn’t write for PopTen?

  4. sam g says:

    true say matt, support u in ur comment. thats exactly wat happens in this world, people brings u up to face encourage and appload but den wen ur gr8, they’d sought to bring u down, yea they tried, they really did but hey he sold more records now dan ever, even more generations who didnt know him doe now and wondering who this MJ was, have u seen in humna history any1 who sold records or entertain or perform as this black man? None! and none could b like him!

  5. jon says:

    I’ve been a huge MJ fan all of my life. Its really ridiculous how much people worship OBAMA. He doesn’t define my life or our generation. Are you serious? The man has only been president for 7 months and you think he defines our generation??

    Michael is totally different, we have actually grown up with this man’s music and videos. OBAMA is just the current fling

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