It was the summer of 1984. Morning in America and all that. Driving across America in a convertible with no real agenda for once. Just a vacation. With me a now ultra famous ‘Republican pollster’ frequently discussed even in our modest comments section here.
We were somewhere near Iowa or perhaps Missouri. The stars were so bright we didn’t need headlights. Cool night time wind flowing and the radio blaring. And ‘Beat It’ and ‘Thriller’ were on heavy rotation. We were so happy that America could embrace Michael Jackson as simply an astounding superstar, transcending race. He was on another plane of superstardom uniting people. If you were around then, this was also the time the Right Wing Nuts thought ‘Born In The USA’ was effin’ A jingoism. But what mattered was white FM radio and MTV were finally playing (initially grudingly) a Black American genius.
That achievement alone would be a lifetime’s work. But then he and America in the late 1980s and 1990s made the journey together into the soup of disconnected memes and dada-ist commercialized narratives. Voyage to the Bottom of the Jello Bowl. Still, through all the ensuing hype and then 24 hour televised scandal, we always remembered that summer. When Michael Jackson showed that even in Reagan’s America, racial progress could be a reality.
Now we watch tonight and wonder how a rudderless society drunk on promiscuous meme generation and over consumption will deal with this ‘event’. In one sense, one could ask was he alive? Commoditized as a youngster ruthlessly, he lived his life as a brand, was manipulated by coporations as a brand, and pioneered a form of loneliness and emotional distortion just as he trail blazed his moon walk.
Tonight MSNBC has some vapid young woman on their payroll for her ‘entertainment expertise’ admonishing demos that the masses should never forget Michael Jackson’s contribution to ‘culture.’ If one could bottle the irony, it would fuel Jon Stewart’s writers’ room for a year. And if he was the first astronaut into the endless void of commercialized American meta-narratives, it’s also true then that he is not truly dead.
We are also saddened by the passing of Farah Fawcett. The Poster aside, Farah reminds us of the 1970s. True, there was Saigon, Nixon, the Khmer Rouge, the Peanut Farmer and Pet Rocks. But we prefer in many ways the values of the nation during that period aside from lack of racial justice. America had not yet begun its disintegration into mindless goo, consumers at the thrall of business models not even understood by their corporate progenitors.