Why I’m mourning Michael Jackson’s death

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This is Michael Jackson the year I was a senior in high school.

It’s a little before 6:00 a.m. CST as I write this and I’ve been listening to the BBC World News stream on WPLN.org. I’ve been struck by how the world is reacting to the news that Michael Jackson died.

Not only is it the dominate story on the BBC broadcast, the report includes news of how TV networks in countries around the world broke into their regular programming to report the news. The flood of queries to Google from around the world led the service to interpret what was taking place as a malware attack. (Doc Searls, as a “live web” record, took a “snapshot” of a Google and Twitter search mashup at time the news of Jackson’s death was announced.)

There’s a big part of me that wants to ask, “What’s wrong with people?” Don’t they know Michael Jackson is bizarre?

But then, I think back to before Michael Jackson became so bizarre and the statement I heard someone make years before the fall of the Iron Curtain. They said, “If we want to defeat communism, we should forget nuclear weapons and load up cargo planes full of Levi jeans and Michael Jackson tapes (this was a pre-CD era) and drop them over eastern-bloc countries.”

Michael Jackson’s music, like it or not, is part of the essence of American culture (at least, the “pop-” kind of culture) that people all over the world find appealing, even when they’ve been programmed all their lives to believe America is the Great Satan.

It’s the music and incredible talent of Michael Jackson, not that bizarre person he became, that people are mourning today. That, and something a little more personal.

I was in high school when the Jackson Five hit the big time. You know what that means: Michael Jackson was a big part of the soundtrack of those years of my life. And the soundtrack of that part of your life sticks with you for the rest of your life. That soundtrack is engrained into you brain as a part of way too many important things in your life, you can never completely flip it off. It’s like a permanent playlist in your mind that starts playing whenever you encounter something that makes you think of anything related to that era.

I think we all get crazy in our obsession with the deaths of someone like Michael Jackson because he was there, singing in the background, when we experienced so many things we hold dear.

The music is still there. The memories are still there. But if Michael Jackson can die, does that mean a part of us dies with him?

I think that’s what we mourn.