There is much in the news this week concerning the unexpected death of Michael Jackson. Although we are the same age, having grown up through the sixties and seventies, understanding the culture as we aged, we have virtually nothing in common. I have never been much of a follower be it music or anything else. I am not a member of a particular organization or group that I patron on a regular basis. I do not keep up with news of celebrity although I do follow current events. I keep a close circle of friends, a wider circle of acquaintances and maintain a strong bond with family.
Allowing for all of that, one phenomenon that has always flummoxed me is the irrational outpouring of emotion for the death of a national celebrity. This is not about Michael Jackson so much as it is about any celebrity that dies. The general public has no ties with that person short of listening to their music or watching a film, etc. When there is an unexpected celebrity death or one such as Farah Fawcett who had been in ill health for many years, my reaction is generally, 'that's too bad'. I am saddened but never have I been overwhelmed.
Growing up and coming from a very large extended family (as I generally count aunts and uncles near forty) it was not uncommon to attend several funerals per year due to the death of a family member. Perhaps I have developed a slight immunity over the years though I have shed tears at three such events, two of which were my parents and all involved family. I could understand this phenomenon more if it were for a revered leader such as FDR or Winston Churchill who led nations through war or some similar figure. I cannot fathom the hysterical nature of fans and others upon the deaths of celebrity figures. Michael Jackson was an entertainer, nothing more. I was not particularly a fan of his music though I don't denigrate those who are. He was not overly philanthropic that I am aware of and had his share of 'off the stage' problems, but no one is perfect. Still, the mass of pictures and flowers piled at his house, outside the hospital or anywhere else just mystifies me.
Growing up I was a fan of John Wayne, Johnny Carson and just a few others. Ronald Reagan is the man I would call 'my president' yet even for these men though saddened upon their deaths I could not envision myself having uncontrolled fits of weeping, chest-pounding or other hysterical acts. Do others have so little to fulfill their lives they must live through the antics and status of celebrities?
Love those who are close to you and have impact upon your own life. It's their deaths that will have the most meaning. Ask yourself this; how sincere are you if you show more emotion on the death of a celebrity you never met than that a family member?