An icon is a strange thing. There's no denying their existence-- Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Babe Ruth-- America is a nation obsessed the monuments of its own greatness, and the figures that become icons are rarely those figures that the sociologists would expect.
But the current proposal before the House Foreign Affairs Committee to officially recognize Michael Jackson as an "American legend, a musical icon, and a global humanitarian" is not just ill-fated, but calls into question the very idea of how our icons arise.
But more importantly, the concept of an official body electing to assign the title of "icon" is a direct affront to how our icons naturally arise. The American icon tends to arise from the successful marketing of an easily appealing product. Few, for example, would argue that Marilyn Monroe was the most beautiful woman of her period, nor that James Dean was the greatest actor, nor even that Jackson was the most talented musician. And certainly, no one ever was revered as an icon simply because they were recognized in an official proposal by the United States Government. To put it plainly, no one was elected prom queen for being an honor roll student.
Erect a statue in a public park? Fine. Dedicate a street? Sure. These are all under the purview of a governing body.
But to declare Jackson an icon, to stamp into ink and paper and emblazon with an official seal, the enigmatic title of "icon" is a real head-scratcher. The people of Earth already conducted this election about 20 years ago, and it was unanimous. Is there any need to emboss the papers now?