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What Are You Singing?

November 10, 2010

The H household has been filled with music lately.  I rediscovered Pandora one afternoon when I was typing on my school laptop and didn’t want to turn on my personal one (ah yes, if we all suffered from those problems in life… I know…), and I have fallen in love with the variety of music I can get with a simple brainstorm of music I would enjoy.  My favorites right now have to the the simple “Christmas” search (what?  Halloween is over!  Don’t judge!) and the “Why Do You Build Me Up Buttercup?” station.

Listening to this music, I realized (1) how responsible for lyricide I am on a personal level and (2) just how many songs we sing without actually understanding the meaning.  My sophomores have recently started the novel The Plague Tales by Ann Benson, which, as the title suggests, is a fictional tale about the Black Plague.  When introducing my students to some key happenings and themes, I asked if anyone had an understand of what the plague really was.  Many knew that people died and that it was spread through insects (I told them more specifically it was fleas), but when I asked how it affected today’s culture, they were stumped.  Do you even know how it has affected your upbringing?  Do you?  Check this out:  the song “Ring Around the Rosie” is about the plague!  Gross, right?  “Ring around the rosie” refers to the red rings that would swell up around the boils the infection would cause on the skin.  “Pocket full of posies” is talking about how people would carry around pockets full of petals to hide their faces in to block out the stench of rotting corpses everywhere.  “Ashes, ashes” is namely the dead being burned in the streets, and “we all fall down” gets to the heart of the matter; everyone pretty much dies from the affliction.  While school children sing it without a care in the world, they are using historical references to a pandemic that killed millions of people.  What happy lyrics!

As for another more serious instance, we teach small children (who happen to celebrate Christmas or go to public schools that refuse to acknowledge any other winter holiday) the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and glorify it.  Dear children, isn’t it wonderful that Rudolph was surrounded by selfish, shallow, like-minded crap heads who made fun of him because he didn’t happen to fit into their inbred society, but when he became useful, they all accepted him because he could do them a solid favor?!  YAY!  Seriously people?  Really?  Those reindeer AND Santa are super shallow, bordering on reindeer racism.  How many times has history repeated itself with the same pattern?  Let see… shall we name a few?  The Pilgrims and the Native Americans, slavery (though this is still debatable if it will ever stop having this pattern in one way, shape, or form), Jews, and, most currently in pop culture, gays.  How many times can we play dumb when we are clearing teaching our children that it’s okay to just roll over when people decide to be incredibly rude and stupid?

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Somewhere within Rudolph may be a story of some acceptance, but you really have to dig.  The clay-mation animation was ground-breaking, so there’s a few brownie points for the story, but we really need to look at what we are simply accepting at face value.

Do you know what you are singing?

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