“Hearing ‘DO YOU WANT TO DIE’ screamed at you over and over again is not healthy …”
“Says you,” I interrupted snarkily.
“… especially for people on the edge, I’m trying to help!” my mother shot back.
“No, you’re not. First off, taking something away from people that did nothing wrong isn’t helping anyone. If you were really trying to help, you would take advantage of the free education programs for seniors, get a counseling certificate, and use your time and experience to actually make a difference in someone’s life, not censor music that you don’t like.”
I swallowed hard, adrenalin pumping.
“Second, if someone is so mentally ill that hearing a song ONCE could trigger them to commit violence against themselves or others, they are incapable of thinking or acting logically. The odds are equal that the song could be ‘Kill The Poor’ by The Dead Kennedys or ‘Build Me Buttercup’ by The Foundations.”
I noticed that she was looking through me, barely listening, but I forged ahead …
“Whether you want to believe or not, there is no scientific proof that
anything short of a sustained, steady diet of violent media alters brain activity.”
She was studying me intently. I thought she was about to relent, admit her grievous error, and ask for advice on how to fix it.
“Is this because you’re a straight white man?”
Wow … I read that wrong.
So did she.
Okay, now you’re caught up.
“Ummmm … WHAT?”
“I know that you feel like sometimes you’re not allowed to have an opinion because of the current backlash against straight white men. I think that frustration is what’s driving your irrational defense of a horrible song that you don’t even like.”
And there it was. The fundamental misunderstanding. The gaping hole in her logic.
“You think this is about social politics? No. This is about you making decisions for other people and them not having a say in the matter. But more than that, it’s about creators.
“I’ve kept a roof over my head for more than 20 years now by creating. I know how hard it is to start with nothing and make something meaningful to myself let alone someone else. Multiply that by 11.6 million and change and you get what
the Toadies achieved with Possum Kingdom. They make their living creating. You have no right to deny them that. And you damn sure don’t have the right to deny 11.6 million and change their right to experience what the Toadies created.”
“I never looked at it that way …”
“And that’s the other problem, you never looked at it, or rather, listened to it at all. You made a snap judgement about a song based on four words taken out of context. You didn’t even know what it was about until I Googled the lyrics and told you. Not that it mattered, because you’d already composed your letter to the editor by that point, but what if the song was an anti-suicide anthem, and you just got it banned from your local store because of four words that made you uncomfortable? Who did you help then?”
She stared back at me silently.
“A song came along about four years after Possum Kingdom called ‘Jumper,’ it was by the band Third Eye Blind …”
SIDEBAR: Where are Beavis and Butthead when you need them?
“… that song was about a guy begging his friend to step back from a ledge, do you want to ban that song, too? Don’t answer that, because I want you to think about the Van Halen song ‘Jump’…”
“I’m familiar with it …”
Yeah, you and probably BILLIONS OF OTHERS.
SIDEBAR: If the lip syncing is any indication of how far in the bag Roth was during the shoot, it must have been a long day for the film crew.
“The refrain of that song is ‘Might as well jump, go ahead and jump’. Some claim that it’s about urging someone to commit suicide. But if you read the lyrics, all of the lyrics, it reads to me more like a man telling a woman ‘Hey, you’ve done worse, so why not take a chance on me’ than him pushing someone to plummet to his or her death. Regardless, most people associate the song with pumping adrenalin and partying, not suicide.”
I reached into my pocket, removed my phone and opened a browser window to YouTube.
“My point is, that if no one can agree on the meaning of a song, but it’s nearly universally loved, are you going to ban that, too, just in case the wrong person hears it? Because if you do, you rob the world of things like this …” I said, turning my phone’s screen to face to her and pressing play.
“That’s the power that art has to inspire and empower. Protecting that is more important to me than ANYONE’S personal taste, including my own. Protecting that is worth the risk that someone somewhere with an illness that defies logic may claim someone else’s art as their motivation to commit violence.”
She casually lowered her eyes to the floor, “I see what you’re saying … you’re right,” then slowly raised them to meet mine.
“But I already sent the letter to corporate.”
TO BE CONTINUED.
Tony Marion is a writer and filmmaker who splits time between Lancaster, PA and Baltimore, MD. He lives for the work of Descendents (the band), Chuck Palahniuk and Rian Johnson. Check out the digital embodiment of procrastination he calls his website here.