Thursday, December 17, 2015

Why I Super, Mega, Effing Despise the Song "Christmas Shoes"

(because I try as much as possible not to use the word "hate" trivially...)

Consider this the cranky, grumpy, Oscar-the-Grouch sequel to Tuesday's "If Denominations Were Christmas Carols."

Because while I actually like a lot of different Christmas carols--mostly the religious ones, if I'm honest, because most of the secular songs are really creepy (Baby, It's Cold Outside), really long (Twelve Days of Christmas), or just plain suck (Santa Baby).

But no Christmas song receives as much of my grinchy ire as Christmas Shoes.

I won't link you to the song, because I don't want to drive up its hits.  Instead, I'll link you to Patton Oswalt talking you through the song's lyrics (NSFW language because, well, it's Patton Oswalt).

Now, Patton Oswalt might be an outspoken atheist, but he is the very best kind of outspoken atheist.  His way of breaking down of religious wars as conflicts over sky-cake versus sky-pie is genius, and he is generally way too self-effacing to be the sort of pompous blowhard of an atheist that really grinds my gears (think Richard Dawkins or, when he was still among the living, Christopher Hitchens).

Oswalt's takedown of Christmas Shoes is similarly excellent, and if you haven't listened to it before, I highly suggest you do so now.  Go ahead, it's only several minutes, and I'm happy to wait here.

Okay.  While I'm down with Oswalt's R-rated rant about the song, he really could have gone so. much. further.

The poor kid, as he puts it, is a "Dickensian street urchin."  It's a pathetic image, and it's pathetic on purpose.  Those of us with any money are total control freaks with that money, and we want to be able to choose who is worthy of our help and who isn't.  This mentality pops up in the most innocuous of ways--every single Christmas season, without fail, I'm asked by some (thoroughly well-intentioned) do-gooder or another to pick a family in the community to help give Christmas to, as though my moral compass allows me the ability to divine that family's situation and thus evaluate if they are more worthy or in need of help than their next-door neighbors that I've met, like, once.

This mentality comes up outside of the holiday season, too.  You may have seen this shared on Facebook from time to time:

This kid in Christmas Shoes, by basically looking like Pig Pen from the Peanuts cartoons, is totally meant to appease those prejudices.  Except that if you actually talk to people who are poor, maybe not living-on-the-streets poor but still very much impoverished, you'll discover that they often will go to great lengths to try to keep up their appearance because it is one of the few things they can still control in their lives.  It lends them a sense of pride and dignity.  It helps them to feel human again.  Their appearance is a BFD to them, and understandably so.  But they still need food stamps to buy groceries, and yet because they don't look like this mangy kid in this song, we judge them for it.

Then this pipsqueak pays for the shoes for his mom in pennies.  I have never, ever seen someone do that, regardless of income level, unless it was purely out of spite (like, say, for an impound fee when your vehicle gets towed).  It's utterly absurd, in the purest sense of the term.  Poor people who live outside of the banking system (which is a surprisingly large number of households--as many as 1 in 13) don't pay for stuff in pennies, they pay for it either in greenbacks that they had to pay a high commission for through a check-cashing outlet, or with Visa/MasterCard gift cards that are almost universally accepted but that come with steep, unjustifiable activation fees.

It's a scenario that is not even remotely realistic, not by a long shot.  And I might be willing to forgive even all that if Christmas Shoes were simply another in the long aforementioned line of crappy secular Christmas carols.

But it isn't.  It's a Christian song, performed by a Christian band.  And it shows a complete, utter cluenessness bordering on outright prejudice, towards the poor whom we are supposed to be on the side of, because Christmas celebrates the birth of a Messiah born into poverty so grave, he was born in an effing feeding trough for barnyard animals.

And the song doesn't give a damn about any of that, and only cares about the cranky protagonist of the song (who I now fear I may in fact be even grumpier than now--I've been writing for a while now) deciding that he knew what Christmas is all about again.

EXCEPT HE DOESN'T.  He doesn't know what Christmas is all about.  Christmas is about God becoming flesh so that the poor could be set free from their poverty, so that the oppressed may be liberated from their oppression, so that the outcast may finally be let in from the cold and back into the warmth of the inn.

It's not about a pair of bloody shoes.  It never has been.  It never will be.

And that, friends, is why I super, mega, effing despise the song "Christmas Shoes."

Longview, Washington
December 17, 2015

Image of super-gaudy Christmas shoes courtesy of Pinterest

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