This post really should have gone up before Christmas, but… well, you know. It’s Christmas. Still, I think this is close enough for it to remain topical.
Like everywhere else in the country, the radio stations around here play Christmas music starting at least right after Thanksgiving, good in some cases, not so good in others (one, which shall remain nameless, goes wall-to-wall, twenty-four-hour with holiday cheer. I avoid it like the plague). The station I’ve been listening to the most plays classic hits, so naturally, one of those songs during this season is “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band-Aid, the charity supergroup.
I remember when this song came out—as well as the response song, “We’re Stars” by Hear-N-Aid, the heavy metal charity song organized by Ronnie James Dio—and thought it was okay. I mean, I was into metal at the time, so anything that smacked of pop music was too commercial, even if it was put together by Bob Geldof.
To show you just how much attention I really paid to the song, it’s been out since 1984, and this year is the first time I’ve really listened to what the lyrics say. Most of it is fine, but there’s a passage in there about how there won’t be snow in Africa this year, implying it’s such a truly sad thing, and that means the Ethiopians—the famine there is why the song was released in the first place—are to be pitied that much more. Because it won’t snow. In Africa.
Look, I get it. Africa has its problems. Has had for who knows how long, and probably will for who knows how long. And there’s the idea we’re supposed to help our fellow man. All well and good.
But please, don’t insult my intelligence (which must have been at an especially low ebb, considering how long it took me to pick up on this particular passage) while you’re doing it. I mean, I guess we’re all aware that the pictures we see of starving kids are culled from the way starving kids really look. Evidently, someone somewhere in some marketing department said, “Yeah, that one there? The one that has flies in its eyes and the skinny arms and big belly? He looks too pathetic. Now that one, the one who can still stand up? Use that one. It’ll elicit more sympathy.”
But wanting me to feel sorry for Africans because it won’t snow there? First of all, they should count their blessings. I hate snow and ice. But that’s just a personal thing. Let’s look at reality a bit, shall we?
It’s Africa. As far as I know, with the possible exception of the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, it doesn’t snow in Africa anyway! And since the song is aimed at Ethiopia, a country that sits close to the equator, it’s near enough to the Southern Hemisphere it’s damn near summer in December at any rate.
Yes, I’m poking fun. A quick Google search reveals that it apparently does snow in parts of Ethiopia, so I’m kind off-point here, but I’m honest enough to admit it. Even so, when you picture Africa, do you picture snow? As I thought about this, I thought it might be more common for it to snow in South Africa, but I doubt snow is commonplace on the continent at large, so my dig at the song still applies, in my mind. After all, they’re addressing Africa itself in that particular lyric, right?
The main thing here, folks, is that it’s Christmas—or was yesterday—and we need to lighten up, whether we celebrate this holiday for the religious day it was for so many years (and don’t bombard me with emails/comments about the Catholic Church stealing Yule and all that; I’m well aware of it), or for the commercial fiasco it’s become—or somewhere in between—the point is, maybe for one day a year, or one week, or even one month, maybe we can let go of all the Trump-gay-conservative-liberal-whatever bashing and bash something that really doesn’t matter.
Like a song that plays on our sympathies by pointing out it won’t snow on a country that isn’t necessarily known for getting snow. A song that’s over thirty years old. A majority of whose performers are retired or dead. Or both.
In other words, lighten up, Francis.
And have a wonderful New Year.