Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Ruminating on Rudolf....

The holiday season seems a time for aspirational tales, fables with a moral, stories that deliver that Happily Ever After. Of people behaving not as they 'normally' do, but rising above themselves, their hearts growing several sizes larger—if they are a Grinch—or perhaps just discovering they have a heart—if they are a Scrooge—or countless other examples.

Which is why I have always found Rudolf The Red-nosed Reindeer such a puzzling anomaly in the midst of all the Holiday inspiration. It is such a unshrinking, unpleasant, utterly accurate depiction of man's inhumanity to man—or within the animal metaphor, reindeer's incaribouity to its fellow kind.  There is no Yuletide moral compass to note what I would see as Naughty and Not Nice behavior. But perhaps no one else feels as I do.

Do people pay attention to the text? Are all the Rudolph song-singers, players and supporters advocating that if someone looks different from you, you should indeed: "laugh and call him names/They never let poor Rudolph/join in any reindeer games." So ridicule, exclusion and humiliation is the correct response to someone who doesn't look or act just like you?

Not to say that that isn't many people's fearful, small-minded response at being faced with someone different from themselves.  But it demonstrates a lack of confidence, compassion, imagination, vision that is so. . . pathetic and sad.

Of course, the moment someone powerful and important finds the element of difference of use: "Then all the reindeer loved him/as they shouted out with glee,/Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, /you'll go down in history! "

Again, a totally accurate life-lesson: You will be excluded and vilified unless and until you become important. Then everyone that spurned you will adulate and worship you. Do you think Robert May was a clear-eyed realist, or a total cynic? Hmmm.  Hard to say.

We learn everything we really need to know in Kindergarten, and it's not pretty. I think some spend much of the rest of our lives trying to do better, be better human beings than we were then.

Here's hoping that the coming year gives us all the gift of accepting—indeed of celebrating our differences—a common theme for romances.  For therein lies our strength.

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