Kim and I are going to see the musician Joe Jackson perform tonight. We are excited to see this 1980’s icon. When we were dating we discovered that one of the few artists we both liked was Joe Jackson, in fact we both had the same cassette albums. I like Jackson for many reasons, not least of which was how many different kind of styles of music he worked on. I can honestly say that I will be happy no matter which songs he sings tonight, from whatever era they come from.
Jim Sweet, our Caretaker, and I are the same age and we remember the same music. When I told him about the concert Jim tried to remember Jackson’s music but was clearly struggling to recall the artist. I mentioned only one song, “Is She Really Going Out with Him?” and immediately Jim knew whom I was speaking about. I confess that is not one of my favorite Jackson songs and I know why, the song itself speaks of dating angst, of frustration that attractive persons whom we might like to date are not as interested in us as we are in them. This is not knew and that challenge has beset many a junior high, high school and post-secondary heart.
Here are some of the words to the song:
Pretty women out walking with gorillas down my street
From my window I'm staring while my coffee grows cold…
Tonight's the night when I go to all the parties down my street.
I wash my hair and I kid myself I look real smooth
Look over there! (Where?)
Here comes Jeanie with her new boyfriend
They say that looks don't count for much
If so, there goes your proof…
Of course that song could just as easily be sung by a woman about a man or another woman, it makes no difference, all persons, from all genders and in all types of relationships face the reality that whom we find attractive may not find us attractive. And so it goes. I think what find frustrating about the song and about the sentiment expressed in it is the lack of awareness, that the object of our affection is somehow superficial because they are looking for someone physically attractive while we, the virtuous ones, are left alone, our wonderful qualities untapped, unknown, unappreciated. The obvious hypocrisy here should be noted, the fact the singer of this song has noticed the “pretty women” says he is at least as influenced by “looks” as the woman whom he is scorning for her superficiality.
This song is about adolescent unrequited affection but it could as easily be about the current state of grievance that is fueling our culture. Everyone these days is aggrieved, made about being looked down on, being left out, being disrespected, being judged, being marginalized. I certainly understand the need for inclusion. I never ever let someone go “nostalgic” on me, I remind her/him about the limitations of the past (and present), about the reality for women, persons of colour, gays and lesbians and transgendered persons, people living with disabilities and mental health challenges. Stigma is a huge burden to carry and it can crush someone’s will and leave all of us the lesser for it. But now we all want to feel the righteous rage of grievance. Donald Trump and Doug Ford recently won elections entirely based on grievance. It’s hard to understand how two white straight men, both born to great wealth, would feel the righteous rage of grievance, but they do.
As a Minister sometimes, in the midst of a rant or righteous rage expressed to me, especially by persons with much privilege, I ask the simple question, “Have you considered the perspective of the others’ in your story, not just your own POV?” That is not to say we have not been victims of judgment or exclusion but it is good to look at how the other is motivated and how our actions can also be scrutinized for signals of “disrespect”. Looking at situations from points of view that are not just ours is a helpful tool for all of us. Sadly the addictive fury of righteous rage does not allow such perspective to take hold, much less be considered.
Looking forward to a great concert.