Monday, January 5, 2015

Second Listen: Weasel Stomping Day

This month I’m going to focus on songs. I am sure that we have all had dance parties by ourselves before, and turned up the volume when the rest of the world got too loud, and that is a perfect way to experience music.

Music is our entertainment, but it also tells stories and shares ideas. Sometimes we don’t listen to the lyrics, and that’s fine. Other times I think some songs deserve a Second Listen, and so that is what we’ll be talking about on Mondays this month, since we finished the Not Upset series.

I’ll present a song and some thoughts, and we’ll see where it goes, okay?

Weasel Stomping Day (Weird Al)

(If you’re having trouble with the video, you can click here to go to Youtube and here to read the lyrics. I’d suggest watching or reading before reading the rest of the post.)

At first glance, this is a comically upbeat song about killing weasels for fun. There are a lot of holidays and reasons to celebrate that I have come across in my research, but approximately zero of them have ever suggested that in order to celebrate we have to put mayonnaise on the front lawn. Wear a Viking hat! Stomp on weasels! It’s a day just for the kids!

Still, I can’t help but feel that Weird Al was thinking about something else when he wrote this.

“You'll know what this day's about When you stomp a weasel's guts right out!”
On the one hand, yeah, it’s about squishing weasels, but to me this sentence implies a reaction. You squish a weasel, and you feel something—in the case of the song a kind of barbaric satisfaction.

“Grab your boots and stomp your cares away!”
This is a call to action, and an invitation to take action rather than face emotions, doubts, or concerns. Hm.

“Why we do it, who can say? But it's such a festive holiday!”
The focus is on the celebration, not the reason why it exists, or the implications of the day’s actions will mean. People ignore the question and skip to the smiles.

“It's tradition, that makes it okay!”
And the killer: it’s been done so long we don’t question its morality anymore.


I’m going to say that I love and hate tradition all at the same time. In many ways, our traditions tell us where we come from and who we are—for example, every year on Independence Day my dad sits us down and reads us the Declaration of Independence. At school we have a moment of silence on 9/11 for those who died in the bombing. On church holidays we have liturgies to celebrate important events, knowing other churches are doing the same.

There’s a lot of traditions out there, many of which exist to remind us where we came from and to celebrate or mourn that which has already happened. I, for one, think that is a super cool thing we can do to keep our memories alive.

But tradition doesn’t make everything okay. I mean, on the one hand there’s a certain order the candles have to be lit at church, which I think is silliness because the order is inefficient. But candles are not the world’s biggest problems.

People get killed because of tradition. “This is the way we do it” has been the excuse to kill witches and gay people and religious dissenters and Jews and communists and all the other people who are “not like you.”

Sometimes people don’t even have to die. Torture. Abuse. Exclusion. There’s a lot of options out there.

Weird Al gives it a cheery tune and a fun animation, but that is where the irony lies. He is parodying US. Because as nice and safe and harmless as some of our traditions seem to be, traditions can also act as a blinder, and an excuse not to ask the questions that really matter.

And when we don’t ask, that’s when we know we’ve lost.

Flickr Credit: Karunaker Rayker

What stood out to you when you took a second listen? Do you appreciate Weird Al’s irony, or do you have another take on what tradition gives or takes away?

4 comments :

  1. Well, this is an odd song...I loved how you delved deeper and was able to find the true meaning behind the song, even though it's really hidden. I think you're right! A lot of people mindlessly practice traditions without knowing why. They also mindlessly listen to songs without trying to find out what the song truly means. :)

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    1. It really is odd, and that's why I listened closely to the lyrics. XD But yes, we do silly things like live in ignorance and listen to Weird Al all the time. :) Glad you took the plunge and took a second listen!

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  2. When he said “It's tradition, that makes it okay!” I guessed that you would talk about it because I was like 'Wait what? No!'

    Great post! I love exploring the deeper meaning behind songs.

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    1. XD Our spidey-senses were tingling! :) But, I'm glad you enjoyed taking a second listen!

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