Sunday, February 19, 2006

Self-Incriminated Under Godwin's Law 

Some time ago our willfully obtuse colleague Jonathan Schwarz of A Tiny Revolution wrote about a song entitled "Stomping Out the Reds," which is occasionally sung, con brio, by the members of the College Republican National Committee at their annual shindigs. The melody, as you might guess, is pinched from the old hymn "Bringing in the Sheaves," but the lyrics have been modernized to reflect the hip, edgy, ironic sensibility of Germany, c. 1944:
Stomping out the Reds, stomping out the Reds,
Passing Bullets through them, stomping out the Reds!

Bayonets bright gleaming, panzers forward steaming,
Hear the Commies screaming, underneath our treads!
Scorn their masses teeming, and their traitors' scheming,
We're the West redeeming, stomping out the Reds!

Stomping out the Reds, stomping out the Reds,
We're the west redeeming, stomping out the Reds!
Mr. Schwarz, who is plainly no exegete, naively took the eliminationist tone of the lyrics, and more specifically the reference to "panzers forward steaming," as an indication that the song was being sung from the viewpoint of a Nazi (rather than, we guess, a Good German). Luckily, the lyricist, a "Dr. Tiomoid" of "Angle," has erupted from his self-imposed obscurity to insist that nothing could be further from the truth, and to give Mr. Schwarz a welcome and long-overdue lesson in both comedy and prosody:
[The song] is, to be sure, taken from The Party of the Right Songbook, of whom [sic] I had the honor to be the editor mumbledy-mumble years ago, and if you'd like I'd be happy to send you a copy -- no doubt half of the songs in it would melt your humor-challenged soul faster than the Wicked Witch of the East [who was, as we recall, crushed by a house -- S.].

I'm certainly happy to learn that it is both popular on the Right and irritative of the Left, but it is neither pro-Nazi nor anti-semitic, except in the fevered brains of those who think that all things German must be one or the other, if not both.

The term "panzer" was chosen (as was the term "barbecue") solely for reasons of assonance and scansion. (Feel free to look them up; we can wait.) After all, when have "panzers" ever used steam engines? The song was created, not to give expression to the darkness visible of the right-wing soul, but solely to provide a tub-thumper that we could sing while drinking. A disappointment, perhaps, but I'm sure that you can cope.
And by the way, "Glory to the Fuhrer" had nothing to do with Hitler. "Fuhrer" just happened to rhyme with "purer," "surer," and "rotogravurer." And besides, all the other trochees (look it up; we can wait) were busy that day.

Isn't it liberating to know that assonance and scansion are the be-all and end-all of songwriting? We had been under the mistaken impression that lyricists took an occasional interest in what their words actually meant. Now, when we perform our latest romantic ballad, "Phantom Lady," and well-meaning friends tell us how much they like it except for the next-to-last verse, which supposedly "spoils the mood" --
And when the starlight gleams
She comes to him in dreams
The lovely smile that he sees
Is like a pile of feces
His fleeting, phantom lady loooooovvvvvve
-- we can tell them, with absolute confidence, to piss off.

You have to hear it with strings to appreciate its soaring beauty.

UPDATE: We are pleased to have the perspective of Dr. Tiomoid of Angle (no relation to Dr. H. West of Miskatonic U.), but what of the College Republicans who sing his little ode to joy with such full-throated, lusty gusto? How do they understand the lyrics? Do they revel in the inexorable progress of the Nazi tanks? Or do they approach the song in a purely abstract fashion, chanting the words syllabically, in the manner of those Japanese pop groups that cover English-language hits?

Or is it one of them Brechtian things that always leave us feeling a little headachy?

UPDATE II: The words sound queer, and funny to our ear; a little bit jumbled and jivey. Can anyone translate?
Panzer dankzen notsy rankz
A-rolen in tapolen!
Der open dakill achoo
Wooden you?

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