Tuesday, April 9, 2013

How are you taking the death of someone you famously wished dead?


When I heard Margaret Thatcher had died, I thought about you immediately—specifically, about "Tramp the Dirt Down," in which you quite literally fantasize about the day of Thatcher's death ("When they finally put you in the ground / I'll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down").

I mean, damn. If you write and release a song that glorifies someone's death, what's it like when they finally die? 

Morrissey, whose own "Margaret on the Guillotine" pre-dates "Tramp the Dirt Down" but isn't nearly as complex or devastating IMHO, quickly released an anti-Thatcher screed upon news of her death. So we know where he stands (don't we always?). My guess is that your feelings on the matter are more complicated.

Because the last verse of "Tramp the Dirt Down" is a complicated one. After spending the song dreaming so specifically of Thatcher's death, and even praying that you yourself will live long enough to "savor" it, you seem to become exhausted by your own hatred:
"Well I hope you live long now
I pray the lord your soul to keep
I think I'll be going before
We fold our arms and start to weep
I never thought for a moment
That human life could be so cheap
'Cause when they finally put you in the ground
They'll stand there laughing and tramp the dirt down."

Is this the real tragedy? That human life can be so cheap? I get that Thatcher treated human lives cheaply in the service of her political agendas—but her life, too, is a human one. Are you quietly removing yourself, at least in this final verse, from the legions of Britons (including Morrissey) you envision dancing on her grave?

I don't know. I do know you're still angry, even in this verse. What your song really can't abide, besides Thatcher herself, are those who dismiss her crimes as somehow unimportant or just-the-way-things-are: "And now the cynical ones say that it all ends the same in the long run / Try telling that to the desperate father who just squeezed the life from his only son." Jesus, that line. 

This past week, these "cynical ones" have been grossly manifest in the media, who seem to have forgotten her crimes or are diminishing them as simply "controversial" because hey, she was powerful! she was a lady! she was played in a movie by Meryl Streep! 

 "Try telling that to the boys on both sides / Being blown to bits, or beaten and maimed." Amirite?



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