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I made fake vomit noises when Elton John started doing songs for Disney movies, but that was all in good fun. He was supplying the children of America with some harmless, formulaic tunes about... what was it -- love? Today, those vomit noises are no joke. Sir John has agreed to perform at the Grammys with everyone's favorite overrated potty-mouth, Eminem, effectively condoning, validating and participating in some of the cheapest, most socially destructive garbage ever to reach the stereos of elementary schoolers. Now, Elton John is supplying the children of America with hate. The word "hate" is used pretty freely in this debate, and often wrongly. I would be shocked if Eminem was indeed a hateful person. He has said, "To be honest, I don't think about gay men. I only said that shit to piss people off. They just don't get it." Well you know something? -- I did. I got the joke. When I first listened to most of the songs on The Marshall Mathers LP, I was mildly impressed, and I laughed when he talked about killing people, and even when he used the word "fag." I laughed because it was so ridiculous that it couldn't be real. I laughed the same way I laugh when I hear Marilyn Manson sing about sodomizing white trash, or when I saw Divine eat dog poo in Pink Flamingoes. I understand the irony, the satire. I, however, am not nine years old. I am impressionable only to a point, like stale Play-Doh -- the longer I linger out of the package, the less likely it is that someone will change me. Little kids are fresh out of the container -- their minds are malleable. So we, as college students, can listen to Eminem, and rock our heads to the beat, and laugh when he talks about killing "fags" and "lezzies," and we can simmer in the monotonous ironic humor that has pervaded, if not defined, out entire youth culture. Meanwhile, the femmy boy in a middle school locker room gets punched in the arm as kids yell "faggot," his self worth seeps down his hunched shoulders, and he begins to wonder how just how many sleeping pills it would take to end the taunting, the "playful" violence, the inability to come to school unconcerned with survival. Eminem does not make music in a vacuum. Of all the professions in the world, a pop musician has the most direct impact on the lives of America's children. Granted, parents and teachers have some sway too, but their relevance is frankly dwindling. Once kids enter that school, they are at the mercy of pop culture. So when Eminem is "cool," the "cool" kids start listening to Eminem. And when the aristocrats of the elementary school social elite get their hands on expletives, they will use them. Words like "faggot" are not just words -- they are socially debilitating weapons. Cue Eminem-fan: "Hey, this is America! We have free speech!" Well, simmer down -- of course we do. No one is saying that the federal government should rip out the boy's vocal chords. Eminem should be suppressed civically -- by record buyers, by television and radio executives. And by other pop stars (ahem). Those acts of disapproval alone might have enough sway to reverse any damage he's already done. Or maybe it's Eminem's acceptance of Elton John as a duet partner that will reverse the damage. Maybe I'm wrong -- maybe this is a good thing. But then, when I think about the people in question here, the kids that listen to this music, it seems more likely that they won't quite internalize the various abstract gestures of approval and disapproval. What they understand is the music, the anger, and the easy targets. So now Elton John is sitting in some hotel room in L.A., picking out which sequined blazer to wear for his performance, while a generation of mini-Eltons are getting the crap kicked out of them to the tune of "The Real Slim Shady." Our Sir John thinks he gets the joke, but he only gets a joke -- the asinine shock of dirty words. The real joke is on him, on me, on all of us. When this kind of "joke" is allowed to seep into our collective unconsciousness, hate in general increases, and everyone suffers. I don't know which is sadder: that more kids are going to be hurt -- perhaps killed, or that our culture is too impotent to stop it.

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