Friday, March 14, 2008


In 1956 Trinadad born musician Lord Melody wrote a little diddy called Mama Look a Boo Boo, a song subsequently recorded by Harry Belafonte and also, inexplicably, actor Robert Mitchum. Here's the "King of Calypso" (years before he went bonkers) singing the tune on The Nat King Cole Show. Why show it here? Well, aside from the freakish way Belafonte twitches and jerks, the song itself is about some children so disgusted by their father's hideous physical appearance that their attitude over it drives the man to beat them. Now that's exploitative B-movie fodder if I've ever heard any. (And if the Sci-Fi Channel refused to show it, Lifetime certainly would.)

You know, it's hard to imagine someone getting away with lyrics like these today. "I couldn't even digest me supper - Due to the children's behavior - John (Yes, pa) come here a moment - Bring de belt, you're much too impudent - John says it's James who started first - James tells the story in reverse - I drag my belt from off me waist - You should hear them screamin' round de place - Mama, look a boo-boo they shout - Their mother tell them shut up your mout' - That is your daddy, oh, no - My daddy can't be ugly so." Dysfunctional to say the least. Super Nanny would not be pleased.

On the subject of spanking Richard W. Cross, Ph.D. and father of five, writes that "In its commentary on the fourth commandment, the Catechism references Ecclesiastics 30:1-2, which appears to tolerate if not sanction the use of CP [Corporal Punishment]. "He who loves his son chastises him often..." In the same paragraph, the Catechism extols parents to create a home where there is "... tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service. There is no commentary on the seeming inconsistency between the two prescriptions. Neither the New Testament, nor subsequent Church teachings on the rearing of children specifically prescribe nor prohibit the use of CP, but rather passively acknowledge that it is an option in encouraging discipline - perhaps a pastoral "silence implies consent." The Catechism’s juxtaposition of Ecclesiastics 30:1-2, with the surrounding commentary would suggest that the Roman Catholic Church’s most recent statement would recommend the principle that virtuous parents may use CP as a disciplinary measure towards their children."

But, like everything else, the freedom to tan a child's hide can't be separated from the restraints inherent in the rest of Church teaching. After a rather thorough essay in which he examines the religious, familial, societal, and governmental aspects of discipline, Dr. Cross reaches the conclusion that "CP is a tool that parents must use along with a heavy dose of love and affection, the parent’s own self-discipline, and clearly stated rules in the family. Those who use CP indiscriminately, who lack common sense, or self-control, or moral character, will use CP poorly simply because it will issue forth from them not as a matter of family law and a sense of the common good, but simply as another form of impulsiveness. It is not the use of this tool of CP that betrays a character flaw in the bad parent, but rather, it is the parent with a significant character flaw who uses CP badly."


Wm. said...

In a similar vein, The Beatles' "Run For Your LIfe" was an amazing song that wouldn't be tolerated today. Obviously, the song is about a woman he's in love with, but I"m sure there are plenty in the audience who would claim the refrain "little girl" wasn't merely a phrase. They might decry John as a pedophile or claim that other pedophiles might use the song as some sort of anthem.

Unfortunately, ugliness, like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Corporal punishment might be understandably abhorrent to an adult who suffered as a child at the hands of a true abuser. But to someone, like myself who feels that the occasional whack on the bottom with Mom's flip-flop was actually an aide in redirecting my youthful energies, corporal punishment is acceptable and sometimes called for.

I used to joke that there was a reset button on my oldest son's ass. He's a good kid, but every once in a while, someone needed to press it.

In the end, these are just songs, not lessons in how to live your life. I mean, "Take A Letter Maria" is a great song but I'm not going to run out and get a divorce over it.

And yeah, Harry's turned into a caricature of a nutcase. But like the songs, I don't listen to what he's saying, but he sure is a lot of fun to watch.

Anonymous said...

I'd make a different argument from my own experience, and it's two-fold:

1. It may be licit under certain circumstances, strictly speaking, to use CP. But it isn't necessary. I mean that sincerely: there are effective alternatives to even the restrained violence of mild spanking, and I think on principle non-violent means are preferable to violent means. A commitment to using those alternatives demands that a parent learn (the virtue of ) patience to a greater degree than our culture thinks "necessary."

2. Even with mild, restrained use of CP, it still gives a child the message that a parent's love is conditional. And that can have devastating consequences for a child's spiritual growth later on.

Remember the song, "I Really Loved Her, But I Had to Kill Her" by Guns' N' Roses? It caused a huge stink & Johnny Cash really defended them, by pointing out that the songs of desperados is part of American folklore.

Xena Catolic

EegahInc said...

I think you both make good points. I would just stress again that while Church teaching as explained in the Catechism allows any one thing in particular, it's always in the context of the thousands of other pages contained in the book. Or, just because you can, doesn't always mean you should in every instance. The burden falls on the parent to educate themselves in all of the alternatives and choose wisely what works best for the individual child. I can't speak for everybody, but with my own two children I've found what's effective with one is often useless with the other.

Anonymous said...

It's true about 2 own seem to have come from very different planets.

And since you have kids, a Happy St. Joseph's feast day to you! Watch something with big-haired aliens to celebrate! Since my husband is deprived of Red Dwarf tonight by fundraising on PBS, we'll be watching "Warning From Space" (love those cheap DVDs from Walmart).

Xena Catolica

EegahInc said...

Yep, I have a 16 year old girl and a 5 year old boy. They don't just come from different planets, they come from different dimensions. Mostly what gets beat around here is my head against the wall.

Warning From Space! Yay! It's only a matter of time before that ends up being reviewed here.

Mr. Doob said...

I think the only thing I'm really offended about here is that "Take A Letter Maria" is described as a Great song.

That's a call for CP if ever I heard one....

EegahInc said...

Wm: I mean, "Take A Letter Maria" is a great song but I'm not going to run out and get a divorce over it.

mr. doob: I think the only thing I'm really offended about here is that "Take A Letter Maria" is described as a Great song.

This can only be settled in... Thunderdome!