Journaling: Culture Vultures

Bruce Apar is Editorial Director + Associate Publisher of River Journal North

Wouldn’t it be nice to live in paradise, where we’re free to be exactly who we are, living in a Rainbowland, where you and I go hand in hand. Oh, I’d be lying if I said this was fine, all the hurt and the hate going on here.

If those song lyrics offend you, don’t blame me. File your complaint with the co-writers of the tune, who identify as Miley Cyrus and Dolly Parton.   

The Waukesha County, Wisconsin, school district recently banned the Miley Cyrus-Dolly Parton song Rainbowland from a school concert, finding those aforementioned lyrics offensive and inappropriate for first-graders.

Hopefully, people way more hip than me can explain why suddenly in our culture a ravishing rainbow, of all things, can be viewed with suspicion and worse. Maybe it’s because a rainbow has more colors than some people can handle.

The standard meaning of “culture vulture” describes someone hungry for culture. With a little imagination, though (if that doesn’t offend anyone), it’s not a stretch to see ”culture vulture” also as a suitable tag for someone who, smelling blood, is voracious in wanting to swoop in for the kill, foaming at the mouth to rupture culture.  

When it comes to song lyrics, in the case of Miley’s and Dolly’s ditty Rainbowland, it would seem the shoe flip-flopped over to the other foot for those who deem those  hopeful lyrics too noxious for first graders. Wasn’t it the same pack of vultures who lashed out at the “cancel culture” a few years ago when the lyrics of evergreen 1944 pop song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” were being called code words for sexual assault. Some extremists wanted the song to be stricken from public playlists. If the spirit’s willing, you can read something nefarious into almost anything.  

Vultures flapping their lips and their wings on either side of the political spectrum wield cancel culture as a weapon to hammer home their prejudicial point of view, even as they chastise the other side for doing the exact same thing.

The result is that the specious arguments waged by cancel culture warriors left and right end up canceling out each other. There are no winners, and the singular loser is a sodden society where ideas that should freely flourish in sunlight instead are banished by the narrowest of benighted minds. 

As for the sanctity of reading material, the obvious question to ask someone who advocates banning a book is whether they’ve read it – in its entirety.  

An even better question to ask that same ban fan is “What books have you read lately?”  

No matter how they respond, their answer is bound to speak volumes. 


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About the Author: Bruce Apar