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Nursery Rhymes

Here we are at another year, getting ever closer to another millennium. How is the history of humanity told, as centuries roll over each other? Well, oddly, children's rhymes are one way that it is done. For instance, we remember the sixteenth century and the persecution of Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer in the nursery rhyme, Three Blind Mice. We remember the black death of the fifteenth century in the nursery rhyme that deals with plague symptoms and epidemic in Ring a Ring of Roses.

But what of 1996? Who knows what the children of 2297 may be singing in their stainless steel nurseries, of the happenings of this year? Take this spring for instance. Thinking of the endless tension between congress and the presidential veto stamp, the children may dance in circles singing:

Sing a song of tax cuts. Heigh, heigh, ho!
Welfare, welfare. Whoa, whoa, whoa!
Gingrich in the meadow with a long, long bow!
Gotta catch a Demmy by the toe, toe, toe!

Then of course summer came and more proposed legislation about soaring health costs. We want everyone to be able to go to the hospital, but nobody can stay very long.

Hey diddle, diddle, Sick in the Middle
Mad cow disease, Heigh Ho!
Hospital, Hospital! Go! Go! Go!
But if you're sick, better get well quick!
You got two days on your HMO.

But it's mostly political circumstances that get preserved in nursery rhymes, so I'd pick Susan McDougal and the Gay Marriage referendum as the most likely to live in the children's rhymes of 2297.

McDougal, McDougal, won't tell her tale,
And so she wore mini-skirts into the jail.
With chains on her hands and chains on her feet,
She'll soon be pardoned and out on the street.

Then Christian Coalition, the congress and the president were together in denouncing the rights of homosexuals to marriage status.

Billy and Bobby still can't say, "I do!"
And enjoy a day at Disney World, too!
Don't ask, don't tell, whatever you do!
And don't file together that W-2!

So out there in the future, when the children sing about 1996, they could land on any of these nursery rhymes.

Considering that America is number one in violent crimes and number fourteen in reading abilities among the nations of the world, there is one more they might sing.

Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a thief!
Hubcaps! Uzis! Switchblades grief!
Read him his rights! I must plead!
He knows how to stab, but cannot read!

One can only hope that when the dumbing down of America is over, that we'll still be smart enough to read nursery rhymes.


Calvin Miller is a professor at Southwestern Seminary.

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January 1997 Edition
Volume 5, Issue 4
January 1997