The children of Newtown have been doing a lot of singing lately. Most prominently, the Sandy Hook Elementary School Choir sang “America the Beautiful” at the start of the Super Bowl on Sunday. Now a different group of 21 Newtown kids — who previously recorded a version of “Over the Rainbow” and sang it on Good Morning America — will be performing the somewhat less esteemed “Call Me Maybe” at the Grammys via satellite during the red carpet preshow. Not everyone is happy to hear it.
To be honest, we had the same reaction at first. Parading a group of Newtown kids out during the Super Bowl to sing “America the Beautiful” seemed bad enough — particularly when what happened at Sandy Hook is emblematic of one of the very ugliest parts of America — but “Call Me Maybe” at the Grammys? That just seems like pure ratings-driven exploitation.
But why should we assume the kids are being exploited? Chances are they’re thrilled about singing a dumb pop song on national TV for the entire country. Half these kids probably have Carly Rae Jepsen lunch boxes or iPhone cases or whatever crap kids buy these days. Most important, it’s something to work toward, to be excited about, to focus on, instead of the traumatic, haunting incident that tore apart their lives. Why begrudge them that distraction?
“This opportunity to do something positive lets the kids know that although a lot of things happen in our world that are not pleasant, like this that happened with us in Newtown, there are many giving people and wonderful things that can come out of life, so don’t get discouraged,” Sabrina Post, the group’s director, tells the AP. “It teaches them to use their gifts to work through things.”
A reflexively cynical response is inevitable and understandable when a story combines “Ryan Seacrest” and “children who survived a massacre,” but, maybe this time, everyone wins.