February 07, 2005

Tempest, teapot

There was a bizarre item in the post last Friday, indicative, I think, not so much of the sort of great cultural rift between blue and red staters, but of the ways in which those of us in the middle are often pushed to one side or another by over-reach. Debra Chasnoff, a filmmaker and head of something called Respect for All (for the Taliban? for Timothy McVeigh?) wrote of PBS' decision to not air an episode of its Arthur series -- Buster the Bunny apparently meets two friends whose parents are lesbians. Now, for those of you who have had to suffer through Arthur -- which is sort of a PBS version of the old Davey and Goliath show -- the idea that any children who are old enough to register the concept of lesbian parents actually watch the show is rather remote. (When I asked my six year old if he'd like to watch Arthur with me, his reaction was only slightly less of a gag than that induced by the foul-tasting anti-biotic syrup his pediatrician prescribed for him).

Nevertheless, the decision not to air the Buster episode apparently represents the collapse of civilization:

Explaining why the network yanked the show, Lea Sloan, vice president of media relations at PBS, said, "We wanted to make sure that parents had an opportunity to introduce this subject to their children in their own time."

What world are Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and the executives at PBS living in? It seems they think that there is one world where all the families and children live and another, separate one where all those gay people live.

Apparently it's up to (straight) parents to decide when to open the borders and let their children have a controlled peek at the other side.

At this point in American history, that position is not only ridiculous, it's insulting and highly irresponsible. Millions of children have a parent, uncle, aunt, cousin, sibling or grandparent who is gay. Thousands of dedicated teachers, school administrators and coaches are gays or lesbians. What kind of message are we sending to our youth when we say that their loved ones and trusted mentors aren't safe for children to meet on TV?

Yes, there is no one who has it out for the little bastards quite as much as their own (straight) parents.

It may seem odd to Debra Chasnoff, but there are millions of parents who don't need an animated Bunny to act in loco parentis. We're doing our best to turn our rambunctious little ones into respectable, responsible, reasonable adults. Those of us who have gay relatives or friends or neighbors have already crossed this bridge in ways we think our children will understand; those who don't probably don't feel it's much of a priority. As to what kind of a message are we sending, well...

To whom are we sending the message? Certainly not to children -- my six year old regards news programs as anathema, and he doesn't read the Post either--how would he ever hear of the decision? So the message is something that is being sent elsewhere -- namely to gay men and women. Does the featuring of a lesbian couple on Arthur confer some long sought (and too long delayed) acceptance on homosexuals? Probably not. I doubt very much that the gay couple my son knows would care much either way.

There are other reasons to object -- I don't think the government should dictate content to PBS -- but making the argument on the notion that heterosexual parents can't be trusted to raise their own children probably won't persuade too many of us that the end is nigh -- or that we should be losing much sleep over the issue either.

Posted by Ideofact at February 7, 2005 01:09 AM

Is this some variation of the "false duality" method of argumentation?

As I read Debra Chasnoff's argument, either you agree with the airing of this particular episode at this particular time, or you are a culturally backward separationist.

She hasn't convinced me.

Posted by: steve h at February 7, 2005 02:22 PM