Friday, January 28, 2005 - Apache Junction, Arizona, USA
THEY'RE AT IT AGAIN!
Postcards from Buster is a PBS cartoon series part animation, part live, featuring an 8 year old rabbit, Buster, who travels around the country with his father, an airline pilot. The show profiles life inside different kinds of families. In the past there have been episodes featuring children who live with grandparents, Mulsim children, Mormon children, and children of evangelical Christians.
But an episode entitled "Sugartime" has incurred the wrath of newly appointed Secretary of Education, Margaret Spellings, because it features Buster visiting the children of a Vermont family that runs a dairy farm and produces maple syrup. The parents are a lesbian couple, viewed in the background of the story, which is about the kids. This was enough to compel Spellings to fire off a letter to PBS regarding her concern over the material being used in this publicly funded broadcast.
In her letter to PBS, Secretary Spellings wrote, "Congress' and the Department's purpose in funding this programming certainly was not to introduce this kind of subject matter to children, particularly through the powerful and intimate medium of television." The secretary asked for a refund of public funding "in the interest of avoiding embroiling the Ready-to-Learn program in a controversy that will only hurt" it. Finally, she stated, "Many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in the episode."
The Concerned Woman For America (CWA) was quick to defend Secretary Spellings. Robert Knight, director of CWA's Culture and Family institute said, "Parents don't want their children homosexualized in the name of 'education.' Mrs. Spellings has given notice that left-wing lobbies will have to find other ways to peddle their pansexual propaganda. Let's hope that other leaders in federal and state agencies find a backbone thanks to her courageous example."
In contrast, Jeanne Hopkins, spokesperson for WGBH, the show's producer, said, "The show's goal is to reflect the lives of American kids. It is not meant to be political. The lesbian couples are in the background. The program is not about these moms or gay couples. The family is the backdrop. One mom is in the kitchen, making a grocery list. Another mom says, 'Hi.' Later they have a meal together with some friends. Most of the time, Buster is with the kids."
The Human Rights Campaign was irate at Secretary Spellings' remarks. Director Winnie Stachelberg said, "The Secretary's first act in office denies children an education about the diversity of American Families. The 'subject matter' is innocuous, but the Secretary's implication that teaching children about the reality of American life is cause for fear is harmful. Same-sex couples are raising children in almost every county in the nation. These families deserve just as much dignity and respect as their neighbors, and the children of America shouldn't be denied the reality of our lives."
Stachelberg went on to say, "Teaching children about respect for differences promotes tolerance of their fellow human beings. Those are the values our children should be learning. Instead, Secretary Spellings is sending the message that differences should concealed. This creates a dangerous environment for children's growth."
PBS has decided not to distribute the "Sugartime" episode but will provide it to any affiliate that asks for it. The question is, does "Sugartime" violate the grant under which WGBH receives federal funding?
The grant specifies the programs "should be designed to appeal to all of America's children by providing them with content and characters with which they can identify. Diversity will be incorporated into the fabric of the series to help children understand and respect differences and learn to live in a multicultural society."
Brigid Sullivan, vice president for children's programming at WGHB, said, "This asked for a project on diversity to all of America's children, Not to present a make-believe world of diversity but a real world. We want to reflect all of America's children. This is not about their parents."
The point is, does a normal, everyday couple raising their children in Vermont represent a threat to children of other families? If so, why haven't they been arrested and put in jail? If not, what's the harm in showing others that families such as this exist? The words 'gay' or 'lesbian' are NOT used anywhere in the film. These people are clean, upstanding, taxpaying American citizens. People like anyone's neighbors. They don't have two heads. They don't run around naked. They don't eat dead, burnt bodies. They're an average American couple living on an average American dairy farm. Yet our government doesn't want people to see that. Why? Think about it.
The more Americans realize gay couples are just like everyone else, the less they will agree with this administration's stance that gays and lesbians should be signaled out for exclusion in our society. It's as simple as that.
Frankly, I feel that Secretary Spellings should be disciplined for her remarks. And if you are a real American who appreciates the diversity in our country,and you stand for the equality of all, you should too.
The Boston Globe, in an editorial said it best. "To be great, this country must honestly accept its complex diversity and realize that there is nothing wrong with teaching children that human worth and human equality should not come with a list of exceptions." Odd that on the anniversary of Auschwitz, our government would want to speak out against the equality of all its citizens.
WGBH-TV in Boston will air the program on March 23rd.