Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Free Buster

There's an editorial in USA Today about the "Postcards from Buster" fiasco. Many PBS stations will run the "controversial" episode (that included a family with two moms) today, despite the written protest of education secretary Margaret Spellings. From the editorial:

One can understand why parents would not want a children's show to promote a lifestyle they oppose or to force kids to address a subject before they're ready.

But having seen the episode, it's hard to understand how any child could be harmed by it, unless it's from parents' overreaction.

Buster, after all, is a bunny, not a political analyst or gossip columnist. The words "gay," "homosexual," "lesbian" or "civil union" are never used, and Karen and Gillian never so much as touch, let alone behave in some intimate manner. They are simply "partners," which may be a loaded term for adults but shouldn't be for children. It certainly doesn't register with Buster, whose response to a picture of the two women with their children is simply, "That's a lot of moms."

How exactly does the mere sight of two women living together put parents in an awkward position?

If children want to know why these Vermont kids have two moms, isn't a possible answer "Because some people do these days," which has the virtue of being both age-appropriate and true?

As for people who are worried that they might have to address more "sensitive" questions, do those parents routinely describe the imagined sexual activities of every couple that crosses the screen, gay and straight?

The truth is, like most children, Buster doesn't show much interest in the adults and their living arrangements. He's much more fascinated by the kids and much more curious about their racial diversity.

Yet this seemingly innocuous encounter somehow led to a letter from the education secretary and PBS pulling the episode.

...[Spellings] may not like the way this Vermont family is structured, but there has been no hint that their living arrangements are anything but legal under Vermont law.

So you'd think a government official's first desire would be to teach kids to respect the legally protected choices other people make, even if they disagree with those choices or those people. Isn't that the bulwark of a democratic society? And yet we don't even seem surprised that a secretary of education would show so little respect for education, tolerance or the rule of law.

Let Buster write a postcard about that.

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