Saturday, June 15, 2013

Bert And Ernie Aren't Gay*

*and shame on the adult who told you they were
One evening, when I was at work in the newsroom, and a Charlie Brown special was running on TV, a colleague of mine asked: "When you were a kid, didn't you think Peppermint Patty and Marcie were, you know?"

"No, I didn't think that."

Her face fell. "You didn't?"

"No, I didn't."

"But they were always together!"

"Look," I explained, incredulous. "Charles Schulz would've never gone for that. He was a Rockefeller Republican."

"What about Bert and Erie?"

"Never. They were best friends. I never thought anybody was gay. Look, when you're a kid, you don't worry about adult issues."

And if you're an adult, you don't saddle with your children with them. Childhood is the place to learn, grow, and enjoy the morning of life, not get caught up in the evening rush of concerns above young comprehension. When the ruckus erupted a few years ago about childrens' books in the vein of "Heather Has Two Mommies," I bristled not merely because of the subject matter, but because kids don't deserve to have an issue like this dumped into their laps publicly.

I get just as angry when people bring young children to political protests -- left-wing, right-wing, anti-war, anti-abortion, anti-deportation, anti-gun, anti-anything. It's no different than when politicians use kids as political pawns, as Arizona congressman John Shaedegg did so obnoxiously in 2009. It's disturbing to watch adults take advantage of children who aren't old enough to vote, let alone understand the issues.

I'm bold enough to say it: I consider political manipulation of a child a form of abuse. It may not hurt or sting, but robs the child of childhood time. It's a cheap attempt to play with our emotions. It's a psychological low blow.

Some kids are precocious enough to want to become politically active ahead of time. Fine then, but it's up to the adults to guide them in the journey, making sure they learn to evaluate opinions against facts. And please don't let them listen to partisan talk radio, left or right.

Today's youngsters are tomorrow's leaders. But that's tomorrow. Today they're kids, and they deserve to be kids for as long as their innocence clocks will allow. When they discover the real world, they can ask you about Bert and Ernie and Patty and Marcie. And you can tell them the truth, that Charles Schulz never showed parents in any "Peanuts" strip, and Bert and Ernie were best friends.

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