Romney, Big Bird not of same feather

By Trevor Ballanger

Mitt Romney caused a media uproar with his statement during the Oct. 3 presidential debate about cutting funding for the Public Broadcasting System. Needless to say, a rather large yellow bird, whose address happens to be 123 Sesame Street, was really pissed.

During the debate, Big Bird did what most creatures of the sky do best—he tweeted.

“Yo Mitt Romney, Sesame Street is brought to you today by the letters F & U!” @BIGBIRD, a parody account, said to Romney in a series of angry tweets and dizzying flurry of hashtags.

If anyone understands Big Bird, it’s me. I dressed as him for Halloween one year. But while I fully support my feathered friend standing up for his ‘hood, I admit I was in a tailspin of confusion. I’m not sure how he developed such a foul demeanor on Twitter, though I can’t deny he has a right to what he tweets.

PBS came to Big Bird’s aid, stating on its website, “Governor Romney does not understand the value the American people place on public broadcasting and the outstanding return on investment the system delivers to our nation.”

This statement, as well as a slew of others, were blunt. But Big Bird has style. The truth of the matter is that someone took to social media to create this Big Bird online persona knowing it would gain attention, which is probably why Romney talked about PBS in the first place.

Opposition to Romney’s statements brought attention not only to PBS, but also the importance of Medicaid, education and welfare programs. Romney said he could save the country $47 billion per year by cutting 10 percent of federal programs, including PBS. While $47 billion sounds like a lot, it’s small relative to the total federal budget.

I can’t help but feel this is just another right-winger saying, “C’mon! Let’s boot ‘n’ rally and get those liberals out of our lives!” This wouldn’t be happening if Jesus were a primary Sesame Street character or all the puppets were being damned to hell in every episode. Poor Elmo.

This is just another example of arts being cut from our country’s education system. Sesame Street is only under attack because it is more open-minded than conservative groups would like it to be. There is nothing wrong with children watching PBS and learning how to accept each other’s differences. The show educates children and shouldn’t be forgotten by the government.

Sesame Street is not the first children’s show to come under conservative fire. Remember “Teletubbies,” a British program that later aired on PBS? I never watched it—mostly because it irritated the hell out of me—but I know it benefited a younger generation. Some conservatives, such as fundamentalist preacher Jerry Falwell, wanted it off the air because they believed its characters, particularly Tinky Winky, were gay.

God forbid children be subjected to material that encourages tolerance and turns a blind eye to self-righteousness and hatred.

High-profile public figures like Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey attribute some of their education to PBS programs. Actor Neil Patrick Harris, who is gay, has appeared on Sesame Street and was subsequently mentioned in right-wing columnist Ben Shapiro’s book, “Primetime Propaganda,” which claims TV shows are attempting to persuade viewers to accept liberal views.

In his book, Shapiro called Harris a “fairy shoe person” and condemned the show for trying to help children understand situations like divorce and peaceful negotiation. Sometimes a child may have nowhere to go but their favorite TV show with their favorite characters.

For now, I’ll remain hopeful that Obama will protect Sesame Street and PBS, and that he’ll continue to support positive changes in education and the media. My love for my favorite character, Elmo, has absolutely nothing to do with this, by the way.