FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The New Education Secretary vs. Vermont’s Lesbians

by GARY LEUPP

First it was the Rev. Jerry Falwell describing purple Teletubbie Twinky Winky as a gay role model, because Twinky Winky carries a purse. Then it was Focus on the Family founder Dr. James Dobson, in a Washington dinner talk attended by Republican congressmen, accusing SpongeBob Square Pants of promoting a homosexual lifestyle to your kids. SpongeBob, you see, whose show is the highest rated children’s program on television, holds hands with his starfish friend Patrick. One wants to hear Bugs Bunny announce Ta da da da dathat’s all, folks! But no, folks, no, it gets wackier! The war on allegedly homo-friendly cartoon characters continues as the newly anointed Secretary of Education lashes out at PBS’s “Postcards from Buster.” Targeting six to ten year old kids, it features an eight year old animated bunny named Buster, who travels around the country with his airline pilot dad. It includes animated and live-action segments and shows, in the words of a producer, “the array of American life that children experience.”

What’s the offence of the nonprofit PBS, which is partially funded by the Department of Education? A Buster episode called “Sugartime!” This cartoon, which teaches children about Vermont’s famed maple sugar, has Buster visiting with Karen Pike and Gillian Pieper and their children in the Green Mountain State. Karen and Gillian are not cartoons, but real live lesbians.

The new Education Secretary Margaret Spellings is deeply upset about this, and in one of her very first acts in office she’s sent off an indignant missive to PBS chief executive officer Pat Mitchell. “Many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in the episode,” she declares. “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.”

This kind of subject matter. Would that Spellings was talking about sugar consumption, which many educated parents think encourages hyperactivity. But no, that’s not the problem. The secretary isn’t anti-sugar, just anti-lesbian. So she’s asked PBS to:

(1) remove the Department of Education seal from the program, lest the department be shamed by the association;

(2) warn member stations of the lesbian content of the cartoon so they can review it before airing it; and

(3) refund DOE money so as to prevent “embroiling” the department “in a controversy that will only hurt” it.

In other words, Ms. Spellings wants PBS to abjectly apologize for revealing to our children that there are happy hospitable lesbians in Vermont (a state that happens to recognize same-sex civil unions), and for encouraging tolerance and objectivity conflicting with the homophobia of “many parents.” She wants to tell the many parents involved in same-sex unions that her department is definitely not their department, and that the subject matter of their lifestyles, which so disgusts the random homophobe, offends the government as well. The Bush administration officially champions the view that same-sex unions threaten heterosexual marriage, which has to be defended against the looming mushroom cloud of sodomic sex. It follows that Buster, should he be shown as a gay-friendly bunny, might also threaten this lynchpin of the social order.

PBS to its eternal discredit announced it would not distribute the episode to its 349 stations. “We recognize this is a sensitive issue,” said vice president of media relations Lea Sloan, “and we wanted to make sure that parents had an opportunity to introduce this subject to their children in their own time.” As though the airing of the show would somehow infringe on parental rights or interfere with their plans to explain lesbianism to their kids next July.

Can it get more stupid than this? Yes, actually. School boards might, in deference to respectably homophobic parents, act to ban the gay-straight alliance organizations that currently exist in many public high schools. Such groups, and the open discussion they promote, have probably contributed to the decline of gay teen suicides over the last decade. The Department of Education could urge health class instructors to avoid any non-judgmental discussion of homosexuality, lest such treatment of the topic insensitively offend the “many parents” who believe, as some of them proclaim, that “God Hates Fags” and their militant homosexual agenda. The attacks on Twinky Winky, SpongeBob and Buster may presage a more systematic homophobic project. They would be comical were they not dead serious, endorsed not only by the fundamentalist fringe but those who steer the state.

It’s worth noting that the Bush administration, while catering to those who find same-sex relations a matter of shame, methodically deploys sexual shame in its torture chambers in Iraq. Men and boys imprisoned for the crime of opposing the invasion of their country are forced to simulate homosexual acts, forbidden by Islam, while sniggering foreign thugs, male and female, catch it all on tape.

Rush Limbaugh may laugh this all off as frathouse tomfoolery, but it’s actually carefully calculated evil. As one academic explained to Seymour Hersh, a book entitled The Arab Mind, by the anthropologist Raphael Patai, is the “bible of the neocons on Arab behavior.” The book emphasizes the deep shame attached to the public exposure of homosexual behavior in Arab societies. “How very useful!” thinks the torturer, methodically exploiting this shame as a matter of policy, to humiliate and break the detained, who are told that if they don’t cooperate the photos and videos will be shown to their families and neighbors.

I understand that Boston’s WGBH will air “Sugartime!” in March. I hope it provokes a storm of moral outrage.

 

More articles by:

Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp@tufts.edu

February 21, 2018
CounterPunch News Service
A Call to Celebrate 2018 as the Year of William Edward Burghardt Du Bois by the Saturday Free School
February 20, 2018
Nick Pemberton
The Gun Violence the Media Shows Us and the State Violence They Don’t
John Eskow
Sympathy for the Drivel: On the Vocabulary of President Nitwit
John Steppling
Trump, Putin, and Nikolas Cruz Walk Into a Bar…
John W. Whitehead
America’s Cult of Violence Turns Deadly
Ishmael Reed
Charles F. Harris: He Popularized Black History
Will Podmore
Paying the Price: the TUC and Brexit
George Burchett
Plumpes Denken: Crude thinking
Binoy Kampmark
The Caring Profession: Peacekeeping, Blue Helmets and Sexual Abuse
Lawrence Wittner
The Trump Administration’s War on Workers
David Swanson
The Question of Sanctions: South Africa and Palestine
Walter Clemens
Murderers in High Places
Dean Baker
How Does the Washington Post Know that Trump’s Plan Really “Aims” to Pump $1.5 Trillion Into Infrastructure Projects?
February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Mueller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
Sheldon Richman
‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Taking on the Pentagon
Patrick Cockburn
People Care More About the OXFAM Scandal Than the Cholera Epidemic
Ted Rall
On Gun Violence and Control, a Political Gordian Knot
Binoy Kampmark
Making Mugs of Voters: Mueller’s Russia Indictments
Dave Lindorff
Mass Killers Abetted by Nutjobs
Myles Hoenig
A Response to David Axelrod
Colin Todhunter
The Royal Society and the GMO-Agrochemical Sector
Cesar Chelala
A Student’s Message to Politicians about the Florida Massacre
Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
Susan Roberts
Are Modern Cities Sustainable?
Joyce Nelson
Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?
Geoff Dutton
America Loves Islamic Terrorists (Abroad): ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries
Mike Whitney
The Obnoxious Pence Shows Why Korea Must End US Occupation
Joseph Natoli
In the Post-Truth Classroom
John Eskow
One More Slaughter, One More Piece of Evidence: Racism is a Terminal Mental Disease
John W. Whitehead
War Spending Will Bankrupt America
Robert Fantina
Guns, Violence and the United States
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Latest Insulting Proposal: Converting SNAP into a Canned Goods Distribution Program
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Zaps Oxygen
John Laforge
$1.74 Trillion for H-bomb Profiteers and “Fake” Cleanups
CJ Hopkins
The War on Dissent: the Specter of Divisiveness
Peter A. Coclanis
Chipotle Bell
Anders Sandström – Joona-Hermanni Mäkinen
Ways Forward for the Left
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail