Monday, December 17, 2018

Leave My Holiday Traditions Alone!

Make no mistake, I'm a liberal Democrat.  I believe in universal health care, government assistance programs for the poor and disadvantaged, legalized marijuana, a woman's right to choose, gay rights, etc.  However there are limits to even my liberalism.

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A movement has arisen, in America, to ban certain Christmas programs for not being politically correct.  The most vocal argument revolves around Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.  Those who object to the cartoon point out that the other reindeer and Santa Clause bully Rudolph for looking different.  They only welcome him into the fold once his disfigurement proves useful to them.

Objectors would also ban A Charlie Brown Christmas.  They argue that Lucy bullies Charlie by moving the football when Charlie goes to kick it.  These self-appointed guardians of the airwaves also object to Linus quoting the bible at the ending of the story.

Last but not least, or maybe it is least, they object to Frosty The Snowman for having a corn-cob pipe in his mouth which, in their minds, promotes smoking.

I could spend a good four paragraphs arguing each and every point that they make.  I could argue that Rudolph overcame the bullying, etc...  Yet, I'm not going to waste my time arguing the merits of the stories point by point.   I am more concerned with the underlying assumption that everything that is controversial should be banned.

Even though we see cartoons as mundane bits of pop culture, they are, in fact, products of artistic expression.  It has been said that the job of art is to provoke emotion.  It doesn't have to be  positive emotion, it just has to provoke something within us.

If you believe that the story of Rudolf is about bullying, why not use the cartoon to start a discussion with children about bullying?  If you object to the way Lucy treats Charlie Brown why not use it to talk to your kids about friendship?

Of course, there is another very easy solution.  If you don't want to look at anything that challenges your world view, you can click the off button of your remote control.  If you don't like it you don't have to watch it.  If, for some reason, that doesn't work, you can close your eyes, put your fingers in your ears, and hum loud enough to make sure that no messages you don't approve of get in.

Banning cartoons creates what we call a slippery slop.  Today, we ban a few objectionable cartoons.  Next, Baby It's Cold Outside is pulled from the radio for promoting Weinstein-esc behavior.  Then, certain movies can not be shown on television or at the local theater.   Before you know it , we will all be gathered in a public square buring copies of Catcher in the Rye and The Road by Jack Kerouac.

Cultures that suppress artistic expression inevitably collapse.  To suppress art is to suppress the voice of the people.  In order to maintain a free society we must allow all ideas to be expressed.  It is then up to us to listen or not listen, to look or to not look, as we see fit.

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