A requiem for a big yellow bird
At this point, I’m angry enough about this I’m going to have to say something, even though I’m busy with school. Or perhaps precisely because I’m busy with school.
School has always been important to me and to women in my family. Teach a boy to read and write and you get a man who can think and reason and support himself. Teach a girl to read and write and you get an entire family who can think and reason and support themselves. Impoverished nations tend to keep their women illiterate, whereas reading mothers give priceless gifts to their children, the desire for knowledge and the betterment of their circumstances and communities.
In the United States in the 1960s, a Democratic President named Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Head Start program, recognizing that poor families could not afford to send their children to preschool but that the ability to read and write should be available to those of all income brackets. The scriptural principal behind such Democratic leadership is that “the race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong” and that our God uses the lowly things of this world to confound the mighty. Throughout history we see that talent is not just given to those born into wealthy families, so making learning available to children regardless of their family income is an essential investment in American exceptionalism.
Around the year I was born, an educational TV show came into being that was both commended by educators and criticized by rivals for the painstaking research its creators did to make sure their message was reaching its young viewers but still entertaining to viewers of all ages. Its message: the alphabet, the numbers, shapes, rudimentary reading skills, warm fuzzy relationships and tender life lessons passively presented to children in broken homes whose parents were trying to earn a living or struggling with other adult concerns. As spokesperson for this show, Sesame Street, Big Bird was not the successful capitalist he is today working for Disney, he was an educator. An educator who cared about children who needed a head start because their parents couldn’t afford preschool.
Big Bird, if you’re out there in the blogosphere right now reading “tweets” and so forth, listen to me carefully. Since my own babyhood, you helped my friends and me and countless children all over the world understand how language works along with numbers so we could grasp some spelling and basic arithmetic we would need for grade school. You set a matchless example of community activism.
But I don’t think I’ve ever heard you say The Pledge Of Allegiance. I’ve never heard you talk about how government works or what it means to be an American. I’m sure you’re proud of your citizenship, but you never show it. Forgetting your humble roots as the product of Democratic policies handed down straight from the Oval Office is not a good thing. Mitt Romney wants to kill you, but perhaps you died long ago. How like you we are, pretending that capitalism is self-sustaining and that nothing else matters but profits and the bottom line.
Here we are on election year 2012 at the 11th hour. Big Bird, aren’t you going to at least tell us to get out and vote? If not, we as American citizens are about to get plucked and stuffed as the flightless birds we are because we were never taught where we came from. You discussed the alphabet but history is important, too, Big Bird. Think of all the little children who depend on you. As one educator to another, I believe in you. If you die because you couldn’t lift your voice to save your life and liberty, each and every one of us dies, too, even just a little bit.
If you’re reading this, Big Bird, answer me. Prove you’ve got a pulse. I’m not joking.