14 February 2005

Don't Bully Buster!

EDITORIAL: Hey, Buster, don't be bullied

Culture warmongers ought to be feeling sheepish since the infamous "Postcards from Buster" episode "Sugartime!" aired recently on television without any visible harm to children.

For those who've missed the latest attempt to bully public television, Buster is an animated rabbit traveling the world, learning about various people and cultures. In the past, Buster has visited Muslims, Mormons, Pentecostals and Orthodox Jews. He has danced with an African-American girl and spent the day with Native American families. In an episode that drew the wrath of the Bush administration, Buster traveled to a farm in Vermont to study how maple sugar is made and to meet local families, including two lesbian couples.

Education Secretary Margaret Spelling denounced the show, charging public dollars were being used to promote alternative lifestyles. Spelling's comments were odd coming as they did from an administration that touts less government intrusion, rather than more. Public television spends taxpayer money responsibly when it offers programming fully reflective of the diversity of the country.

As anyone who watched will attest, the recent "Buster" episode featured no glorification of anyone's sexuality, only a portrait of hardworking Vermonters living their lives with the individuality America encourages. Gay families are another part of the diverse palette of America.

PBS' response was less than daring. It tried to pull the episode in an attempt to tread the hostile political waters it swims in these days.

Courage came instead from KCTS-TV and more than two dozen other public television stations that aired the episode after reviewing it and finding it no different from other "Buster" episodes. By airing the "Sugartime" episode, KCTS stood up to the morality police. KCTS reminds us that the purpose of public broadcasting is to educate and reflect our diversity.


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