The Supreme Court's decisions in two cases dealing with same-sex marriage on Wednesday have created a cultural uproar. Neither side is completely happy, as I wrote here in an earlier blog post, neither decision really does much to clarify the most important of the issues at stake.
Nonetheless, there are those who insist on proceeding at full speed under the illusion that the court has made the legalization of same-sex marriage a permanent, irreversible part of the American fabric. Those people may want to reread the decisions in Dred Scott or Plessey v. Ferguson before they become too jubilant. In the meantime, it is important that both sides conduct themselves with dignity and civility that, once again, means hands off Bert and Ernie.
According to Friday's Washington Times, the next cover The New Yorker magazine will be an image of Bert and Ernie cuddling on a couch, watching a television with an image of the high court on it, a clear allusion to the court's decisions in the matters of the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8.
In the mind of the artist who drew the cover, they are happy because they are now free to marry because the two Muppets have not been roommates all these years, sharing an apartment at 123 Sesame Street.
This is not the first time that sexual politicians have attempted to hijack Bert and Ernie – and for that matter childhood innocence – in order to further their agenda. In 2011, as I wrote here on Thomas Jefferson Street, a Chicago man launched an online petition intended to pressure the Children's Television Workshop, which created "Sesame Street," to "Let Ernie & Bert get married." I wrote then:
As a child – and as a parent – I watched a lot of Sesame Street. I'm a big fan of Bert & Ernie and their antics. I can still sing most of the lyrics to "Rubber Duckie" and "Doin' the Pigeon" from memory. They are funny, engaging characters who demonstrate to children that people – no matter how different they might be in temperament, likes, dislikes and personalities – can still be the best of friends. But they are also, as apparently has been lost on some people, Muppets – a combination marionette and foam rubber puppet invented decades ago – also in the Washington, D.C. area by the legendary Jim Henson and his wife Jane. Muppets are not people and, while they are in many cases gender specific they, as the Sesame Workshop felt compelled to point out Thursday, "do not have a sexual orientation." Nonetheless someone out there thinks they would be useful to further a point about sexual identity.
The effort to drag Bert and Ernie into the same-sex marriage debate in such a way as The New Yorker has chosen to do is shameful. It's a perversion of childhood innocence, an effort to bring the realities of the grown up world into the minds of children in a time, place and manner that is inappropriate. It is even more true today than it was two years ago that children are "bombarded, in and out of school, with messages and meanings that, in my judgment, are far too sophisticated for them to comprehend. Instead, they just confuse and, in some cases, scare them."
The majority of Americans recognize we still have the obligation to protect innocence, to safeguard childhood from the horrors of the world for as long as possible. Children are the future, not objects that should be regarded as pliable targets for social-sexual indoctrination.