Saturday, January 22

SpongeBob Again: Clarifying the Objection

Now it's three political post in one week! I tried to just update yesterday's post, but when the update is longer than the original, it needs a place of it's own.

Here is Focus on the Family's statement explaining their reason for objecting to the distribution of the video that includes a brief appearance by SpongeBob, along with other cartoon characters. First of all, it explains that the objection is not to any specific cartoon character, but to what FOTF fears is their exploitation by a group promoting the acceptance of homosexuality among young people. So I guess Mr. SquarePants himself is in the clear.

The objection isn't to anything found in the video, but rather to the particular organization that supports the video:
While some of the goals associated with this organization are noble in nature, their inclusion of the reference to "sexual identity" within their tolerance pledge is not only unnecessary, but it crosses a moral line.
FOTF believes that by showing the video, schools will be leaving children with the impression that their teachers are giving their support to the agenda of the video's sponsor, a sponsor that has this particular objectionable (as they see it) pledge on it's website (and perhaps in it's literature).

This whole idea seems pretty far-fetched to me. Children (6 or 7 years old, according to the FOTF statement) just don't think like that. They don't make those connections. They take things at face value, and the notion of agendas--who's supporting them and who's not--just doesn't enter their minds. They'll watch the video, and maybe understand the message of the video itself--remember, FOTF doesn't object to the message of the video--and that's it.

Now, on to the objectionable pledge, and the statement that lies at the heart of the whole dust-up. Here it is:
To help keep diversity a wellspring of strength and make America a better place for all, I pledge to have respect for people whose abilities, beliefs, culture, race, sexual identity or other characteristics are different from my own.
Remember, this is not something that the child is going to be asked to sign or say, it's just something that is found on the webpage of the sponsor of the video. I would have a problem if the child was asked to pledge this, not because I find the pledge itself objectionable, but I don't want schools asking my young children to pledge anything. Pledges are serious things, not to be taken lightly or frivolously, or just because everyone else is. But that's not the issue.

The issue in the pledge is the phrase sexual identity in the list of characteristics of people one pledges to "have respect for". Why is this objectionable? What's the alternative? Treating them with disrespect?

Note that there is no particular objection given to including those of different beliefs in the list of persons to have respect for, so even in FOTF's view, considering someone's beliefs wrong doesn't preclude having respect for them. It follows then, doesn't it, that believing someone's actions to be morally wrong doesn't preclude having respect for them either? When did having respect for, or tolerating someone, begin to be seen as approving of everything about them?

I want my children to respect people of different faiths. Of course, they are going to believe that a lot of what their seikh friends believe is wrong, but I still want them to care about those friends and desire what is best for them. I want them to treat them with kindness and politeness. I certainly don't want them yelling "Paki!" out the car window as they drive by them.

And it's the same for people of "different sexual identity," as the pledge calls it. I want my children to grow up knowing that homosexual practice is wrong, but I still want them to treat those of different sexual identity with kindness and politeness. I don't want my kids wishing them harm, or yelling "Fag!" out the car window as they drive by them.

So, in case you couldn't follow all that, I'll sum up what I think about the whole argument FOTF is making: The connection between the video and the pledge are tenuous--so tenuous that it's silly to make the pledge the basis for one's objection to the video. Moreover, I don't have a problem with the wording of the pledge, because I don't see having respect for people as precluding strong disagreement with some of their actions or beliefs.

Okay, that's it. I pledge not to return to the subject again.