SpongeBob Squarepants, Big Bird, Barney the Dinosaur, the Muppets, Dora the Explorer, Bob the Builder, Winnie the Pooh, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Jimmy Neutron and Canada are involved in an insidious gay plot to convert children to homosexuality. That’s according to James Dobson, who leads the conservative Christian organization, Focus on the Family.
Actually, Dobson didn’t put Canada on the nasty list last October when his tax-exempt right-wing lobby group (posing as a church) released the shocking news about SpongeBob. It’s only lately that FOF has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into its Homophobia Canada campaign.
Dobson’s issue with Squarepants et al. concerns a video produced by the We Are Family Foundation. It’s a music-video remake of an old disco hit called “We Are Family,” starring the aforementioned cartoon characters. The video is to be distributed to 81,000 American elementary school kids in March. We Are Family says the video’s about tolerance. Dobson says it’s “prohomosexual propaganda.”
Homosexuality is not mentioned in the video, but kids who see “We Are Family” at school might look up the WAF website and discover the tolerance pledge there, and that’s where FOF sees pink. The idea of “respect for people whose abilities, beliefs, culture, race, sexual identity or other characteristics are different” doesn’t sit well with Dobson.
There’s lots to learn from FOF’s website. There’s Stormie Omartian’s essay, “How a Husband Should Handle His Wife’s Submission” (that is, by insisting on it and praying for God to help). Or, if you’d like a male point of view on that, you can purchase Dr. Tony Evans’ cassette tape, “Portrait of a Real Man,” and learn to “run your home with destiny, discipline and dominion.”
Parents might turn to Dobson for child-rearing help, such as the advice that you begin spanking at 18 months, using “a switch or paddle–because the hand should be seen as an object of love.”
While on the FOF website, you might choose to purchase the David Berkowitz tape, “Son of Hope.” Yes, it’s the same David Berkowitz who, styling himself Son of Sam, shot 13 people in 1977, killing six. He claimed at the time that he was following the orders of a Labrador retriever named Sam (whom he later shot). Now he listens to Dobson.
FOF is just one of many U.S. Christian organizations with branches in Canada. Bearing in mind that missionaries are the advanced guard of colonization, we might be wise to take a look at where all this can lead.
Austin Chronicle columnist Michael Ventura reports the following facts, mostly gleaned from the New York Times: 35 per cent of Americans believe in evolution; 45 per cent are creationists. One-third of U.S. biology teachers support the teaching of creationism, or “intelligent design.” “Many high school science teachers simply skip lessons on evolution, even when the material is in their textbooks, for fear of controversy.”
One in three U.S. high school students said, “the press ought to be more restricted, and even more thought the government should approve newspaper stories before people read them.” The U.S. is 17th in the world in high-school graduation rates, 49th in literacy and ranks 28th out of 40 countries in math skills.
In an effort to link these facts, Ventura overstates the case a little when he says, “These stats combine to paint the portrait of a poorly educated people, seeking to compensate for their ignorance with beliefs that spread such ignorance further–while the rest of the developed world laughs in pity or contempt, and leaves us behind.”
While it’s tempting to see a link between knuckleheaded ignorance like creationism and the general dumbing-down of American society, history doesn’t teach us that the world laughs at America in pity and contempt for long at a stretch. In its heart, the world loves America, no matter how silly it gets; from singing cowboys to gangsta rappers, if it plays in Peoria, sooner or later it plays everywhere.
Please, Canada, resist this backward march toward ignorance, bigotry and hate. If you want to embrace something American, how about SpongeBob Squarepants? He’s only a sponge, but at least he’s tolerant.
Al Pope is a recent member of the CD editorial collective.
This article appeared in the May/June 2005 issue of Canadian Dimension .