Since 1969, the Muppets on Sesame Street have been big stars. I am sure that every child since that time can name the original muppets: Oscar the Grouch, Bert and Ernie, Kermit, Cookie Monster, Roosevelt Franklin, Grover, Sweetums and Big Bird. Over the past 52 years they have been joined by other characters Elmo, the Count, Snuffleupagus, among others have become household names.
The show has been popular because it has made learning fun. It has taught children the alphabet. It has taught children how to count. In Canada, when Sesame Street was shown here, it taught children French and aboriginal culture. It did so in an entertaining fashion. It never talked down to children. Rather, it respected children and met them where they are.
The show has also managed to deal with some tough issues with children. In 1982, one of the beloved characters on the show, Will Lee, who played the grocer, Mr. Hooper died. All of the characters on the show talked about death in a way that a 3-6 year old audience member could understand. At the start of the COVID pandemic, Sesame Street and CNN ran a special episode where they tried to explain why we need to socially distance to protect one another. Again the episode respected the intelligence of children and made learning fun.
Last week though, the show caused some controversy. Big Bird, the 6 foot tall yellow bird that has a heart of gold and the mind of a child, tweeted that he had become vaccinated against COVID. I am sure that the idea of the producers was to help inform children that they did not need to fear getting the shot. If Big Bird could do it, maybe they could.
Right away, those who are anti-vaxxers cried foul. Here was a public broadcaster, which gets a lot of funds from the federal government, that was using a children's icon to spread propaganda to get people vaccinated. Ted Cruz, the Canadian born Texas senator, went on a twitter attack denouncing the government, the Public Broadcasting System (the home network of Sesame Street), and Big Bird himself.
For the 20% of the population who adamantly refuse to get vaccinated, I am sure it felt like a horrible gut punch. How do you fight a popular children's figure who has taught children that its ok to struggle with ideas, its fun to learn, its ok to express your feelings. You can't fight someone who has been a friend to children of several decades and win. Attacking Big Bird is like attacking Mickey Mouse, Snoopy or Winnie the Pooh. You just are not going to win.
I tend to avoid unnecessary battles. Oh there are times when I will support something I believe in, even though it is a lost cause. I vote for parties I believe in even though I know they won't win. I have spoken up for those people who society cares little about. I have even cheered for sports teams who championships are few and far between. So there are times I am not afraid to use my voice. But other times, I know the wisdom of saying nothing. If someone is totally convinced that the sky is green and the grass is blue, I won't waste my time trying to teach them otherwise. If someone truly believe that it is wonderful that Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos all have hundreds of billions of dollars while others starve, I can't see the value of arguing with them. When I meet someone who is a complete gun nut, I know it is foolish to convince them otherwise. Some battles you just can't win.
Attacking a muppet is one of those battles. Over the past 52 years, the Muppets have won the hearts and minds of millions of children. A tweet by an enraged senator is not going to change that. In this battle, I declare Big Bird the winner. Blessings.