CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Politically Correct Children

Jul 19, 2002

The forces of PC are ever at work, ensuring that all of us – young and old – keep on the straight and narrow of right thinking and right practice. An interesting illustration of this took place recently when it was announced that the popular children’s show, Sesame Street, will feature an HIV-positive character.

Apparently the character will first air in South Africa, where HIV/AIDS is a big problem, and then it may air in America and Australia and elsewhere.

Several questions come to mind concerning this move. While Sub-Saharan Africa does have a big problem with AIDS, is it wise to be targeting children at such a very young age? The average age of a Sesame Street watcher is 2 to 4 years old. Surely this is way too young to be exposed to such complex adult problems as AIDS.

We do not expose such young children to other adult worries, like the drug problem, the war on terror, or heart attacks. Why destroy our children’s innocence? Why cannot we let children be children? They do not need to be exposed to such issues, nor are they ready – mentally, emotionally, or socially – for such issues.

And if Sesame Street does feature the character, just how will he be presented? What will he say? How much detail about AIDS will be given?

The truth is, HIV/AIDS is mainly a life-style based disease. If you reduce the number of people who behave in certain ways, you reduce the incidence of the disease. Here in Australia over 85 per cent of HIV/AIDS cases are due to male homosexual activity or intravenous drug use. If you curtail those activities, you greatly reduce the spread of AIDS.

But of course it is not Politically Correct to say these kinds of things. But they are true nonetheless. There is in fact a greater chance of men getting breast cancer than there is of heterosexuals getting HIV/AIDS. And if you are abstinent until marriage, chaste within marriage, and not an intravenous drug user, you have almost a zero chance of contracting the disease.

But abstinence messages are not PC, neither are pro-marriage and pro-chastity messages. Indeed, we know that Sesame Street will not give the whole story on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases. This is because it has long pushed a PC line on a number of fronts. It is produced by the Public Broadcasting Service in America. Much like our ABC, the PBS is a left-of-center voice of PC.

Yet it will be argued that given the problems of AIDS in Africa, an HIV-positive character might be appropriate. Two responses can be made to this.

One, as I pointed out to an AIDS activist on a recent TV debate about the issue, there are plenty of other killers in the world: stroke, cancer, etc. Will Sesame Street feature characters with these problems? I doubt it. It is ignoring diseases that kill many more people in favor of a PC disease. Indeed, it has been noted that HIV/AIDS is the world’s first politically-protected disease.

Instead of treating it like any other infectious disease, with mandatory reporting, strict tracing of carriers, etc., we instead talk about the right of people to make their own lifestyle choices.

Two, it is true that AIDS is more of a heterosexual problem in Africa, but this is because of certain activities. If it can be put delicately, many heterosexuals are contracting AIDS in Africa because prostitutes and others often engage in anal intercourse in order to avoid pregnancy. This is a very risky and unsafe practice, and it explains much of the reason for the HIV epidemic there.

It is noteworthy that African countries that do emphasise abstinence and seek to curtail sexual promiscuity have much lower incidences of HIV and STDs. But again we do not expect Sesame Street to run this line. Instead it will run the diversity and tolerance line. The real message will be that we should embrace all lifestyles, and make no judgments about a person’s  sexuality.

This is simply a recipe for disaster. If certain behaviors are responsible for public health crises, then we should do all we can to dissuade people from such behaviours. And governments do this all the time. They believe that cigarette smoking is dangerous, so they do all they can to discourage the behaviour. So too with drink driving.

Sexual promiscuity in all forms, including homosexuality, is a dangerous high-risk behaviour. Governments and TV shows should not encourage such behaviour. They should seek to lessen it, not create a climate to allow more of it.

In an age of PC, where tolerance is the highest good, and common sense is at an all time low, we should not expect a sudden rush of rationality and morality. However, for the sake of our children, and for the sake of public health, we should all resist this latest move of Political Correctness by the makers of Sesame Street.

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