News and Tribune


October 11, 2012

HARBESON: What would Big Bird do?

CLARK COUNTY — This column is being brought to you by the letter “V.” V is the first letter of many wonderful words, but my favorite is voluntary. It’s not used much during political election seasons and is certainly not likely to be a word you’ll hear vociferously proclaimed during a presidential candidate debate — mostly because presidential debates are for discussing eight-foot tall yellow bird puppets.

Big Bird is a perfect symbol for politicians to exploit as they try to manipulate people in their quest to gain government power. Both parties benefit from the current hyper focus on their disagreement about funding this fowl because it keeps attention away from issues they heartily agree on, like the continued use and funding of other big birds, ones that are currently terrorizing, and sometimes killing, children.

Since they both endorse drones, the parties don’t want you to think about funding those big birds. They want you to focus on fighting with your American neighbor over funding the benign Big Bird.

But even that makes no sense. Why should the politicians be the ones to make any decisions about Big Bird? We should be asking Big Bird what he thinks.

I’m sure if someone on Sesame Street actually told Big Bird the truth and took the time to explain how the Corporation for Public Broadcasting [another example of the many bipartisan efforts from the 1960s] is funded, he would be shocked. From what I’ve seen, Big Bird is a peaceful fellow so once he learned the truth he surely would not want to accept any funds that were gained through threats of force.

Big Bird would want people to fund his work voluntarily, because they saw value. He wouldn’t be too worried about whether or not people would donate because he can see that many do so already. In addition, Big Bird and his buddies know how to sell lots and lots of branded products to children.

Big Bird would understand that not everyone will want to fund his work for a variety of reasons. He’d accept that some people prefer not to fund television shows like Sesame Street because they don’t care for passive learning and would prefer not to encourage parents to sit their young children in front of a blaring, flashing screen. He’d leave those people alone.

Big Bird would be annoyed that the Democrats want him to remain at least partially dependent on government funds and don’t want him to prove he can pay his own way. He’d be mad when he realized that they only want to use him to manipulate the voters so they can have control of government.

If some people tried to convince Big Bird that he should continue accepting the coerced funds because it’s a relatively small amount that he gets, he would hang his head in disappointment. He’d tell them the specific amount is not the point. To someone like Big Bird, principles matter.

Big Bird would behave like this because he cares about how others are treated. So of course he would think that each person should decide for themselves whether or not to fund a television show.

Once he learned the truth, once his eyes were opened, Big Bird couldn’t go back. He could never feel good accepting money that was taken without consent from people on Sunflower Street so it could be redistributed to Sesame Street.

Although Big Bird would be irritated at people who are trying to keep him down, he would still understand their anxiety because his success could really change the way things are done. If Big Bird really can fly on his own, everyone would have to consider how many other full or partially tax-funded operations could also do just fine without government involvement.

— Clark County resident Debbie Harbeson is still wondering how to get to Sesame Street. If you know, send directions to

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