Monday, June 3, 1996

Week of 06/3/1996

Windmill Tilting- 1990's style
-by David Matthews 2

In the literary classic "Don Quixote," Cervantes tells the tale of an old Spaniard knight-errant who crusaded around the country trying to relive the days of Medieval chivalry, righting the wrongs that-for the most part- existed only in his mind. Quixote's most memorable tale involved charging at lumbering giants in the plains, only to find them to be nothing more than windmills.

If Cervantes were to visit this century, however, he would find whole groups of self-appointed knights finding their own windmills to charge at. Just like Don Quixote, today's moral knight-errants try to relive days long gone, and applying standards that have long outlived their usefulness.

Heading this list of modern day Quixote knights would have to be William Bennett. The former Secretary of Education and so-called "Drug Czar" under two administrations of late has earned a new title of "Morality Czar," first by spearheading the campaign against rap music and movies, and later by focusing his attentions to the plethora of syndicated talk shows.

Talk shows have changed in recent years, with more and more shows and more diverse topics being discussed ranging from serious issues to trivial relationship matters that seem more tabloid than real. It is no wonder, then, that they have attracted the attention of our modern-day Quixotes in their quest to remove anything they find objectionable. Especially after the death of one talk show guest by another only hours following the taping of the "Jenny Jones" show, and the abduction of another guest a day before she was to appear on the "Sally Jessy Raphael" show.

And although there's much criticism about talk shows, they have become a stable interest for the American viewers. Long time talk show hosts such as Phil Donahue and Oprah Winfrey would not have remained on the air if there wasn't public interest and support. That is the real reason why there are so many talk shows on the air today.

Contrary to the beliefs of Bennett and the other would-be Quixote knights like U.S. Senators Nunn and Lieberman, the American viewers are not mind-numbed robots that only watch what the media tell them to watch. And with more and more channels available through satellite and cable television, the American people now have the ability to pick and choose what they want to watch. We do have the means to change channels if we don't like what we see, or we can practice our own personal way of protesting by turning off the television. Nothing affects television programming more than a lack of viewers.

Then there is the argument about certain kinds of rap and rock music that so offend today's Quixote knights. It is the position of Bennett and the rest of his ilk that the fault of today's children rests in the hands of the corporations that produce, market, and distribute such music, and that these corporations wouldn't produce such music if they had a sense of "guilt."

Record companies, to their credit, do make the effort to label which CDs or cassettes contain offensive lyrics or mature subject matter. They have done their part in this matter! Unfortunately, these knight-errants fail to recognize the REAL group that's responsible for allowing kids to listen to such music- PARENTS! All the warnings and advisories in the world won't mean a thing if parents DON'T do their job and police their own children!

Bennett TALKS a lot about personal responsibility, but he and his knight-errants FAIL to remember that the concept of personal responsibility is just that- personal.
To say that the responsibility of raising one's children rests elsewhere is not only going against the concept of personal responsibility, but it also goes against the principles that America was founded upon. The record companies and television producers are no more responsible for the problems of today's children than would Pope John Paul II be responsible for the past atrocities that were committed in the name of Christianity.

So perhaps the best medicine we can treat our aged and out-of-touch knight-errands is to have a good laugh at their expense, and then change the channel. Then, maybe, Bennett and his cohorts will simply fade away while trying to "dream the impossible dream."

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