Last night I went hear Nate Silver talk at our city's wonderful independent bookstore, Politics and Prose in Washington D.C. His presentation was on his new book, The Signal and the Noise.
As a numbers person (my degree is public health, but numbers are my specialty), I couldn't have been happier than I was listening to his engaging, humorous but very thoughtful talk. Afterwards, during the Q&A, I asked him about a possible Big Bird Effect from the debate. Yeah, I was being funny, but I was also being serious.
Unfortunately, he found it only funny and shifted his answer to something more general.
So when he was signing my book, I asked him again, explaining that I was being somewhat serious. He didn't think there would be much effect of Romney's attack on Big Bird.
Much as I admire and respect Nate Silver, I think he may be wrong on this.
My 24-year-old, very hip and activist but not conventionally political daughter called me after the debate. She was distraught and needed comfort (as if I didn't?) about how much Romney got away with. But then she cheered up as she told me about the twitter universe going nuts with Big Bird tweets. While I have a Twitter account and have written one tweet, it was about 1000 years ago. So I'm not up on that at all. But she is and she was encouraged by the response.
I think there might be a kind of underground swelling, a growth of anger among young people who are only a couple of decades removed from watching Big Bird, or slightly older people whose young children watch Big Bird. Romney might have gotten away with his dismissive attitude toward public broadcasting if he had used only terms like "public broadcasting." That's a snoozer to people my daughter's age. But he foolishly went after Big Bird -- and suddenly, he's attacking a close relative! A friend! Someone we all know well and love!
And it's not just Big Bird -- he's just the most visible (combo of very large and very bright) symbol of a whole family of characters who are beloved to multiple generations. When you think Big Bird, you immediately free associate to Bert and Ernie (our earliest gay couple), Elmo (my younger daughter always thought Elmo was a "she," and why not?), Grover (Sooooper Grover!), Cookie Monster, The Count (of beloved memory), Kermit (until he left the room). How about Snuffleupagus -- that highly visible invisible friend?
When the Republicans are attacking the role of government, all of us should remind them and remind ourselves, that it was government, not their acclaimed private sector, that created and brought us Sesame Street; that many millions of children have benefited from that wonderful program; that many millions of adults have also reaped those benefits given that we could get a short break from our parent work knowing that our toddlers were learning not only numbers and letters but also kindness and fairness when they were watching Sesame Street. But I guess that does make it a terrible threat to the right wing....
And now for your listening and watching pleasure, from the wonderful Follow That Bird! we have Big Bird and Waylon Jennings to give us the heart we need to win this election:
p.s. I didn't know Waylon Jennings' politics when I fell in love with that song, and apparently he was pretty apolitical. But one of his favorite songs, "America," (not the one we usually think of) had wonderful words. Here the chorus and one particularly good verse:
And my brothers are all black and white, yellow toohttp://www.cowboylyrics.com/...
And the red man is right, to expect a little from you
Promise and then follow through, America
And the men, who fell on the plains
And lived, through hardship and pain
And the men who could not fight
In a war that didn't seem right
You let them come home, America
and a link to him singing it: