Wednesday, March 14, 2007

And that's the news from Lake Wobegon ...

I've been such a long-time fan of Garrison Keillor and A Praire Home Companion. Whenever Scott and I have a weekend off together, it's always a part of our day. Like my friend CondoBlogger, we know the Powdered Milk Biscuits song, the Ketchup Advisory Board commercials, the Guy Noir premise. And Garrison has always seemed to be such an open-minded, progressive, "live and let live" guy. I was disappointed to read this today.

Not knowing any other way to contact him, I posted a letter on his Prairie Home Companion site. I'll let y'all know if I get a reply.

I'm quite sad that I won't be able to enjoy one of my most favorite weekend NPR shows the same way again.

Here's the text of my letter (yea, I'm long-winded):

Dear Mr. Keillor,

I do know that this forum isn't the proper one to address your current editorial on, but I'm not sure of any other way to contact you.

I have been an undyingly loyal listener to A Prairie Home Companion for many years. When I was younger (I started listening to your show when I was in college), I was surprised at how much I enjoyed a radio show that hailed and exemplified a "bygone era". As I've matured, I've come to love the era that you so often espouse - of simplicity, of reverence to family and hometown, of being good to others and accepting that not everyone else is the same as you and your family. I realize, of course, that the "Lake Wobegon" ideal and its' simplicity and nostalgia are nostalgia indeed, and more a wish for simpler times than a truthful depiction of one's childhood as it honestly was. But still, the honest longing for home that has long been a part of your theme has always been comforting to me, and the mere sound of your voice in any part of your radio program has made me smile.

I was disappointed to read your "Stating the Obvious" editorial today on I'm aware that perhaps my powers of satirical observation may be at a low point lately, but I'm pretty sure I missed the direct point of your essay and was stung only by the parts that were hurtful to me. I do agree that parenting and family should center on the children (with regard only to shaping, molding, teaching, guiding and loving them - NOT spoiling the child or placing their importance above the rest of society), and that anyone who has a child should do so only with the express knowledge that they now need to devote their lives to developing this child into a human being even more wonderful to the world than they themselves are. That is the joy and the responsibility of parenthood - to make sure that your child is not only well-cared for, but is raised in such a responsible manner that they reflect better on you than you did on your own parents; to ensure that your child is a good, decent, thoughtful and responsible human being.

So how does one raise such a relevant and important child? From your editorial, apparently it is first and foremost guided by being raised in a family of heterosexual ("mixed gender") parents, monogamous and long-lasting in their betrothal. Is that really the answer? Are most children so lucky to be in such a wonderfully nostalgic environment? Are there any children in the world who may have parents with different pasts, previous spouses, perhaps other children from those spouses, but who are still loved and cared for and guided as carefully as children in an Ozzie and Harriet abode? Are there children who, for one reason or another, are raised by a single parent, who receive the same love and guidance and discipline and societal shaping? Are there, dare we think, children adopted by loving, nurturing couples who might otherwise be unable to have children, but who devote their lives to the wholesome upbringing of a beloved child, one whom they have fought desperately to be able to love and guide through life? Is it, in some small way, possible that a monogamous and loving couple, who have carefully chosen to take on such an enormous responsibility and devote themselves to a child, may be a homosexual couple?

Does this mean they are bad people, bad parents, unworthy of being a part of a family because they may actually be forced by U.S. law to hyphenate their last names?

Of course, you were being satirical. You were writing tongue-in-cheek, showing that the words which you wrote were not real, were non-sensical, were ridiculous in their ignorance. Surely you were joking when you wrote that:

"The country has come to accept stereotypical gay men -- sardonic fellows with fussy hair who live in over-decorated apartments with a striped sofa and a small weird dog and who worship campy performers and go in for flamboyance now and then themselves. If they want to be accepted as couples and daddies, however, the flamboyance may have to be brought under control. Parents are supposed to stand in back and not wear chartreuse pants and black polka-dot shirts. That's for the kids. It's their show."

Of course, you didn't mean to pigeonhole all gay men (or women). I know, deep down, that you couldn't possibly be referring to my partner Scott and I, who wear Dockers and solid-color shirts and get up early each day to work and pay taxes and come home to our fairly blandly-decorated house and feed our quite large and muscular Weimaraner dogs and pay our bills and eat low-maintenance casseroles and haven't gone out to eat in ages and don't know the hip restaurants and clubs even though we're on the young side of middle-age. If we had children, if we were allowed to be married, our lives would be pretty much the same as now, albeit messier. We still wouldn't own chartreuse pants or black polka-dotted shirts or have a fussily-decorated anything in our home. We'd still be good law-abiding American citizens with a mortgage and bills to pay and looking forward to short family vacations to the coast that we save up for all year. We'd love our children, and they would be the center of our lives, and we'd pay dearly for that responsibility and gift with every fiber of our beings.

Of course, the thrust of your editorial was not about gay people, or gay marriage. However, for those of us who have somehow missed the obvious satire of your piece, please be aware that you have actually done some harm and caused some hurt, something which I am sure you have never intended to do. I am sure that you know that a loving, same-sex couple is quite capable of raising a loving, well-adjusted child. My partner and I would love to be welcomed into a school to read to them of cowboys and adventures and yell “whoopi-ti-yi-yo” just as you did, in a funny voice, making them laugh and make the whinnies and clip-clop noises.

I think they’d be better children for having met us. And I wouldn’t need to be paid.



Seattle, Washington


CondoBlogger said...

BRAVO! Wow! You can write a KICK ASS letter! You really hit the nail on the head there!

I cannot wait to hear his reply.

Paul said...

Yes, Julia Sugarbaker, great letter. I think you sounded very sincere. I hope he reads it.

Not the least bit "sardonic."

Michael said...

LOL, Julia Sugarbaker!

Seriously Matt, that is a GREAT letter. I, too, was surprised and disappointed by Keillor's ignorant remarks. Also, considering his show is mostly carried on liberal leaning NPR stations he's taking quite a risk with his fan base.

By the way, I read somewhere that Garrison Keillor has been married 3 times and has 2 children by different wives.

Lewis said...

You never know what lurks in the hidden hearts and minds of people you've known forever.....surprises abound! But this one? Wow. I definitely had you pegged for a Dockers guy, though.....I was SO right!

Scott said...

Wonderfully written, Matt. Great job! I wish I were as talented in the writing department.