I would love to post a silly, funny article about Muppets today. That would be really great. I’ve made a few attempts to start writing such an article. But I can’t seem to summon up the will to make myself feel zany or light-hearted for any extended period of time.
You can probably guess why. Like most people in the US, the majority of my happy thoughts this week have been pre-empted by the news from Uvalde, Texas. I don’t need to go into the specific details of what happened here. You already know.
This latest in a seemingly endless series of mass shootings hit me especially hard because Uvalde was my home for nine years. I can even tie this into Muppets: Uvalde is where I watched all of Muppets Tonight on TV. Uvalde is where I went to Walmart to buy the “Kermit Clein” parody poster and hung it on my bedroom wall. Uvalde is where I saw Muppet Treasure Island in the theater.
I wonder: Did some of the children whose lives were cut short this week watch Sesame Street at their homes in Uvalde when they were preschoolers?
There’s been a lot of talk about a lot of different factors that cause tragedies like this, but I think everyone — even the people who won’t admit it — understands that the biggest problem is how easy it is to buy a gun. In Uvalde, in Texas, and in the USA.
I guess there’s never been a Muppet or Henson production I can point to right now where they explicitly said “The United States of America should have better common-sense gun control.” It would be quite striking if there was. But it does seem to me that, in those rare instances when realistic gunplay enters into Muppet narratives, it’s the villains who have them. And the Muppet Show version of “For What It’s Worth” certainly seems to point in an anti-gun direction.
Also, a number of people who have worked for and with the Muppets over the years have been expressing pro-gun control sentiments on social media, and I have to believe it’s the prevailing opinion among the majority of the puppeteers, writers, puppet builders, guest stars, and so on. (There may be somebody reading this who’s currently thinking “You don’t get it! Guns aren’t the problem!” But to that person I would say: You are wrong.)
Sesame Street and the new Fraggle Rock have done a great job of helping today’s kids process the world around them. They’re great at helping those kids make sense of things. At a time like this, it must be so hard for kids to make sense of things, especially when it seems like so many of the grown-ups who are supposed to keep them safe are doing a really bad job of that.
What can we do? People on social media sure do like to say “Vote!” and that’s definitely important. But the next general election is still five months away. So what can we do in the meantime?
For one think, we can call our elected officials, whether we’re planning to vote them out five months from now or not. I tend to spend so much time just being mad about stuff I see on social media that I forget that there are ways to let those officials hear from us directly. I’ve made several phone calls in the past few days. If you’re not sure how to get in touch with your own representatives, you can call 202-224-3121 to be connected with the Capitol switchboard, and they’ll connect you to the office of your senator or congressperson.
As an introvert, I normally hate “cold-calling” anyone ever, but this feels important enough that I called my senators, my representatives, and my governor in the past few days. You can also send them letters or emails. All of your senators and congresspersons will have contact info on their official websites.
We can also donate to organizations that are doing their part to curb gun violence. This page has a helpful list of such organizations.
There are protest marches being organized as we speak. The March for Our Lives is planning protests all over the country. You can find more information about that here.
You can also help the victims of the Uvalde shooting. This article from the Texas Tribune includes links and information on where you can donate money — or, if you’re in South Texas, where you can donate blood.
I’m sure there are other action we can take that I haven’t mentioned here. If you can think of something that I should have brought up, please let me know in the comments where you saw this article linked, or by writing to Ryan@ToughPigs.com.
I don’t know if this article is really cohesive at all, or if it will do any good — or if it will just be ignored because there’s not enough stuff about Muppets. I hope we can all be more inclined for silliness soon. But today, I just couldn’t.
In times like this, I often see memes and social media posts citing a quote from a wise man who was often PBS time slot neighbors with our Sesame Street friends: Mr. Rogers. His quote about “looking for the helpers” is comforting, although it’s disheartening how often we have to employ these days.
But maybe we should do more than just looking for the helpers. Maybe, as things appear to get worse and worse, we should motivate ourselves to go one step further and be the helpers.
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by Ryan Roe – Ryan@ToughPigs.com