A longtime correspondent recently lost his NPR gig after sharing on the air the uneasiness he sometimes feels when seeing fellow airplane travelers dressed in Muslim garb.
America is full of what we’ve come to term “minorities” — those we identify with groups not readily accepted by everyone in mainstream American culture.
The recent media attention on suicides among bullied youth, including gay teens, is another case in point.
And it got me wondering…
Would you be wary of a fellow passenger simply for wearing a pro marriage equality t-shirt? If you’re an atheist, should you fear fellow travelers donning a cross dangling on a necklace?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and offer a resounding “no.” No more than you need fear a racy photo shoot by adult actors who portray glee club teens on television.
I’m a bit surprised to find myself coming to the defense of “Glee” on this one, but not for the reasons you might suspect. I’d given up trying to watch the show this year given the many competing demands for my time.
Still, my daughter tapes each episode — inviting me in recent weeks to watch them along with her. Between homework and housework, it’s taken us a while to get to them.
But several nights ago, while commentators were uber-analyzing Juan Williams’ fate, I sat side by side with my teenage daughter on a cozy little couch to catch up on episode three of this season’s “Glee.”
“Glee” routinely deals with issues some folks would rather not discuss — teen pregnancy, sexual orientation and religious identity among them.
I was pleased to see “Glee” tackle the issue of teens who self-identify as atheists. When a heart attack leaves Kurt’s father at death’s door, we learn that Kurt is doubly blessed in the bigotry department.
The character Kurt, long known to audience members as a gay teen, is also an atheist teen — and he struggles when friends of faith try to comfort him with prayer and talk of a higher power.
Many people associate Arizona with a different minority — the Latino/Hispanic community that will likely hold the majority in another generation or so.
But those who spend time with teens from diverse backgrounds know that the Valley also is home to an active teen LGBTQ population as well as an active atheist community.
I don’t give a twit about what “Glee” cast members wear during “GQ” photo shoots. They’re grown ups. They’re artists. They’re private citizens, not public commodities.
The real “Glee” tragedy is that superficial issues like magazine spreads garner more attention, and discussion, than the very real issues teens struggle with today.
They wrestle with the same issue we did while growing up — self-identity. Sometimes that involves sexuality. Sometimes that involves religion. Sometimes that involves conflicted feelings about family or friends.
And sometimes, as every loyal “Glee” fan knows, that involves slushies.
I’m not here to tell you how to feel about any of these issues. As every experienced parent knows, we all have to make our own way in the world.
But I can tell you that I’m grateful for “Glee” because it’s a conversation starter. And meaningful conversations are something we all need more of these days.