Tumors We Remove, Plagues We Contain, Murderers We Imprison...Someone Remind Me Why We Stopped Feeding Christians to Lions?
The Devil's Puppet
A small town just outside of Denver has gone berserk because an elementary-school music teacher had kids watch a few minutes of an educational videotape about opera.
The prairie burg's lunatic parents immediately accused the teacher of being a homosexual devil worshipper, and this week she was put on "administrative leave."
Tresa Waggoner played about 10 minutes of Who's Afraid of Opera?, Vol. I a few weeks back, to introduce her young students to the musical form.
In the 34-year-old TV production, famed soprano Joan Sutherland and "three cute puppets introduce a younger audience to the magnificent world of opera," according to the synopsis on Yahoo Movies.
The unrated video, which has been shown in classrooms and on public television for decades, is categorized under Children, Teaching Aids, Classical Music, Musical, Opera and Puppets.
Sutherland chats with the puppets about an opera's story, and then performances from the opera are shown.
It would be difficult to find a more benign - if boring - teaching tool on the planet. And it's not like Mrs. Waggoner smuggled the video to the classroom. Who's Afraid of Opera? was sitting on the shelf of the music room where she began teaching last year. It was in the lesson guide given to her by the school's staff.
But the brain-damaged yokels of Bennett, Colorado, saw things in a different light...and that light was from the flickering fires of hell itself.
It turns out one of the featured operas discussed by the puppets was Faust, Charles Gounod's operatic retelling of the Faust legend from 1859. And in that story, there is a devil character.
When the parents of Bennett ask kids what they did in school that day, what they're really asking is Did the Devil show up yet?
Witness the confused remarks of Casey Goodwin, asked by the Denver Post how an opera video for kids could possibly offend anybody.
"I think it glorifies Satan in some way," Goodwin said. Case closed.
The fundamentalist Christian parents soon bullied the school into giving up its copy of Who's Afraid of Opera? Possessed parents cranked out copies on their dusty old VCRs and quickly distributed the illegal copies to the rest of the furious parents.
It turns out that the adults of Bennett are the ones afraid of opera - very, very afraid. It was the first exposure to the art form for almost everyone in the dusty town, which sits off a lonesome stretch of I-70 just 25 miles and a world away from Denver.
Whether it was the complex music, the unfamiliar languages, the alarming costumes, or the singing that sounded nothing like the Hot Country Hits station, the parents of Bennett had a collective nervous breakdown.
"Any adult with common sense would not think that video was appropriate for a young person to see," said mother Robby Warner. "I'm not sure it's appropriate for a high school student."
Sadly for the town of Bennett, life rarely progresses beyond being a high-school student. While some 87% of the locals managed to complete high school, only 12% have a basic college degree and just 1.8% have any sort of advanced degree.
Music lessons are not exactly a priority in the prairie town; just 20 minutes are allowed for the class and kids from the first, second and third grade are crowded into the music room. If not for such a brief lesson, the children may have been exposed to even more than 10 minutes of the children's video.
But 10 minutes was enough. After initially protecting their music teacher, the school administration has since collapsed under the pressure of Bennett's mob of fanatics. On January 30, the music teacher was put on "administrative leave."
She says the whole thing has left her angry and exhausted.
"I was definitely not sensitive to the conservative nature of the community, and I've learned that," Waggoner told the Denver Post. "However, from what has been said about me, that I'm a Satan worshipper, my character, I can't believe all of this. My intention was just to expose the kids to opera."
Bennett parents aren't buying it. They're convinced the married mother-of-two and liturgist at the local Presbyterian church is a lesbian minion of Satan. After all, she did sneak in holiday songs from different cultures in the school's Christmas concert.
"I don't understand why you wouldn't let the kids sing Christmas songs," a parent complained to Waggoner, "but you'll show them a video on the devil."