July 19, 2016

Television promised me things were going to get better

I was born in 1962. It was an interesting time to be born. As a child, in the late ’60s and early ’70s,  I was somewhat  aware of the terrible social problems from earlier times. And like many my age, after my parents, my values were formed mainly by television.

Television told me that things were going to get better, though. By 1971, All in the Family was exposing the everyday racism and bigotry in American life. The next year, Maude told me about the inequities and double standards between men and women. Even the usually uncontroversial Mary Tyler Moore took on the insidious nature of anti-Semitism. The underlying message was always that the right-thinking, generally younger people were doing away with the injustices of the past and that the future would be brighter.

As a teenager, I became aware of towering figures like Martin Luther King, Betty Friedan, and later Harvey Milk: the antidotes to racism, sexism and homophobia. And in television, shows that I now felt too mature for: The Facts of Life, Full House, and many others routinely taught young people to treat everyone the same, speak honestly, confront injustice, and that violence is not a way to solve problems. Again, things seemed to be on a course to a better world, because younger people were going to be different.

But it doesn’t seemed to have worked out that way. Or at least it certainly doesn’t feel like it today. The problems I once thought would be relics of the past have resurfaced aggressively and as ugly as ever.

Moreover, I struggle with what to do about it personally. But professionally, I do know what to do. As a humane society, we are called to do more than rescue and care for animals. We are called upon to change the future for animals and our community. We know that violence too often begins with animals, but so too can compassion, nurturing and empathy. Last year, more than 16,000 mostly young people participated in an OHS program that teaches those values with the help of animals. The OHS is committed to continuing and expanding these efforts to do our part in keeping the promise that television made but failed to deliver.

Bruce Roney
Executive Director