And the follow-up column in The Washington Post Metro section on March 17, 1994
By STEVE TWOMEY
Sure enough, a television was on when I reached Bonnie
Delmar's house in Gaithersburg
yesterday. There almost always is, because the Delmars -- Steve, 37, Bonnie, 35, Ashley, 8, and
little Steven, 6 -- are tube addicts and don't mind saying so.
In fact, they did say so, in the Sunday Magazine a couple of months
ago in a piece by my colleague David Finkel. It was a terrific look at
a family that's heard the buzz about television being
responsible for the national debt, Whitewater and the heartbreak of psoriasis and replied, "So?"
Their children like TV. Bonnie likes TV, watching as many as 17 hours a day.
Hell, I like TV. I watched endlessly in my youth, and I think you'll
agree that I've turned out swell.
Ahem. Granted, I don't quite watch 17 hours a day now, but you won't overhear me claiming that
I'm too important for TV, as I overheard two Masters of Washington say at the Y the other day,
competing to see who had gone longer without watching the box. (The winner said the last show he
saw was "Castle Improvement.") The Delmars are a bit excessive, sure, but I finished the article
and applauded their independence.
Live and let live, eh?
Not around here.
The first telephone call -- the Delmars are in the book -- came that Saturday evening from someone who had gotten the Sunday supplements.
"She said, 'Are you Bonnie Delmar, the one in the magazine?' " Bonnie
remembers. "I said, 'Yes.'
And the woman says, 'I just want you to know you're not fit to be a mother. Your children ought to be taken away from you.' "
Bonnie hung up, flabbergasted.
"The woman called back," Bonnie says. "She said, 'Don't you hang up on me, you jackass!' "
Yeah, don't be rude when I'm being rude!
"I started almost shaking, trembling," Bonnie says, "like someone had kicked me in the stomach."
More calls came. Letters came. Letters came in buckets to the magazine,
which published many of
them last Sunday.
Bonnie hands over one that came to her:
All I can say is that altho I am sure there are a lot of other incompetent
young ignorant parents out
there like yourselves, you have made yourselves the laughing stock of America. Anyone I know is
talking about you. Your lifestyle and the rearing of your children is [sic] appalling. . . . You've got to be a moron. . . . You are setting a poor example for your kids and shouldn't even be allowed to
Another, to the magazine:
The article "TV Without Guilt" . . . is the most graphic illustration
of child neglect/abuse I have ever
read. Neglect and abuse are not the exclusive domain of the poor, single parent family. When do
the Delmars talk with each other? Who is raising these children? For shame!
These people clearly have no individual identities or personalities and are doing incalculable harm to the two children who should be taken from them.
I was truly horrified by your account . . . . It brought to mind "Brave
New World," "The Stepford
Wives," even "Frankenstein." . . . Who could believe that people like that could actually exist?
Bonnie was nothing less than a monster.
On and on it went, condescending letter writers extolling the civilized life of the mind by belittling the Delmars as unfit parents, idiots and the embodiment of evil, which makes you wonder who is more properly thought of as the uncivilized side in this debate.
But that's how we fight. Disagreement isn't on the merits. It's personal.
Opponents must be
demonized and destroyed as human beings, and then rebuilt in the only acceptable image, ours. We must convert them to our way of thinking, as if we were all emissaries of the pope dispatched to
bring "truth" to the heathens. Think of America as a neighborhood homeowners association, but on
a massive scale: Anyone different living among us must be crushed.
And so we have conservatives across suburbia obsessed with the "threat" of homosexuality, waging war on gay publications in the public libraries and the mere mention of homosexuality in the public schools.
And so we have Cathy Hughes, a black radio show host, giving her listeners
a nice list of
stereotypes about Hispanics, painting a clear portrait of them as different -- and let's get rid of
And we have the Jewish comedian Jackie Mason, who says most blacks are criminal, and we have a black student leader at Howard University who led an audience through an anti-Jewish litany.
Bill Clinton becomes not the president, but a pudgy, draft-dodging,
lying womanizer, and Hillary
Rodham Clinton becomes not the First Lady, but a pushy broad with a chipmunk face. Columnists
-- myself included -- write as if everyone in public life is unprincipled trash.
"I didn't realize," Bonnie says, "people were so judgmental, so nasty,
so willing to hate someone
without knowing them."
I have an advantage over those who wrote about Bonnie. I've met her.
She's one of the sweetest
people in the Washington area, uncomfortable with disagreement and conflict. She clearly loves her kids, whom I suspect will turn out just fine. (She asked me to point out that her life is way more
than TV, which it clearly is.) She doesn't deserve what she's been getting.
"This has gotten to me. It hurt. It deeply hurt." She thinks the reaction
was almost Nazi-like:
Everyone had to be Aryan and she wasn't. She has an idea now about what it's like to be a
minority, to be different. At least she can't be picked out in a crowd, she says, because she's not
wearing a big sign that says, "I watch TV."
Maybe it's the nature of being the capital city, where the only correct
position is yours. Chill out,
people. Sit back and watch some tube.
(co. 1994, The Washington Post)
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