I Blame Alf, For Everything.


It was 1989 and my young children couldn’t believe I had banned them from watching the popular television comedy, “Alf”. Surely, a somewhat lame show about an alien, Alf, being taken into the Tanner family’s suburban home after crashing his spaceship into their garage couldn’t be a problem.

To me, it was. Quite often the main premise of the show featured Alf, played by a furry sock puppet, conspiring with the young Tanner children to fool the Tanner patriarch, Willie. The father, as played by actor Max Wright, is portrayed as an easily bamboozled, bumbling incompetent. Alf and the children speak of Willie with barely disguised disdain.

The parent in me bristled. Looking back I think on a scale of 1 to 10 for parental discipline I landed at around a solid 6. There was never any corporeal punishment, I’m not a believer, and I’d say there were very few occasions when my voice reached the “he’s losing it” level. But, I did insist upon and tried to teach respect. Not respect exclusively for their parents, but, for anyone whose actions and life choices earned respect. Hopefully as they grew up this would include worthy relatives, teachers, coaches, employers and friends.

I saw Alf as a bad seed, subversive to the concept of treating people fairly and decently. An over reaction on my part? One could argue, but, lessons must start somewhere. As Alf left the airwaves, new more pernicious shows took its place. Ever diligent I banned “The Simpsons” after my first viewing of this animated paean to a dysfunctional family.

Young minds are bombarded with many outside influences. There has been an exponential leap in these avenues since my early parental boycotts. Now the media blitz is 24/7 available on devices small enough to fit around a kindergartener’s wrist, if they are allowed. The quantum increase in the amount of violence, vulgarity, cynicism, misogyny, crassness and dishonesty which is served daily to our youngsters is bound to have a troubling affect.

As I wrote the above list of issues it struck me that the worrying description fits not only for movies, games and shows, but, shockingly news broadcast as well.

I have struggled mightily to not write the typical 70 years old curmudgeon man Commentaries. Attempted to not be the fossil who craves the antiseptically white washed “Ozzie & Harriet” or “Father Knows Best” portrayals of America in the 1950’s and 60’s. I am well aware that in this bygone era racial and gender inequality were just barely being addressed, Senator McCarthy conducted his witch hunts and we all cowered at the threat of nuclear destruction. However, the overall tenor of discourse both person to person and region to region seemed much more civilized and positive than today’s unhealthy mix of fear and anger.

Events since the turn of the millennium; terrorist attacks, Mid-East wars, a deep recession and the just concluded bloody election cycle seem to have greatly weakened our ability to work together to form a consensus with any dignity or respect.

We need an attitude adjustment and I’m not certain how we can begin, but mutual respect would seem to be a lynchpin.

All I know is that my now adult son and daughter both have a strong sensibility of who and what deserves their respect. They have even forgiven me for my parental censorship during their youth.

However, my daughter, mother of my two wonderful grandchildren, still does not understand why I would not let her wear stirrup pants.

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