Wednesday, February 01, 2006

That Damned Devil Is At It Again

Bennett, Colorado is about thirty miles east of Denver. It boasts a population of almost 2500, ninety-three percent of which are anglo, with a median household income of $47,000. Bennett sits off to the north of I70, so, if you're not really looking for it, you might miss it if you're traveling either way on the interstate. You get a sense of the great little flatlander town of Bennett from the atypical water tower and, oh, that building is the Optimists Club hangout.

Thing about Bennett though is a little story that appeared in the Sunday Denver Post with regard to an elementary school music teacher who dusted off a thirty-three year old vcr tape she found in the school's music room entitled, "Who's Afraid of Opera." The tape features puppets as narrators and the wonderful presence of soprano Joan Sutherland. The tape is, the Post reported, part of series meant to introduce school children to opera.

Problem is, though, the tape provides scenes from Charles Gounod's "Faust," which--yup, you guessed it--has set off a firestorm of culture war sentiment (ignorance) in the wee, little town of Bennett, Colorado. See, one of the central characters in the opera is Mephistopheles, the devil.

One mother of a nine-year old in Bennett called the video "satanic." Another good mommy suggested the video was even inappropriate for high school students. Many of Bennett's enlightened community want the teacher who showed portions of the video to her students to be fired.

The school's district superintendent made it clear that Bennett certainly isn't anti-art. He added that, "We want to expose kids to things, to help them see there is another world beside Bennett out there. But, we have to understand who we are serving."


Opera. Dramatic representations of the fantastic ability of the human brain to imagine, to create to serve up to humanity a decidedly civilizing phenomenon that is sorely needed in this stark raving mad world we seem to find ourselves living in these days.

Opera, even Faust, isn't satanic. War, fundamentalistic religious bigotry that harbors an intensity of hatred that sanctions the killing and maiming of one's neighbors is satanic.

But, then, ol' Bennett is just a wee bit closer to Kansas than Denver and, well, when the wind blows from the east, I guess the good people of Bennett get an occasional whiff of intelligent design from Topeka which certainly can't help but infuse the little slip of a town with a modicum of fear; a real hittin' home kind of dread of what the human mind can accomplish once it's let loose from the devilishly backward focus of that Good Old Time Religion.

But, maybe there's hope for Bennett. They do have an Optimists Club.

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