The public service announcements looking for dollars to help third world kids are really going in…hard.

One I’m seeing a lot of these days show a little boy scooping up multi-colored water into a bucket with many things floating in it. He’s learned how to dip from the section with the least chunks. The narrator intones soberly with shame, “If you saw your kids playing around this kind of filthy dirty water, you’d tell them to get the hell out of there. But poor Alphonso has no choice. He has to bring this water back to his family because it’s the only water available.” Now comes the great pitch; for only 9 cents a month Alphonso can have clean water. Every time I see this on TV I wonder how deep is that Poland Spring? We seem to be pulling a helluva lot of water from that one spot alone.

Another PSA tugs even harder on the heart strings. It’s the one for abused animals that shows dogs, cats and horses looking horrible and then imagine what they would say if they could talk.

“Why won’t they feed me?” asks an emaciated horse. The poor old chimp in this spot seems to be saying, “I’m just waiting for you to turn off the video camera so I can eat your face.” They show us a montage of terrified animals, looking as pitiful as possible. At the end of these spots, we are offered a shirt, jacket, blanket, coffee mug or some other trinket to let everyone know we care.

How about skipping the gifts and use the money to fix up these abused animals? Now we return to our regularly scheduled program. We watch as a judge on a cooking competition show examines a forkful of salmon, then proclaims it’s perfectly cooked. I’m thinking Alphonso is not quite so persnickety.

William Stephenson

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