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Column: A hit is worth a thousand hugs

Working with the Children’s Reading Program at a local library has taught me three important life lessons. One: I look like Harry Potter. Two: Kids will kill, cheat and say they like broccoli to win a paper bag filled with almost worthless coupons. Three: If I die and come back reincarnated as a three-foot-tall stuffed replica of Barney the purple dinosaur, I will know without a doubt that I must have done something terrible in this life.

Barney sits a mere five feet away from my desk, and every day I watch children walk up to the cuddly dinosaur with their arms wide open and a huge smile. It’s a deceptive ploy, though, because as soon as the kids are close enough to hug the purple beast, they proceed to smack him in the face.

This is followed by a bout of hysterical giggling. After that, they calmly walk toward my desk with a similar smile, forcing me to wonder how hard a 2-year-old pig-tailed girl can smack.

Luckily, they treat me with more respect than Barney. So far, the poor animal has been bitten, had his eyes gouged, been sacked more times than Rob Johnson, been dragged across the floor and has been called Kathy Lee Gifford by one particularly mean-spirited girl.

Not even the parents can save Barney. Last week, a concerned mother watched with horror as her young son sprinted toward Barney, picked him up and then bashed him up against the wall. When she asked him why he did such a thing, the boy matter-of-factly replied that Barney asked him to. Who knew Barney was a masochist? Adds a whole new dimension to the show in my mind.

There is hope. Every once in awhile, a kid goes up to Barney and actually hugs him. This tender moment is then interrupted by the child’s older sibling who then proceeds to smack the dinosaur in the face. All of this violence caused me to wonder if cartoons are to blame for the abuse Barney endures every day.

So, I asked a couple of friends what they thought about this. However, as every college student knows, there is no universal tie so strong as that of childhood memories of cartoons. Soon, the conversation degenerated into who would win a battle between the Transformers and G.I. Joe with Voltron getting the nod at the end.

My next idea was to plant myself in front of the television on Saturday morning to see for myself what kids are watching today. Cartoons have become pathetically toned down. People fight with cards now. It hurts my soul to imagine He-Man defeating Skeletor by throwing a card with a sword drawn on it at him.

After determining that cartoons are not causing this insatiable violence, I decided to blame the government for no other reason than that’s what it is there for. But, this isn’t going to help Barney in the least bit. No, what Barney needs is a kid repellent. And no, I’m not suggesting the library staff wrap Barney is barbed wire. The Children’s Reading Program does not condone bleeding on the carpet in front of my desk.

One idea is to put a sign on Barney telling the kids that they get a free paper bag if they resist trying to shove their tiny fist through Barney’s face. If that doesn’t work, I’ll use my incredible talent of looking like Harry Potter and threaten to turn the next kid that abuses Barney into something horrible like broccoli or Regis Philbin. Anything to save Barney.