The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘Phil Robertson’

THE MOUTH THAT ROARED

“Glad tidings of great joy.”  That is the message of the Nativvity, preached from a thousand pulpits this Christmas.  But for at least one of our clergy, Jesse Jackson, Sr. there is never a holiday so solemn that he can’t refrain from preaching about the ethereal to offer his opinion on the mundane.  In his most recent foray, the Rev. Mr. Jackson decided to express his outrage at the “racist and anti-gay comments” that “Duck Dynasty” star, Phil Robertson made in his GQ interview.

Thanks to the controversy of Mr. Robertson’s remarks, there may only be a handful of people in the United States who have not seen one or more episodes of “Duck Dynasty.”  I am one of them.   If I want to watch reality television, I have only to step out on the streets and observe those who pass by.  At least that is unscripted.

I’m not certain how many of us read the GQ interview.  I have and would agree with those who found Mr. Robertson’s remarks to have been phrased in a less than poetic way.  But those are the remarks he made and considering his background as a backwoodsman I’m sure that he expressed himself in the way which is familiar to him.  That is hardly a reason for condemning the man.  If it were, Vice President Biden would be under a gag order.

For those of us who subscribe to a Christian ethos,as I presume the Rev. Mr. Jackson does, there is no reason nor does any of us have the right to condemn anyone else.  We leave that job to a higher authority.  Subsequent to the interview, Mr. Robertson made it quite clear that he personally condemned no one personally.  That is not his job.

What Jesse Jackson categorized as “anti-gay” remarks actually related to sexual activity outside the traditional marital relationship.  Mr. Jackson should be aware that the Bible does condemn all sexual activity other than between a husband and wife, whether that is between two men or two women or a man and woman who are not married.  We all transgress.  The Rev. Mr. Jackson is no exception, having fathered a child outside his marriage.  Hopefully he has mended his former ways.  But it is hard to listen to his condemnation of another on this subject and not have some reservations about his sincerity or the worth of his words.

Then there is the second issue, Mr. Robertson’s “racist” remarks.  As far as I could tell from the interview, Mr. Robertson merely described the condition and the attitudes of those blacks with whom he worked in the field.  Whether his interpretation of their condition was accurate or not, none of us can truly say.  But to categorize his belief that those blacks never expressed outrage at their conditions as being racist seems to be an overreach.

Racism – or for that matter – any form of prejudice is a horrible thing.  All of us should pity those who make it the central point of their worldview.  That includes Mr. Jackson and all others who profiteer by pitting one race against another.  People who truly oppose racism, as Mr. Jackson did back in the ‘60’s should be equally outraged when anyone is attacked solely on the basis of that person’s skin color.  Of course, back then, Mr. Jackson would not have attacked Phil Robertson for his position on homosexuality since he espoused exactly the same view..

Have we heard Mr. Jackson speak out about the “Knockout Game” in which predominantly black young hoodlums attack innocent, defenseless people and try to knock them unconscious with a single punch?  Have we heard him protest the fact that most of the victims have been Jews?  Has he spoken out about the tragic shooting murder last week of Brian Friedland in the Short Hills, NJ mall at the hands of four black thugs?  Of course, this most recent murder might have been the unfortunate result of a car jacking, nothing more.  But whenever a black is attacked by a white person, Mr. Jackson assumes that the motivating factor behind the attack is racism.  Why doesn’t the same logic apply when the roles of assailant and victim are reversed?

Over the years I’ve watched Jesse Jackson morph from a committed advocate for the disadvantaged to a purveyor of racism for the sake of personal gain and prestige.  That is perhaps the greatest tragedy – watching his perversion from a crusader to a succubus.

While his words once had meaning and his message had value, they are now little more than the vitriolic output of a mouth that once roared and whose passion once soared.  And there are fewer people of conscience who  bother to listen to him any more and worse, are embarrassed for him..

THE DUCK THAT QUACKED

Phil Robertson and “Duck Dynasty” have developed one of the most successful franchises in reality television.  The show, aired on the A & E channel, holds a first place rating among viewers.  Or, at least it did until Mr. Robertson’s interview with GQ magazine was printed.  In that interview Mr. Robertson expressed his personal view on homosexuality which runs contrary to the current cultural trend of acceptance of the LGBT lifestyle.  His opinion was an expression of his fundamental Christian beliefs.

A & E responded to the interview almost immediately by “indefinitely suspending Phil Robertson” from his own show.  They went on to make a statement that, “They (A & E) have always supported the gay community.”  Apparently this has not completely quelled the issue as A & E is getting push back from a large number of their viewers who believe they did not respond appropriately and who are threatening to boycott the network.

There are a number of important issues that this whole controversy raises.

The first, and probably the least consequential, is whether or not a business has the right to conduct itself according to self-imposed standards.  My response to that would be, “Yes it does and A & E made its decision based on its well-established philosophy.”  Of course, if we accept that premise, does that not imply that a company such as Hobby Lobby has the right to refuse to purchase health insurance which mandates that it provide abortion, prophylactics or abortifacients in contravention of its religious beliefs?

The second is whether Robertson’s opinion is protected by the First Amendment and whether A & E is essentially abridging his right to state his beliefs and therefore violating his constitutional protections.  Certainly if he had made his statement in the course of filming an episode, A & E might have the legal right to edit out the comment if if offended their policy.  But to take an interview in a different medium as the basis for their action seems to overreach their authority and to be an infringement on Mr. Robertson’s rights.  We would do well to remember Voltaire’s statement, “I disagree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it.”  Whether Mr. Robinson made the statement or withheld it, no doubt it reflects his beliefs.  If we invoke cloture on free speech, whether or not we agree with what is said, what is next – restriction of what a person is allowed to think?

Perhaps the most important point this raises is that proponents of PC thinking are engendering the very thing that they purport to correct.  They define people not as individuals but as mere subsets of some larger group – whether that is based on race, sex or sexual orientation.  Their activities perpetuate all the “isms” and “phobias” which they seek to extinguish.  They presume that all gay or straight people, all men or women, all blacks or whites think and act identically based on the way they perceive the group to which the PC police have assigned them think and act.  That is ludicrous on its face and obviously untrue.  This philosophy strikes at the heart one of their most precious principles – allowing for diversity among members of society.

Whether or not I agree with Phil Robertson is irrelevant.  But I believe that those who see this issue only as a matter which pits one individual against a vocal group are missing the point entirely.  If we are willing to throw someone under the bus because we might disagree with his beliefs, the question is how much faster are we heading toward the point where our own opinions, however mainstream they might currently be, come under fire and we are told to recant – or else.

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