It’s no surprise that white trash patriarch Phil Robertson (he calls himself white trash, people; don’t blame me), of A&E’s popular (reportedly 14 million bleeping people watch the show each week) Duck Dynasty family, has revealed himself to be breathtakingly ignorant about gays and about black history. After all, it’s not all that uncommon for religious zealots to hate the gay and to think blacks were as happy as larks picking cotton for The Man, uh, The White Man.
And it’s not a bit surprising that so many conservatives, like the cartoonish Sarah Palin, have openly rushed to his side to offer their support of his bigotry and ignorance. In fact, that kind of bigotry and ignorance thrives in the GOP. Bigotry and ignorance is the life blood of the party these days.
But I was surprised that someone I know (locally) to be a staunch Democrat rushed to the defense of the white trash patriarch (again, don’t blame me for phrasing it that way; I’m just honoring his own description). Why, you might ask, would a fiercely partisan Democrat be so eager to endorse the bigotry and ignorance of Mr. Robertson? Why would he be so eager to post this picture on Facebook:
I’ll let him tell you:
I love the way the man speaks openly about his love for Jesus.
Yep. It turns out that loving Jesus, or more accurately, saying publicly you love Jesus, covers a multitude of sins, including, presumably, the sin of bigotry and, in the case of Phil Robertson, the sin of ignorance—the man has a Master’s degree in (I’m gasping for air here) education, for Allah’s sake. There is no way you can go through that much schooling and not know at least a little science about sexuality and a little history about Jim Crow and the oppression of black people. And as many have pointed out, the man is old enough to have lived through some of the horrendous events in the South, when blacks were suffering and dying at the hands of white racists, but who, according to Phil Robertson, were “singing and happy” the whole time.
But forget Phil Robertson. Forget the forgettable Duck Dynasty. We have a real problem in this country when prominent members of a major political party essentially endorse bigotry and ignorance—yes, I’ve used those terms a lot and I ain’t finished—like they were endorsing apple pie and Chevrolet. And there is an even bigger problem when just because a man says publicly that he loves Jesus, all is forgiven, or, worse, accepted. We have, thankfully, got past the point where white Jesus-lovers can publicly persecute black Jesus-lovers in America. But we have a long way to go before Jesus-lovers of every color will stop persecuting Jesus-loving and non-Jesus-loving gay people. And that is where I want to part ways with a person I think is one of the smartest guys, one of the most astute liberals, on television, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes.
On his Thursday show, discussing Phil Robertson’s bigotry and ignorance, Chris Hayes condemned Robertson’s remarks but said he agreed with those, like Sarah Palin, who object to A&E suspending the bigot from his popular cable TV show. Because Robertson represents a large segment of the population, the argument goes, he should be able to spout his nonsense with impunity because such nonsense is not considered nonsense among people who find the Robertsons’ entertaining and—yikes!—inspiring.
Bulldook. A&E certainly has the right to keep employing Mr. Robertson and his Republican-loving family and to keep producing their unreal reality show. No one disputes that. But apparently A&E believes it has at least some civic responsibility not to promote extremism, particularly extremism based on such atomic bigotry and ignorance. And the network is right not to do so. The A&E executives ought to be applauded, especially by liberals, for their action instead of condemned for it. There is no First Amendment case here. No one has an unfettered right to speak, whether it be foolishness or non-foolishness, on a TV network.
Imagine if Phil Robertson, thought, and said so out loud, that during WWII, as far as he knew, Jews were really happy and never sang the blues. “Holocuast? I never saw no stinkin’ Holocaust!” Imagine if one of the Duck Dynasty cast members thought, and said so out loud, that homosexuality will lead to human beings banging beasts! Wait! We don’t have to imagine it. Ol’ Phil actually said it:
Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.
I’m worried about this country. I’m worried about it not because Phil Robertson is a dangerous man. He isn’t. He’s just someone to be pitied, in terms of his social IQ. I’m worried about the country because it is still pregnant with the kind of bigotry and ignorance that Phil Robertson represents. And as we get deeper into the 21st-century, we can’t afford to indulge, or entertain ourselves with, such nonsense. Religion is one thing. Bigotry and ignorance (last time) is another. And it is about time people learn the difference, even if it means there may be no more Duck Dynasty.