On the Phil Robertson Situation

Because I’m from a Southern, semi-rural suburban community, my Facebook news feed was ripe with anger today, concerning the suspension of Duck Dynasty star, Phil Robertson, from A&E over comments he made in an interview for GQ concerning homosexuality. Most of the statuses and comments expressed anger at the fact that this seemingly negligible situation was receiving front page coverage while more meaningful stories of substance were being ignored. The rest, for the most part, were frustrated at what they perceived as a violation of free speech on the network’s part.

The first thing I want to address(before you decide this is irrelevant and click out) is the importance, or lack of importance, of this story- as a supposed nation of free people, forged by the blood of hundreds of thousands, arguably millions, we should certainly be upset about a violation of our inherent rights. But I think there’s another reason. Members and allies of the LGBT community, know that the language Robertson used, and the biblical paraphrasing he used to sort-of justify it, is problematic, blatantly homophobic, and dangerous to certain individuals.

So was this a violation of free speech? (un)Fortunately, this kind of thing happens frequently enough that there have been substantive discussions already. To be brief, it is not- Robertson retains his right to speak about whatever godly or ungodly things he wants to, and to be sure, this event will open up many more avenues and vehicles for him to do so. Duck Dynasty boasts an audience of 14 million, and I would assume the vast majority of fans will not change their opinion of the show, or the family, based on what A&E does. If anything this will boost merchandise and book sales much like firearms every time the media discusses gun control. Where some people get… confused, is in the fact that Robertson cannot speak on one single network, but if speech on any given network were guaranteed to all American citizens, TV would probably be even worse than it already is… but who’s to say?

So uh, whatever Sarah Palin.

There are enough examples in recent memory of actors, personalities, commentators, etc being vilified by groups across the political spectrum including campaigns to get them removed or for their sponsors to drop support, to say this is just the “tyranny of the left” as one Facebook commenter put it, is partisan and lazy.

If anything, this does show the absolute control media organizations and their producers have over programming and what the public actually sees, especially on “reality” shows. I think that that is something to be discontent with, but to only recognize it in this one instance is ludicrous. For many free-market conservatives that might be angry, perhaps A&E’s seemingly ruthless actions can serve a glimpse into “tyranny” brought upon not by a government, but by a business entity.

So what did Phil Robertson say? I actually went and read the full article, and I gotta say, the vast majority of it was.. entertaining kind of. Coming from where I do, I can easy relate to the family and their way of life. I know these kinds of people. I’m related to them. I work, learn, dine, and drink beer with them. Robertson talks about god and nature in an interesting way, although I doubt he would be one to bring up that whole “stewards of the Earth” thing in relation to environmental degradation, overpopulation, or climate change, but hey.

When asked about what he saw as “sinful” in relation to modern America:

“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,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

Ok so this is sort-of expected as a lazy, bible-ly, anti-gay answer: Compare all relationships that aren’t between one strong, married man and one virgin-until-married woman to mindlessly having sex with anything and everything with a pulse, and by the way, they’re totally hopeless. It’s thoughtless and degrading towards completely normal, loving, devoted, monogamous people.

As a side thought though- I like that he includes “the greedy, “the slanderers,” and “the swindlers,” in the group of people not going to heaven. (Watup Wall St., DC politicians and lobbyists, and psychopathic corporate asshats). When one of the Dynasty sons come out as gay and they have to deal with it christly, maybe I’ll like this guy… No wait nevermind.

“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying?”

How does this even come up in conversation?

This will be the killer soundbite clip on The Daily Show tomorrow night.

C’mon bro! You gotta love the pussy bro! How can you not love pussy bro!? Nothing else is pro-bossible!

Here’s where we can all agree- This is blatantly homophobic in that it otherizes and therefore dehumanizes LGBT people, not based on a religious text, but on the only thing Robertson thinks defines gay men. This is the stuff of ignorant and insecure bullying that literally destroys and ends lives.

I don’t want to say that Phil Robertson is Hitler leading a holocaust against a certain type of person- although in the article, he blames Nazism, as well as Pearl Harbor, Communism and islamism on a lack of Jesus… We don’t need to talk about that right?

It’s more complex than that, and this is where people will lose what I’m conveying.. This country has an incredibly shameful history of mistreating “other” people: creating an “us versus them” narrative where we are the righteous chosen and the indians, or blacks, or immigrants, or poor, or gays are not even human. The poor deserve poverty because they are lazy. The blacks deserve Jim Crow, slavery, or prison because they are insufficient. Women are too feeble-minded to vote, own land, or speak. Gays brought God’s plague- HIV/AIDS- upon themselves and therefore we should ignore their suffering and do nothing while they face terrible afflictions and death, just as we did in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

We forget that we are all one family- not just based on religion, but on common humanity. Christ said to love our neighbors as ourselves, to love even our enemies.

 So where do Phil Robertson’s statements fit into this?

Robertson has stoked the fire of indifference and hate towards the LGBT community with his words. As painless as they may feel to you, this is fodder for insecure young people to bully, tease, and dehumanize any kind of different person. The suicide rate of gay teens is five times higher than their peers. Is this “what Jesus would do?” Is this your idea of God’s love? Literally bullying people until they kill themselves.

Although kids that bully are not innocent, they’re only a product of their parenting, and of the larger society. This statement is just one little potential piece of the puzzle that is a person’s worldview.

I’ve often heard “christian” people repeat the phrase “we hate the sin, but love the sinner.” And there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but its almost always in defense of a statement or action that is homophobic. If religious organizations want to even appear like they care about LGBT people, they have to acknowledge what groups like Westboro Babtist Church do, and what their own organizations and policies have done, and say “This is wrong. We are completely against this.” And frankly I don’t see that very often.

Edit note- I have to wake up in 6 hours and have Bronchitis. Hopefully I’ll edit/finish this tomorrow… If not, don’t be a dick.


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