Thursday, January 16, 2014

Responding to Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson

Posted By on Thu, Jan 16, 2014 at 7:00 PM

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When did we as a society stop striving for equal rights for all and start endorsing, promoting and defending hate speech masked by Biblical scripture? Why do we ignore the Atticus Finches, Clarence Darrows and Martin Luther Kings of our day, who are striving to improve the human condition? I'm sure they exist, but their 15 minutes of fame have been preempted by the Duck Dynasties, Kardashians and Real Housewives of the world.

Unless you've been living in a swamp, I'm sure you've heard the controversy surrounding gay rights, the First Amendment and a reality show empire. If not, I'll summarize: Phil Robertson, patriarch of the clan on the insanely popular "reality" show Duck Dynasty, gave an interview to GQ in which he was asked his views on a range of topics, including gay rights. Not surprisingly, the extremely devout Robertson denounced homosexuality, using the Bible as the basis of his argument. A media shitstorm ensued. A&E, the network that airs the show, immediately responded by "suspending" him. The suspension has since been revoked. His multi-million dollar fortune is not in jeopardy.

Supporters of Robertson decried the infringement on his First Amendment rights, ignoring the same rights of his employer. Dissenters hurled accusations of bigotry and intolerance. The media and the blogosphere exploded with voices on both sides.

It turns out the GQ interview wasn't the first time Robertson had made ugly remarks. After news of the interview broke, more hateful rhetoric of his was made public. This self-professed Christian has made unpopular, if not downright ignorant, comments about many groups of people: homosexuals, African Americans, women. Not surprising, considering zealots have targeted these groups (among others, like redheads, lefties, etc.) for millennia. Is Phil a gifted hunter? Yup. A savvy businessman? You betcha. Is he a good father and family man? Probably. But as a Christian he should know better. He's not my judge, nor am I his.

I am not shocked by Robinson's comments, but they do make me angry. They are just his opinions, not facts. Robertson's judgement does not define me, it defines him. Since when is a paid reality TV star an expert on matters of faith? If I want to bag a mallard, I'll ask him. But for advice on things that matter, we should go elsewhere.

We need to spend more time listening to voices like Malala Yousafzai, the teenage Pakistani girl who stood up to the Taliban and demanded her right to an education. Or Edith Windsor, the defendant in the landmark Supreme Court decision that declared Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. Let's drown out the voices of people like Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum who have the gall to claim decrees from the Pope himself are "too liberal" to be ordained by God.

Your opinions don't make you a better person, your actions do. But above all, having an opinion shouldn't keep you from being kind to the people around you. n

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Doug Whitinger

Doug Whitinger is a native Hoosier and an advocate for LGBT rights.

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