Who’s the real bigot?

Timon Cline, Contributing Writer
December 31, 2013
Filed under Opinions

At this point you would have to still be living under a pile of study guides and textbooks from finals week to be unaware of the Phil Robertson fiasco. But in case you’re just now emerging from a post-finals coma induced by Red Bull withdraw, here’s what happened: This past week GQ released a piece about Duck Dynasty (yes, you read that right) that quoted Phil Robertson views on homosexuality. He basically said that a vagina is more desirable than an anus, that the female body has more to offer a man sexually, and that sin (inferring that homosexuality is immoral) produces illogical desires.

I know, what an unprecedented scandal that one should state his opinion on sexuality in this day and age! Regardless of my sarcasm, the story has blown up like Duck Dynasty memorabilia sales at a Wal-Mart in Jackson, Mississippi (I can say that because I’m from the South).

Naturally GLAAD and A&E (the show’s network) went off the deep-end. Phil was “fired” (the term supporters favor, but “suspended indefinitely” is the official story) within 24 hours. The media has gone ballistic (especially the social kind)!

Robertson never once “should” anyone (those Communication students who have taken a class with Dr. Thomspon will appreciate that). He simply expressed his personal viewpoint, more than once clarifying such. Meaning, there isn’t much to be upset over.

I can assure you Phil Robertson is not involved in the construction of public policy and that his publicity does not sway those who are. Yet, on the chop-block he lays. We can’t seriously think one opinion is greater than another, can we? Are we really going to get angry if anyone ever presents an alternative understanding to an element of life?

In addition, it should be concerning to all of us if the instinct of the general public, upon witnessing a “disagreeable” side of an issue, is to recoil, ignore, and/or destroy. Thoughtful engagement is seemingly nowhere on the radar.

Putting aside the fact that his viewpoint is shared by many, and that being unique does not merit exclusion, it is amazing how intolerant many have been of someone, who by all accounts, should be considered “under-privileged” by the general consensus on standards of such. He maintains, in many ways, a backward, unexposed lifestyle (again, I’m from the South). And many people identify with this lifestyle and his opinions, so keep in mind that when you ostracize Robertson, you ostracize others as well.

Yet, I have not seen a single article or Tweet that suggests he should be excused for his “brashness” or un-coaxing explanation. Suddenly “vagina” and “anus” are too crude for us, especially in GQ! Are we really going to punish someone through the modern public beating because they did not express their opinion in a way that was literarily preferable to our ears? It can be argued that he is incapable of adhering to, and unaware of, the modern niceties regarding the subject (the guy could be our grandfather for Duck Call’s sake!), yet no grace was extended to Robertson. Whether those “niceties” are necessary or not, and the truth of his stance, is an argument for another time.

Here’s the real point: Is Robertson the bigot for expressing his opinion as well as he could? Or are we, the general public, the bigots for hating and silencing the “bigot”?

TIME’s Brandon Ambrosino presented a similar opinion, suggesting that to stoop to this level of “tweet-hate” is really to diminish the LGBT debate, and quoted G.K. Chesterton as saying that bigotry “is the incapacity to conceive seriously the alternative to a proposition.” Here, I think, is where guilt is found among us.

On a side note, it should be noted that the alleged violation of Phil’s First Amendment rights is essentially groundless. Freedom of speech grants private citizens the ability to say almost anything in the public square without legal consequences. It does not, however, eliminate all ramifications, suffered from your employer or the like, that may result from our speech.

Whether you find the consequences “fair” for Phil in this case hinges totally on your worldview or stances on social public policy. In either case your beef is with public belief, not the Bill of Rights.

Getting back to the “thoughtful engagement” concept: the real thing you should be asking is not, “Whose rights are being violated here?” or “Who is the aggressor, who is the victim?” What you really should be asking is, “Why does society think like I do, or why doesn’t society think like I do?” And, “How can this discrepancy be remedied instead of silenced?”

UPDATE:  Robertson has been reinstated to the show.

 

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