right to be stupid

I sincerely hope Tommy Jefferson and John Adams and Jim Madison didn’t mean for this to be the end result. A second rate character in a two-bit television show has temporarily become the nation’s moral compass; the linchpin that holds equality together for ourselves and our posterity. Sonofabitch!

Duck Dynasty - A&EFirst of all, let me emphasize that any TV network that calls itself the “Arts and Entertainment Network” and then runs “Duck Dynasty” marathons weekly needs to reassess direction. Either change your name or stop behaving like you still show ballet and Masterpiece Theatre. I would venture to guess that the majority of current A&E viewers agree with the comments attributed to Mr. Robertson in GQ.

Of much more importance; can someone please tell me when we stumbled from “sticks and stones” and “I may not agree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it” to “everyone who utters anything stupid or insensitive is inhuman”? I know I was alive and somewhat mature during a time where we weren’t so offended about every idiotic thing that was uttered.

And please, the content of a particular statement is of little importance. Hundreds of thousands of people every day make the same statement, or utter one just as biased, just as inflammatory, just as devoid of actual truth. So why do certain things said at certain times invoke such firestorms? It has to do with the amount of public outcry and what the media calls story legs.

There are two issues here. The first is the overreaction to stupidity and the kneejerk response by sponsors, television networks, and corporations. Let’s remember; every one of us is capable of saying something really stupid and bigoted. We are all humans that mature in an environment that shapes our attitudes, beliefs, and biases.

I understand that corporations and employers have certain rights and responsibilities also, but if you think A&E is making this stand because they are staunch supporters of gay marriage you are as dimwitted and delusional as Phil Robertson. A&E is trying to make sure sponsors still pay and viewers still turn the dial to “Dog the Bounty Hunter” and “Storage Wars: Texas.”

If we stand idly by and allow large conglomerates to dictate what is verbally acceptable then we are all in trouble. Look at what is happening to elections since it was Supremely decided that corporations were people, too.

America has always had politically correct speech. Before the ink dried on the Bill of Rights we were creating boundaries of language; what could be said in the presence of ladies and children. At some point in my lifetime, the powers that be have taken this to another level. Instant reaction from social media sites create a feeding frenzy that doesn’t subside until the person grovels at our feet, gets fired, or a better story comes along. And nothing changes. Not values, not attitudes, not the ignorant beliefs of those who think minorities are inferior, women are subservient, and gays are doomed to Hell.

We have hung our hats on symbolic things rather than concrete things. We rid the country of Paula Deen. Has that reduced racism? We made it a hanging offense to tell a woman at work she’s pretty. Has that brought about sexual equality? Does anyone think ridding television of one of the Duck Dynasty boys will make the road for gay people any easier? Let’s make some efforts at real discussion. Start asking the right questions and exposing idiotic beliefs instead of making martyrs of people with half a brain.

The other thing we’re losing is the true right of free speech. No one said we were supposed to make sure no one gets offended. That’s impossible, especially considering what people get upset about these days. Whether you support fundamentalist duck paraphernalia TV stars’ idiotic opinions or not, you should already have grabbed keyboard in hand and let A&E know how disappointed you are in their actions.

Every response like this erodes actual discussion about tough issues and only drives bigoted attitudes underground. Instead of honest dialogue about sensitive topics we now have two sides rigidly fighting about the punishment rather than the absurdity of the beliefs. At some point we either make this stop or watch it get more absurd.

And I assure you all it can and will get more absurd.

Mike Cox

Mike Cox

Mike Cox currently writes a weekly column in South Carolina for the Columbia Star called "It's Not a Criticism, It's an Observation." He is trying to grow old as gracefully as possible without condemning the current generation in charge to doom. Each day this task gets harder as the overwhelming evidence mounts. He currently has two published books; Finding Daddy Cox, and October Saturdays. His columns have won three South Carolina Press Association awards since 2003. Mike has three sons and two grandchildren and lives in Irmo, Sc, just outside of Columbia.