Friday, December 20, 2013

Duck Dynasty, Being Gay and Social Change

Apologies in advance for poor grammar and ramblings.  Those of you who've read my thoughts before know all too well my penchant for not stopping.

I've read the GQ article  which has caused so much frustration for so many people and it seems more than a little critical in tone and mocking.  I think there’s only the liberal outrage about his remarks because they were made in GQ, a magazine which is frequented by a larger demographic spread than A&E’s show, itself, or the outlets the family members have gone on thus far.  That said, I have to wonder if there’s a gentleman’s agreement that this sort of crapstorm is good for most parties involved.  GQ will get more eyeballs because of the flame-baiting article in its pages and the upcoming season of Duck Dynasty will have the highest viewership yet(mentioned in the article premiering January 15th!).  That said, reading the article in full reveals an evolving tone that by the end the writer seems to be anxious and questioning of the validity of his own lifestyle more so than being cynical about the family and their way of life..  Whether that’s just a craven attempt to balance the overall feel of the article, I certainly can’t say, but it seems like the writer has only rarely and fleetingly ventured out of the metropolitan city-scape, which is about as healthy as never leaving rurality.

Going straight for the controversial statements and views, Robertson puts out his own views on sexual attraction as well as the Bible’s view of it.  Put simply, I have no problem with him holding the view he does and I actually agree that purely sexually speaking, the female form is sexier.  However, to cast homosexuality as only being about the vagina or the anus is really focusing on a single aspect of what people’s felt attraction is all about.  I’d imagine Robertson is attracted to more than just the vagina of his wife, and I would offer the same good faith presumption to gay, lesbian or any other persuasion people in longer lasting relationships.

I also don’t think there is a first amendment issue at play here.  Being put on hiatus or temporary leave by A&E, a for-profit company that’s run as joint venture between ABC/Disney and Hearst Corporation, is not in any way the same as being legally prosecuted for one’s views, or having those views censored so people can’t see hear or read them and then later discuss the views, themselves.  Rather, it’s about the exact opposite of that happening as the media firestorm and the ubiquity of social media has given a great deal of attention to the GQ article and Robertson’s views somewhat detailed inside it.  I think accusations of there being a vast conspiracy of left-wingers trying to muzzle dissent are inaccurate as well, and the sort of outrage being directed at A&E is exactly the sort of response that society is said to be able to do in a purely Libertarian world where people feedback their criticism to companies rather than voting for people to carry out their will.  LGBT groups leading the charge against A&E, the Robertsons as well as any affiliated brands and companies I think are exercising a relatively newfound power and are wielding it with the grim resolve of a portion of society long mocked, persecuted or ignored feeling they finally have a say in things.

I think the shocked astonishment at his expressed views is either contrived or otherwise exacerbated by our generally single-issue-advocacy culture.  It’s only twenty years ago when Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was passed, at the time railed against by the same people who railed against its later repeal.  This was after Elton John and David Bowie but before Ellen DeGeneres, Rosie O’Donnell, Neil Patrick Harris, and many others have come out in the 90’s and 2000’s.  While chunks of mainstream have certainly made peace with this part of humanity, there are definitely other parts of it who have  not.  There are 17 states allowing gay marriage, all done after 2004.  Most of the states have some level of prohibition of gay marriage, almost all done after 1996.  This screams being an issue in a great deal of volatility right now, and to get angry about someone expressing their views on the matter, no matter what they are, is silly as there’s clearly no social norm anymore.  The old social norm of it didn’t exist or that it shouldn’t be talked about or that it should be cured or beaten or ostracized out of people is no longer the case.  That’s why it’s so critical for us as a society to be able to speak to one another about not just religion, not just sexuality, not just politics but about any thing which comes into our focus as seeming important in a positive, negative, or neutral way.

I do take some issue with the Biblical narrative cast by Mr. (Phil) Robertson, which includes the idea that all animals were vegetarians until after the great flood.  This just doesn’t hold water as I see many animals which are purely carnivorous, appear to be built for exactly that, and yet at some point they changed from eating all greens to eating meat and there also was no evolution of their form to this function.

Being devout Christians doesn’t require a specific denomination, but it can certainly help in communicating one’s outlook on the world and also help people identify with one another.  It also helps lend legitimacy to complaints that not *all* utterances of Jesus’ name at the dinner table are broadcast and how that’s an important religious focus in one’s life.(I’d also point toward whatever contract was signed with A&E in creating the show to see about creative rights and editing powers of both the ‘cast’ as it were and the production staff).

I’m supportive of the idea that hunters ought be conservators of the outdoors, and that’s how it should be.  However, historically hunters have not proved useful in this role and some outside entity of government giving bag limits and direction on how old sport animals must be before they’re shot.  Also, the elimination of all cities and everyone living off the land and *also* maintaining it as a sustainable(here as ecological kind) resource there would need to be a severe reduction in the world’s population.  Some might see that as positive, though I tend to think the clustering of people together has more benefits than drawbacks.   While we may have great ideas in our heads, oftentimes there’s little to be done with the idea until there are enough people to give rise to its realization, either in building something or even just in purchasing it to give fortune to those with the idea.  Also, the idea of everyone living as rural custodians of the planet begins to encroach on the ability to travel very far, visit family and friends in further away areas or even to have them in the first place.  It’s important to have an understanding of not only different cultures and different places, but of differing opinions from people in the same place and culture.  We’re not all the same, and even the people sitting in the same pews of the same church have some difference in opinion when the grains and details are gotten into.  Being able to express these different beliefs, and to respond to them in a way that’s constructive is key to a functioning society, and putting ourselves on outposts in rural communities is not, I think, a way to better the current situation we already have, which is admittedly not great anyway.

Pre Civil Rights Era Blacks not singing the blues is just silly, as during the 60’s and 70’s is when The Blues hit its stride in mainstream appeal, and much of its formative years is from the late 19th and early 20th century.  That said, I don’t doubt he’s accurate in working shoulder to shoulder with black people and how there was not racial animosity between them, but I think it has little to do with welfare statism.  While slavery was repugnant there ought to be continuing recognition not all white people benefited from the ability to own other human beings.  As a reminder, not all white men were allowed to vote at the start of the country, and in the cities a lot of voter intimidation and rigging had everything to do with nationality among ‘white’ groups and the religions they felt strongly about, so to say there’s religious persecution like never before in this country seems to not carry a lot of weight in my mind.

Chicago vs Salt Lake City:  While Chicago may have the rep for Al Capone and machine politics, the former is only a reputation that came about after Chicago gained economic strength playing the butcher for the world and a major gateway helping to sustain frontier beachheads.

“You put in your article that the Robertson family really believes strongly that if the human race loved each other and they loved God, we would just be better off. We ought to just be repentant, turn to God, and let’s get on with it, and everything will turn around.”
I agree wholeheartedly, and only point out that in our more devout days of the past before culture wars and modern immorality there were plenty of people not loving one another as God loves any of us, not just for race but for nationality(remember Irish and Polish and Italian and French and German immigrants all attacked one another when black, asian and hispanic people were foregone conclusions of being excluded.  I saw on the sign of a local church with the saying “Pray to God, but keep rowing”.  I think that could be taken to the societal level and must be for there to be any healthy maintenance or pruning of existing norms and ideas.

On the topic of sin, I think putting sin along with avarice and hypocrisy, slanderers and adulterers is just not accurate, even in the context of it being a sin in the first place.  There are multiple times where Jesus preaches against adultery, though our country’s Christian founding and upbringing has only occasionally flirted with criminalizing ‘traditional’ adultery in sleeping with another woman while already married.  The justifications for Jesus even addressing homosexuality apparently lay on citing his emphasis on adultery in general.  It also seems to place all sins as being the same, with drunkenness and adultery being tantamount to homosexuality, bestiality, swindling, and perhaps even so far as rape or murder though I doubt Robertson would support such an equivalency.  While there are certainly many different takes on sin even within Christian circles, I think there’s some degree of acknowledgement that some sins are consciously done knowing there is going to be damage to another person, and there are those that do not directly lend to the harm of another’s being.  Robertson in his college and early 20’s days participated in much of what he would have called sinful, and those past actions aren’t undone because of his putting his faith in Christ and repentance in his own soul.  Simply put, if they were put against one another, I’d much rather have sinners of the kind who are attracted to people of the same sex rather than later repenters who were violent in their youthful indiscretions.

One part the article does make that I’ve not heard many people focus, coming from the left or the right, is that the Robertsons are utilizing Duck Dynasty more or less as a launching pad for having a broader influence.  It notes they go on speaking tours and how Phil, in particular, focuses on being able to spread the good word.  This is great, for them, and great in that it adds more voices to the public discourse.  What I think is not great is the condescending manner they look at the ‘yuppies’ with, which is to say it’s not great people looking down on ‘rednecks’.  Instead of vilifying people with opposing viewpoints, engage them and in good faith listen to their principles and how those relate to what they think of policy, then do the same for them.  Even if they don’t pay that same professionalism to you, you’ll have come away with a deeper understanding of why they believe what they believe and may even be able to better convey your ideas to them or those like them in the future.