America’s unfortunate apology culture

Terry Garlock's picture

Raising kids these days comes with challenges. For example, while we try to teach them inner strength, independence and self-reliance, the pop American culture is teaching them sensitivity and the right not to be offended.

That is the root, I suppose, of political correctness, the dimwitted but popular limits on speaking the truth lest some feelings get hurt, followed by a pathetic penchant for apology.

Maybe I’m just a dinosaur, but I’m trying to teach my kids when they are offended by anything a jerk might say, they have foolishly surrendered to the jerk the power to control how they feel. Having a spring-loaded trigger to be offended is a childish weakness.

The latest example of this national neurosis is the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community taking extreme offense at the published remarks of Phil Robertson, patriarch of the “Duck Dynasty” family and their wildly popular TV reality show on the A&E network. Buckling under to the LGBT crowd, A&E suspended Phil for an undetermined time, and a “free speech” backlash is gathering steam.

In case you have been hiding under the couch most of 2013, I’ll tell you a little about “Duck Dynasty” and what Phil said that tied knots in LGBT’s knickers.

When I first heard about the “Duck Dynasty” reality TV show, I confess I rolled my eyes at the very idea of the latest brand of stupid spread by TV. But I did give in to curiosity, and after I watched one half hour episode I was hooked. I even conned my teenage daughter into watching and she also fell prey to the Robertson family’s charm.

I don’t have any affinity at all for duck hunting, or eating squirrel brains — Miss Kay’s favorite — or wearing camo and a long beard, though I do like to shoot, and I can appreciate their redneck affinity for blowing things up; it’s a guy thing.

I am uncomfortable around people who wear their religion so openly as Phil does, but I can’t help but like all of the Robertsons, maybe because they are fun, open, humorous and genuine people, proud to be self-proclaimed rednecks.

When they end each TV episode gathered around a bountiful dinner table, often provided by the day’s hunt, Phil’s simple prayer of appreciation for each other and for a loving God and his blessings should make a heathen like me squirm, since I don’t have a religious bone left in my body.

But Phil’s prayer is always refreshing in the aftermath of so much debauchery for so long from Hollywood.

Therein, I think, is the magic of the show, down-to-earth people sharing a piece of their lives through clean humor and devotion to values they hold dear, without a shred of regret about being different.

What could be wrong with that?

Well, Drew Magary set out to find out on behalf of GQ magazine. He was curious about the Monroe, La., duck hunting family who earned a fortune making and selling duck calls before their hit TV show.

So what sort of magazine article do you get when you cross a yuppy, too-smart-by-half writer sporting a knee-jerk suspicion of anyone who speaks the name of Jesus, with Phil Robertson, a 67-year-old with a beard down to his belt buckle and ready to proselytize at the slightest opening?

Here are a few selected excerpts from the GQ article.

“Drew remembers his first conversation with Phil: ‘We’re Bible-thumpers who just happened to end up on television,’ he tells me. ‘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.’”

When Drew admitted he had never been hunting, Phil took him on an ATV deep into the woods where the conversation continued.

“Phil asked, ‘So you and your woman: are y’all Bible people?’”

Drew answered, “Not really, I’m sorry to say.”

Phil swiftly took the opening he had created: “If you simply put your faith in Jesus coming down in flesh, through a human being, God becoming flesh living on the earth, dying on the cross for the sins of the world, being buried, and being raised from the dead — yours and mine and everybody else’s problems will be solved. And the next time we see you, we will say: ‘You are now a brother. Our brother.’ So we look at you totally different then. See what I’m saying?”

Later, when Phil talked about a world sadly full of sin, Drew asked:

“What, in your mind, is sinful?”

Phil answered, “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.”

Phil had more to say on the illogical physiology of same-sex attraction, but that part is a tiny bit graphic for a family-oriented newspaper so I’ll leave it to your imagination.

Al Sharpton is likely to poke his nose into the controversy to argue Phil’s observation about growing up in pre-civil rights Louisiana: “I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’ — not a word! Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were Godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

As you can see, Phil’s candidly revealed beliefs will never sit well with parts of modern America, and politically correct A&E suspended him to defend themselves from the offended activists.

What about writer Drew Magary? In his GQ magazine article, I can see in between the lines some ridicule here, a touch of admiration there, but mostly what strikes me is little respect for the devout nature of the Robertson family.

The article title, “What the Duck?” is an obvious takeoff on a coarse expression a ruffian like me might use in impolite company.

Drew’s wholly unnecessary profanity sprinkled throughout the article included several F-bombs, one anti-religious word I can only suggest here with the letters GD, and others not worth repeating.

As a writer, Drew seems to lean on the crutch-word “s**t” in the place of “stuff” or “things” or “etc.” thereby making me wonder if that juvenile potty style is what passes for hip writing in cool magazines nowadays?

Even though I swear like a sailor occasionally – OK, frequently – I don’t like it much written in public articles, and it was decidedly out of place in a piece about the Robertsons.

Nevertheless, I would defend Drew’s freedom to write the way he sees fit.

While Phil is suspended by A&E and the very tight Robertson family weighs their options, there is a growing outcry that Phil’s free speech rights are being trampled, but I don’t think so.

There is no government entity trying to prevent Phil from speaking his mind, and that is what the First Amendment guards against.

Phil is free to say what he wants, but that doesn’t mean he is somehow protected from the consequences of what he says. His employer, A&E, is free to discipline Phil if they believe his actions or words are damaging to their interest, though it is true their suspension certainly has the effect of inhibiting instead of promoting freedom of expression.

I don’t think the issue is free speech. I think the issue is tolerance.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal summed it up best. “The politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with,” he said. “It is a messed up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended.”

Gov. Jindal put his finger on the decay in American culture. When did it occur in America that a bible-thumping Christian like Phil Robertson is a pariah?

How is it that belief in the bible’s teachings on homosexuality or any other subject makes someone an outcast at the same time the Pentagon now celebrates lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender events?

How does the LGBT agenda trump Phil’s religious beliefs when those constitutionally-protected beliefs run counter to that agenda?

A&E swiftly released a public statement saying Phil’s comments don’t reflect A&E views or policy, but why does A&E feel so obliged to take the extreme response of punishing their own client with suspension for honestly answering questions from a magazine writer with no A&E affiliation at all?

Why is the pro-LGBT media covering reaction to Phil’s comments aggressively while at the same time trying very hard to ignore John Podesta, President Obama’s latest new hire, and his ugly reference to the Republican party as “... a cult worthy of Jonestown,” a reminder of the mass suicide in 1978?

Never mind, that last question answers itself.

Something stinks about the catawampus national sense of tolerance, but don’t worry, I’m not offended.

Personally, even though I like Phil on TV, I think a little bit of him would go a long way with me, since the form and content of his religious comments would wear thin pretty quick.

I don’t think he’d like my view on gay marriage, either. Even though same-sex affection makes me squirm, they should be free to do as they wish because their desire to be a couple has nothing to do with me. As for Drew, I don’t think I’d want to hang out very long with that weenie either.

But I do wonder this: if we are truly tolerant people, why can’t we have room in our tent for Phil and Drew and the LGBT crowd by accepting how we differ and expecting each other to behave, for example by keeping sexual matters behind closed doors.

After all, do we really need to be in mental lockstep to be decent Americans? Shouldn’t our standard be to judge people not on what they believe, not on what they say, but on what they actually do, how they conduct themselves?

I was hoping Phil would not cave in to the pathetic American rut of public apologies, and he didn’t really apologize, but he did explain:

“I myself am a product of the 60s; I centered my life around sex, drugs and rock and roll until I hit rock bottom and accepted Jesus as my Savior. My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together. However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.”

Even for a heathen like me, it’s hard to argue with that. Accordingly, since American culture has turned upside down I expect more trouble is brewing for “Duck Dynasty.”

[Terry Garlock of Peachtree City occasionally contributes a column to The Citizen. His email is terry@garlock1.com.]

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