Friday, December 20, 2013

The Robertson Follies

After writing yesterday that I wasn't going to write that much, and that I couldn't care less about the whole Phil Robertson/Duck Dynasty flapdoodle, here I am writing about it.  I'm doing so because this nonsense has exploded far beyond any significance or importance, let alone relationship to anything that actually happened.

First, Phil Robertson had none of his rights violated.  He's an employee of a cable channel.  As such, he is under contract to do and not do certain things.  When that contract is violated, the channel can act.  Robertson isn't going to prison.  He isn't being stripped of his citizenship.  He hasn't been beaten, harassed, or been intimidated by police.  He certainly hasn't lost his livelihood; as the founder of the business at the heart of the program, he will continue to draw a hefty paycheck and live quite well.  He has been removed for an unspecified amount of time from a television program.

He was so removed because he said some pretty hateful things about gay folk, as well as some pretty ignorant things about the state of African-American life under Jim Crow.  Of course, in the midst of it all, he insisted it had something to do with his being a Christian, so all sorts of Christians are rushing to his defense, claiming persecution.  If Robertson had been fired after saying, "You know, as a Christian, I just don't think it's right that I'm getting paid $X while the folks behind the cameras barely make a living wage," I would probably nod my head in approval, at the very least.  What he did say was that people who are gay, because they are gay, are separate from God because of their sexuality.  Since, in traditional bland Christian orthodoxy "sin" is neither an act nor an essential part of the human condition, but a description of the broken relationship that exists between all creation and God, whatever else Robertson was saying, he wasn't talking about the Christian faith.  So, no, thank you, I won't defend his words as "Christian" because, simply put - they're wrong.

This piece by Alyssa Rosenberg at Think Progress captures just how fake the entire "controversy" is.  More than the ugliness of Phil Robertson's words, or that he claimed such ugliness as Christian, it is this that irritates me no end.  As Rosenberg says, A&E had to know who the Robertsons were and what beliefs they held.  That their image is manufactured, from their look to how they interact on the show, all of it is designed to sell a product: a wholesome, down-home American family from the heartland unchanged by wealth and business success.  Except, of course, that premise, being manufactured, is no more real than if Phil Robertson were an actor who played a fictional character with a different name and backstory.  That hundreds of thousands of Americans have been sucked in to the story, mistaking the image for the reality is a sad state of affairs.  It does not, however, give Robertson a pass when he says hateful, hurtful things under the umbrella of "Christian".  This is as manufactured as the rest, a bit of theater that is playing out precisely as scripted, including the support of viewers around the country.  All of it guarantees more money for A&E, for Duck Dynasty, and for the business the Robertsons own.

I do not nor will I watch the show.  I couldn't care less about the whole kerfuffle, except it, like Megyn Kelly's nonsensical white Santa/Jesus comments, reveals not so much a deep divide in America, as the lingering American Id, that part of our national psyche that lashes out at the Other - by turns gay folk, African-Americans, corporate executives, non-Christians in this particular case - without forethought or care for consequences.  If A&E lets Robertson back on the program, well, OK.  If for some reason counter to good economic sense they cancel it, well, OK.  In either case, the whole unfolding story is not about Phil Robertson or Christianity or censorship or rights.  It's about us, Americans, and our inability at times to tell reality from fantasy.

Virtual Tin Cup

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