Friday, December 20, 2013

The First Amendment, Explained

Anyone with a profile on social media, access to a computer, television or newspaper knows that a man named Phil Robertson recently made some ignorant comments about homosexuality. I tried to ignore it. I had never heard of Phil Robertson or the show he was affiliated with. Frankly, it sounds mind-numbingly stupid. I looked it up and confirmed that it is, in fact, incredibly stupid and I don’t know why anyone would watch it. It’s quite literally a show about a guy who made a duck call back in the 1970s. Who cares?

Robertson used his celebrity to espouse his opinions about homosexuality in the January 2014 issue of GQ, an honor he was clearly undeserving of to begin with. Robertson cited his Christianity as the reason for his ignorance about gay people, claiming that the homosexual lifestyle was sinful. Okay, Phil, your God has clearly expressed his disdain for homosexuals, but to say that being gay is “not right” and “not logical” is about as logical as a guy who has a show on TV about making duck calls. I don’t care how many people watch the show. It doesn’t change the fact that it’s stupid.

Let’s be clear, I’m not a proponent of censorship. However, the first amendment protects free speech, but it does not protect stupidity, and for good reason. You can say whatever you want. I can write whatever I want about it. In the end, there could still be a price to pay. Robertson went on record as a bigot. He lost his job for it because his employer’s reputation and business is at stake as a result of his expression of intolerance and hatred toward an entire population of people. That's the great thing about freedom. When your exercise of freedom is damaging to the freedom of another, you can face repercussions. Freedom is a two-way street. Robertson did not lose his citizenship. He didn’t even get arrested. Why, you ask? Because free speech is alive and well and Robertson, stupid as he is, did not break the law. So why the outcry from conservatives? Because it’s Thursday and the sun came up this morning. If it weren’t for stifling progress, conservatives would have nothing to do. It’s the lifeblood of their existence. Without their bitter hatred for everything, they would cease to exist altogether.

There is no assault on free speech. It is not, as Sarah Palin put it, “an endangered species” (like Pailin’s brain cells are). Robertson enjoyed free speech more than most of us ever will. He’s been documented and placed on the world stage for all to hear and see. His exercise of free speech made him very successful, and in the end, it held him accountable. No one told him he didn’t have the right. He can say whatever he wants. If you don’t like it, you can change the channel. If his employer doesn’t like it, they can terminate him. Both are perfectly acceptable reactions. At the end of the day, Phil Robertson is a shining example of the incredible freedoms we enjoy in the good ol’ US of A.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Letter to the Ghost of Paul Walker

Dear Ghost of Paul Walker,

I’m writing to you today because the living body of Paul Walker died last night in a car accident, a subtle irony considering the work for which he was most revered. Mr. Walker’s death is indeed tragic and I would only wish for his family and friends to have the time and peace that they need in order to grieve. You see, Mr. Ghost, the reason for my letter to you is to apologize – to apologize for the actions of dozens of people I call friends, and people I love dearly, for I learned of Mr. Walker’s passing in the early hours of the morning while perusing social media. At first, I believed Mr. Walker to be a native of the area in which I live, as I assumed only such a person would receive the kind of memorial that was being so liberally shared among people I know personally. However, I quickly learned of Mr. Walker’s true identity when a friend, whose name I will not mention, posted a link to a news article whose headline read something similar to, “Paul Walker, star of Fast and Furious Dies in Car Accident.” Queue the irony once again.

It was upon learning of Mr. Walker’s identity that I began to question why so many of my friends would be so distraught as a result of his passing. I pondered this question until I went to bed, and when I woke this morning, the answer was clear to me. My friends are not distraught by the news of Mr. Walker’s passing. After all, my friends had never met Mr. Walker during his life, they don't know his family or his friends, and they probably don't know anything about his career, other than his role in the Fast and Furious films. My friends are simply parroting the actions that they have been conditioned to demonstrate upon learning of the death of a celebrity. You see, Mr. Ghost, my friends will not shed a single tear. No sir, they will in fact go about their Sunday as if it were any other day. The topic may come up in casual conversation, but it will likely be quickly exhausted and forgotten about, and the conversation will shift to the deliciousness of Aunt Mildred’s leftover pumpkin pie.

Mr. Ghost, please understand that Mr. Walker’s seemingly untimely death comes on the heels of Thanksgiving, an American tradition of gluttony, greed and excess. You see, sir, Thanksgiving is a time during which Americans gather to eat food well beyond the point satiety. After stuffing their faces with turkey carcass, they head off to retail land to indulge in spending money on cheap crap because they've been bombarded by advertisements that tell them that this is the best time of the year to buy things, and they should buy as much as possible because this deal is ONE DAY ONLY! You really can’t blame them, sir. After all, Christmas is just around the corner, so we have to make sure our families get our new plasma TVs to replace the ones we bought last year because that’s the way Zombie Jesus would have wanted it.

You see, Mr. Ghost, people have been conditioned by senseless traditions for generations and it isn’t likely to change anytime soon. We love our traditions in America. We tell our stories about Pilgrims and Indians, Jesus Christ, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny as if we believe them to be true, and we use them to justify our lives of excess and desire. Don’t get me wrong, sir, I enjoy a good story and I like Thanksgiving dinners as much as the next person, but I know these stories are fictional and that Thanksgiving doesn’t actually represent a peaceful meeting between the natives and the Pilgrims. My point, Mr. Ghost, is that the people who express such seemingly heartfelt condolences for Mr. Walker’s friends and family are simply doing what they’ve been programmed to do by our very own society.

Our media, our institutions of learning, our places of business and our places of worship teach us a common theme; they all teach us that homogeneity and tradition have value and that we should continue to indulge in the lifestyle of fear and consumerism, gluttony, and vacuous self-preservation, but that we should disguise this lifestyle with meaningless platitudes and clich├ęs in order to fulfill some sort of societal obligation. So, Mr. Ghost, please forgive my friends, for they know not what they do. By the time anyone reads this letter, the passing of Mr. Walker will be old news and Americans will be on to their second helping of leftover pumpkin pie.

May Mr. Walker rest in peace, just like those killed in the tragic train derailment in New York City this morning, the old man down the street who collapsed and suffered a heart attack during his Thanksgiving dinner, the soldiers who died in the line of duty, the cancer patients, the victims of the tornadoes in Illinois recently, and everyone whose lives have ended, may they all rest in peace, as equals in our memories. As a final thought, I suppose this is the time to tell you that I don’t believe in ghosts. Oh well, at least tomorrow is Cyber Monday!