There is a reason the First Amendment is the “first” Amendment. It is, to the great majority of us in the United States, the most important amendment. We are taught the foundations of this piece of work at an early age. While we may have been gazing out the window the day we were supposed to learn about Non-Enumerated Rights (the ninth amendment) or the quartering of troops (that’s No. 3), all of us believe we have a grasp of the top one.
Sadly, many don’t.
Usually those who scream about a lack of freedom of speech do so when they are met with resistance for those remarks. What they constantly fail to realize is that being able to say what they wanted in the first place without fear of being placed in prison is the absolute definition of free speech.
So wades into the water, Mr. Phil Robertson. The patriarch of the “Duck Dynasty” phenomenon was interviewed recently by Gentlemen’s Quarterly magazine — a perk of being uberfamous for repeating the word “happy” over and over again — and the conversation veered into his thoughts about homosexuality. Guess what? He’s not a fan. I’ll pause while you pick your jaw up off the floor.
He compares it, among other things, to beastiality and terrorism. He said he can’t comprehend anyone who wouldn’t favor the female anatomy over their male counterparts (I have to admit, I’m with him there, but I wouldn’t have talked about it so graphically).
Now, this space isn’t reserved to talk about his comments. That is a subject that has been played out time and time again. I would not expect a certain segment of society to be tolerant of all human beings. I’ve grown far too wise to believe that anymore.
No, this is a chance to discuss the freedom to speak one’s mind. Robertson certainly did that, and he will be able to do so time and time again to whoever will listen. Freedom of speech — other than that speech designed to incite violence or cause intentional mayhem — is an absolute right guaranteed by the Constitution.
Being on television is not.
Robertson and his clan have no more of a right to appear on the Arts & Entertainment channel than I do. What they have done, however, is create a demand for their show and their brand. In doing so, they most certainly have signed a contract with their employer that would contain several stipulations. One of those would be that they could be stripped of appearances if they ever said or did anything that could compromise that brand with viewers or advertisers. According to A&E, Robertson violated that contract, and he is suspended from the show indefinitely.
What has occurred since then is an outcry from such experts of the First Amendment as Sarah Palin (remember the history lesson she gave us about Paul Revere), Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and State Sen. Jason Rapert.
Palin defended Robertson’s statements by saying that free speech is an “endangered species.” Being able to say these words to every major news source, however, actually proves the opposite. Jindal said he was saddened that television stations don’t believe in free speech. Well, of course they don’t. That’s what unfettered capitalism is all about. If you are going to screw with the amount of money that comes in, you are going to be subjected to any penalties that follow. It’s actually something in which Jindal should take pride.
Rapert, as usual, used his pulpit to paint the white, conservative male as the one being persecuted. Mr. Rapert and I have had pleasant discussions about many subjects, but I wish he would please quit trying to play the victim. He (and I) know nothing about real persecution that has come upon all types of minorities throughout the history of this country. Sadly, I fear Rapert’s idea of Christian love is to love only Christians. I would wager that if he saw a homosexual lying in the street in need, what he would do would differ greatly from what Jesus would do.
See, I can opine about that because I have free speech. So does Rapert, Jindal, Palin and Robertson. What I am not guaranteed is the avenue to voice it. If the Log Cabin Democrat wanted to suspend my column privileges, it has every right to do that. It doesn’t stop my right to speak. It never will.
Why we have to keep teaching these simple civics lessons is beyond me.
(Ricky Duke is the Editor of the Log Cabin Democrat. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)