As a general rule, I try to avoid chiming in on stories such as this one, where Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame came out in an interview with GQ as having some homophobic but not entirely surprising views. In the interview, he talks about homosexuality being a sin and even likens it to bestiality. After this interview, the network that runs Duck Dynasty, A&E, put the show on hiatus. I don’t many of us were surprised at Robertson’s views. I’m sure even A&E knew his general sentiments about those chunks of the American population that don’t align all that well with the conservative Christian worldview.
What was more surprising than the comments from this Duck-call maker was the outpouring of homophobic support for Robertson and his bigotry. All over Twitter and other social media outlets, people bashed queer people using tired heteronormative stereotypes, etc. You can read a few of them here. Beyond this general ignorance and hatred, I’ve seen the idea floating around that “tolerance goes both ways.” This is the idea that those people who may not agree with homosexuality as a lifestyle should be tolerant, but that also queers should be tolerant of those who hate them. It’s an interesting concept. and its easily confused with our right to free speech, I think.
We have the right in this country to speak our mind, and I support Robertson’s right to share his views. I do not, however, have to support his views. I need not be tolerant of bigotry (and I do think it’s bigotry). Asking that people accept this kind of view is not tolerance.
While the debate over same-sex marriage and similar issues rages on in the United States, we must remember that we’re not alone in the world. In other parts of the world, queer people are killed or imprisoned for life. In Russia, it’s currently in fashion to talk about putting LGBT people in ovens and burning them alive. Sound familiar? Uganda just passed a law that punishes “aggravated homosexuality” with life in prison. There are a total of 83 countries that punish homosexuality by law.
In the US, it’s easy to forget that in other parts of the world, being yourself can have serious penalties. Beyond our responsibilities to the people of our own country, we have a responsibility as global citizens to oppose hatred and bigotry. We must place our national debates in an international context to understand the real consequences of our beliefs. On his Tumblr, Hank Green says it best: “…when you throw down your lot with the ‘gays are the root of sin!’ people, you are throwing wood on a fire that burns high and bright and literally kills people. It is not a question of being put off a show about duck calls for a few weeks.”
With our great freedom of speech also comes a great responsibility. I’ll end this post with the conclusion to Hank’s post:
As for the religious argument here, it’s been made so many times by people far more qualified than me—this obsession with the sex lives of gay people is strange and foreign to the soul of Christianity. It also shows a fundamental and constant misunderstanding of how gay people lead their lives. I will say that loads of Christians out there are doing good things every day and not walking this particular road to nowhere. This road brings pain and suffering to others. It has never seemed very Christian to venture down it.
The nature of these kinds of kerfuffles means that this will probably be forgotten in two days, but the actual persecution of gay people will go on past that.
But who am I even talking to here? I worry that I simply preach to a choir. But then, I also worry (a lot) about many of you who may read me and be teens and despair over the state of the world when you read things like this. If you are gay or anywhere along that bright rainbow, THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU. Sorry about this. We’re working on the issue.
Here’s hoping for something that breaks the polarized cycle of discussion and actually moves us forward, together, into a place where the playing ground is equal.
And I do think that day is coming.”