Friday, December 20, 2013

Applying Voltaire to Phil Robinson

Some years after this blog and exchange another bit of information was added. I did not know that when this was written. It makes much of the discussion moot. Still interesting for a study of how we all form opinions.

I had no idea who the bearded fellow was whose face suddenly appeared all over Facebook. He had been suspended from something, and people were mad about that. Since I had my fill of dysfunctional USA politics for a while, and there is plenty of outrage material here at home, I ignored it. 

This morning his face, with a link to a blog post, appeared in the shares from 2 Facebook friends: one a devout Christian and one a militant liberal atheist. That got my attention.
Here is a link to the blog.

Now let me be clear that I find the tone of this blog, with its ranting against a supposed neo-liberal thought police, disturbing. 

Let me also be clear in my support for equal rights for my fellow humans who happen to love members of their own gender. I want to attend my sweet friend Keelan's wedding some day and see his adopted children. He will be a good family man and a great Dad to any children lucky enough to get him. His family will have loving grandparents, uncles and aunties, great values, and two daddies. 

AND: I support mr. Robinson's right to express his beliefs in a show where he supposedly plays himself. Mr. Robinson is a fundamentalist Christian, who believes being homosexual is a sin because the Bible says so. He is entitled to his opinion.

As Voltaire supposedly said: "Sir, I disagree with every word you are saying, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." *
That, Charlie Brown, is what being liberal is all about.

This support does not extend to the whipping up of hate, or to the desire of believers to impose their faith on others.

This quickie blog post got reaction on Facebook. My Christian friend Ken Cyr shared the magazine article  the fuss is about. 
It is always best to hear controversial comments in their context.
I find the tone of the writer irritating and condescending, and I rather like the bearded one. 

I don't like the way Phil was set up. First, they encourage him to play his outrageous self, then they take him down for doing so. I sense a game of "Gotcha!" in the whole scenario.

Apparently Phil also said this:
"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."

Now why did that not get more widely reported? He is also reported as saying that  blacks were happier picking cotton. This was taken out of context. Old Phil waxes nostalgic about his dirt poor childhood, when he was picking cotton together with blacks, and everyone was singing and he never heard a word of hate. Is he ridiculously naive, and oblivious to the fact that no black person in Louisiana would dare say a bad word within earshot of a white? Probably. But the man is entitled to his life experience. Here's the quote.

"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 dogggone 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."

And finally, both Kat Arenz and Astra Navigo, the two people who drew my attention to the whole issue, pointed out that this issue is an effort to fan the flames of the culture wars, a smoke screen to divert attention from the serious disasters going on. 

Government corruption, the dismantling of the social safety net, the increase of the surveillance state, the growing gap between the few rich and the rest of us, a planet in stress, and so on.

My final words on Facebook on the issue:
If you are against gay marriage, don't marry a gay.
If you are offended by Phil Robinson, don't watch Duck Dynasty.

*Just learned from an item on CBC's Sunday morning. Apparently Voltaire never said this exactly. It remains an accurate rendition of his philosophy.


Jacqui Binford-Bell said...

And I really think he should avoid bad words and not malign others. But yes, he had the right to do it. But his employers also have the right to suspend or fire him because it runs counter to their beliefs.

Frankly I thought his ignorant statement about blacks being happier picking cotton was almost worse.

He, in my opinion, showed his stupidity and added another blackeye to Christianity.

Melanie Boxall said...

I'm with Jacqui on this one. 100%.

Ien in the Kootenays said...

Since then, I have read the article in which he made his comments. The one about blacks was taken out of context. Phil is reminiscing about his own dirt-poor childhood, when he was picking cotton alongside black people, and in his recollection everyone was happy and there was less hate. This may not be an accurate representation of what his fellow pickers of different pigment were feeling, but it is a far cry from him saying "blacks were better off picking cotton." I truly hate it when anyone's words are taken out of context and distorted.

troutbirder said...

Well Yes I agree. However it reinforces my decision to severely limited my TV watching to occasional basketball games. I may not be aware of the latest controversy regarding "reality" TV characters, or political nitwits seen regularly on so called cable TV "news programs but really......

Buzzsaw said...

I sure appreciate the objectivity my friend Ien has even though we are on different ends of many topics. As a Christian I am equally offended when, in the name of Christianity, christians are racist and hateful, and while Phil Robertson words might not be my choice of words, he was neither racist nor hateful.

“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.” ― Rick Warren

Ien in the Kootenays said...

@Troutbirder, there are many good books and much bad TV. Good choices. @Buzzsaw: Rick Warren's quote nails it. When did people, especially in the USA, get that way anyhow?

Sean Jeating said...

Hm, on the risk to be called a nitpicker: The often quoted 'Voltaire quote' is from one of Evelyn Beatrice Hall's books about Voltaire.

Ien in the Kootenays said...

Hey Sean, sorry for the late reaction. I did not subscribe to notify on comments. I knew there was something not quite literal about the quote, hence the weasel word "Supposedly". Nice to see the proper attribution, thank you.