The controversy over Phil Robertson's racist and homophobic comments is the stuff made for Entertainment Tonight and the 24-hour cable news networks. The Twittersphere (really?) has apparently gone wild or whatever such spheres do when a billion people tweet about something. Sarah Palin has weighed in, of course. How can A&E possibly take away his First Amendment rights for just expressing his opinion? Palin has never been a student of the Constitution, but I'll leave that for another day. At first blush, I will have to admit the whole controversy seemed a bit stupid, as silly and stupid as the premise of the hit show itself I guess.
I just left the movie theater after having sat through an agonizing few hours watching 12 Years a Slave. I almost had to walk out half way through as witnessing the horror of slavery portrayed on the big screen is utterly devastating. And then juxtaposing this experience next to Robertson's comments suggesting African-Americans were better off before the civil rights movement has made me feel ill. Sick to my stomach ill.
The issue here is not the First Amendment nor is it really whether A&E was right in suspending Robertson. For God's sake, even Cracker Barrel has pulled their advertising dollars. No, the real issue is that far too many people in this country of ours honestly believe the exact thing Robertson gave voice to. Just look at the petitions circulating demanding his re-instatement. We do not live in a post-racial America. Race still matters in ways that ought to appall all Americans, but it doesn't. We want to believe we have come further than we have and that, in my opinion, is horribly wrongheaded and dangerous.