We allow public figures to get away with crimes and misdemeanors all the time. But every so often someone has to go down, so for now let's throw the sacrificial lamb of Paula Deen on the barbie.
By now, poor Paula has been sliced and diced by the media enough to put her off her food for the foreseeable future. She's been vilified as the calendar girl of racism, greed and gluttony. She promoted diabetes medication while creating recipes that no doubt caused her own. She admitted to using the N-word, as if she's the only human being to ever do so. She's being sued for alleged misconduct in one of her restaurants. As per these accusations, she lost her Food Network job, her deals with Wal-Mart, Sears, Kmart and Target, her reputation, and God knows what else.
Her overdone Southern fried schtick is as a phony as Rev. Ted Haggard's antigay preaching was. So let's all light our torches and storm the castle. Clearly, she has to go away, immediately, as if her banishment will once and for all end bigotry and morbid obesity as we know it, promote world peace, and end disease, death and the Syrian conflict.
A 66-year-old white lady from Georgia used the N-word and made racist jokes? Stop the presses! Seize her! Call in Jesse Jackson! Please. Everything I've observed about her whole pitiful debacle makes her seem less like the Empress Dowager of the KKK than a slightly clueless relic of the Old South, naively assuming it's acceptable to throw around racist jokes in mixed company and that it would be just darlin' to host a Southern Plantation affair with middle aged black slave waiters. But for God's sake, she's a cook, not the head of the United Nations. And a very, very successful businesswoman.
I grew up in North Carolina and I knew plenty of women like Deen, agreeable middle aged ladies who were not overtly bigoted but were just raised to believe blacks are equal to whites as long as they don't live next door. My parents and their friends did not socialize with many blacks. It just wasn't their social circle, yet it doesn't mean any of them were ready to burn a cross on someone's lawn. My dad recently said, "When I think of how blacks were treated when I was a kid, it makes my blood turn cold."
Watching Deen's tearful Today Show interview was easily the most pathetic spectacle of the year, even if it was as manufactured as Deen's recipe for porcupine balls. But even if she's just a clueless huckster, that doesn't make her a witch who should be barbecued in the town square. In a New York Times interview Deen said, "I think we're all prejudiced about something or another," and she's right.
But before we hammer the final nail into Deen's coffin, let's pause and look at just a few of the folks we have allowed to walk away scott free and continue to flourish:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich almost single handedly destroyed political discourse during his speakership, promoting politics as a divisive blood sport, encouraging Republicans to treat Democrats as secular, socialist enemies of the Republic, and his toxic legacy lives on in the Tea Party. He said Bill Clinton and Democrats were "The enemy of normal Americans" while conducting a private life that proved his marriage vows were merely suggestions. Since then he has published books, landed a gig on Fox News and run for president, and those who still listen to him think, "Sure, he's a scumbag, but he's smart."
Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh created cottage industries of making incendiary comments that make Paula Deen seem like Harriet Tubman, feeding the liberal-hating masturbation fantasies of their insatiable audience. Limbaugh is still talk radio's biggest star, and Coulter continues to write bestselling rants, rack up five figure speaking engagements and is treated by Sean Hannity like she's Madame Curie.
Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association and Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network roll out endless lies about and slander the lives of gay people every single day proving their well-earned hate group status, and they do it standing on a tax-exempt platform. Perkins is still a go-to talking head on cable news whenever a gay issue is discussed, akin to a Klansman being brought on to discuss racial issues. Robertson is worth gazillions, reminding me of Brett Butler's joke, "Jesus saves and we're going to spend it for him."
Rock "legend" Ted Nugent called the president a "piece of shit," instructed him to "suck on my machine gun" and called Hillary Clinton a murderer, having previously held his gun and said to her, "you might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch." Nugent has yet to be locked up, and still packs in the audiences and signs autographs for adoring rednecks at NRA conventions.
The leaders of American's banks and Wall Street firms precipitated the biggest robbery of the treasury in history during the 2008 financial meltdown, destroyed the portfolios of millions of Americans, then used the bank bailout to award themselves bonuses. Not a one of them has been changed with a crime and none of us even know their names. White collar criminals routinely get away with tax-evasion schemes. Big money donors are protected by the politicians they bought and paid for. It sometimes seems like the entire political and economic systems have been taken over by the John Huston character in "Chinatown."
After a reporter published a story that said actor Alec Baldwin's wife had tweeted during James Gandolfini's funeral, Baldwin unleashed a Twitter tirade that said, "I'm gonna find you, you toxic little queen, and I'm gonna fuck...you...up." Baldwin quickly apologized, ensuring that he will probably get another TV series.
Glenn Beck unleashes a new unhinged rant every day that's so insane it's beyond the ability of most people to even comprehend it. It's hard to vilify someone when the mere act of listening to them makes your head explode.
And don't even start about Kanye West and other singers, who use the N-word like Ira Gershwin used the words "Embraceable you."
The list is endless. And finally, let's not forget about how a certain leader can start an illegal war where tens of thousands are needlessly killed, and rather than be tried for war crimes gets a presidential library.
But America is far more interested in keeping up with the Kardashians, turning the George Zimmerman trial into a Law And Order episode, and drooling over the demise of a TV chef.
Sure, Paula messed up. But nothing she has said or done can compare to those we still allow to walk away from a far more deserving justice. The Deen affair has become yet another opportunity for smug scolds of all stripes to suddenly proclaim their moral superiority and pounce on an easy target: an aging Southern lady who promotes an unhealthy diet, who talks funny, who can provide fodder for jokes, and simplifies racism for people who then get to be sanctimonious about it. Americans routinely look the other way when someone does something horrible but is allowed to get away with it because their followers agree with them. It's a lot easier to go after Paula than a well connected figure who has friends in high places.
In a future utopian America where there is justice for all and not privilege for the very few, they would all be made to pay dearly for their sins. If that ever happens, Paula can cook for them in jail.
Jim David can be heard on his interview podcast, Jim David's Icons. His comic novel You'll Be Swell and comedy CDs are available on Amazon and Itunes.
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