The national firestorm surrounding Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson's disgraceful comments bring to the forefront the struggle for equality and justice that remains an ongoing fight in America.
Robertson's comments equating homosexuality to bestiality or implying African Americans were better off under Jim Crow laws are shameful, no doubt. But, what is even more startling is the almost instantaneous defense of Robertson by several prominent elected officials. From Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal to his Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne to Texas Senator Ted Cruz, extremists could not wait to defend or rationalize Robertson's inflammatory rhetoric.
You might think that these seemingly educated politicians might pick up a history book, re-visit what Christianity truly stands for, or at least be mindful of racial and economic struggles before rushing to a microphone to capitalize on a reality television personality and pander to the most divisive elements of our culture. But you'd be wrong.
The politicos who rushed to support this vitriol are truly the ignorant ones in this saga.
Robertson's defenders in Louisiana must have forgotten about Katrina, the racial struggles of the Jena Six, or the fact that nearby Lake Providence, L.A. -- only about an hour and a half from Duck Commander HQ -- was deemed "the most unequal place in America" by CNN.
Perhaps the voters of Louisiana should ask their two top elected officials who exactly, besides themselves, they are serving with their spirited defenses of those on the wrong side of history? Aren't leaders supposed to lead and representatives represent all citizens, including the black, gay, and Asian ones?
So, while A&E makes its own business decisions on the program's future, it is past time for our nation to look inward and think about our way forward. Our national crises -- income disparity, poverty, massive debts, crumbling infrastructure, unfunded pensions, and a host of other problems -- combined with the seemingly insatiable need for those with any platform to divide instead of unite -- begs the question: where are the leaders who will solve the real issues at hand?
It must fall to the next generation to fulfill our country's promise. Our remarkable millennial generation is committed to equality, does not care whom one loves, and is determined to make all of our communities and our country a better place.
As Executive Director of New Leaders Council (NLC) I have the privilege of traveling the country and witnessing the development of the next generation of leaders we so desperately need. NLC's efforts also extend deep into what pundits often label "red" America.
In Louisiana we have a vibrant and thriving chapter, with a record applicant class this past year for our upcoming programs. NLC Alumni in Louisiana are preparing to step up into leadership roles across the state, including running for the highest offices. Perhaps one such alumnus may actually share a debate stage with Jindal or Dardenne some day, and can put to them the very questions they now refuse to answer. That is the kind of leadership we need: smart, honest, accountable, and unifying.
Our NLC community would respectfully disagree with Robertson and the likes of Jindal but point out that they are not entitled to their own set of facts.
Taking a step back, what Phil Robertson really taught us is that we have a lot of work to do as a country. We need to move past the bickering and the instinctive partisan politicking, towards real leadership. It is time to stand up and get rid of shortsighted, divisive, and pandering politicians.
Make it your New Year's resolution to support next generation progressive leaders in Louisiana and across the country as they change us all for the better.