I Hate Gays Because FREE SPEECH; or, Why We Should All Get Over The Duck Dynasty Fad Already

HA!

Okay, first: I don’t hate gays. I love the gays. I love the straights too. I am a straight, I have a bagillion gay and lesbian friends. An old friend took his own life a few years back because of a depression stemming over his family’s rejection of his homosexuality. If my children ever come home and tell me they are gay, not a damn thing will change. I’m not going to tap dance around this for fear of losing followers: I believe in equality for the homosexual community in every way, shape, and form. People are people, regardless of what they do in the bedroom.

If you have a problem with that, you can get the fuck off my blog page. Now.

I’m Catholic. That means I’m a Christian, by virtue of the fact that the Catholics worship and try to follow the teachings of … wait for it … Christ. Christ (the bearded guy who died for all our sins – sins I can only assume did in fact include ancient-style homophobic hatred) preached one thing above all others: love.

Love, motherfuckers. LOVE.

Not judge. Not hate. Not make moral judgments for which you have limited moral understanding. Not claim that you could actually – in a million years – know with absolute certainty God’s agenda.

Love. That’s it.

So are we clear on these things before I go on? Okay, great.

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So this whole Phil Robertson-Duck Dynasty thing has got me super riled up. It didn’t start out that way. At first I didn’t care, because seriously I do not understand why in the actual fuck the world is so enamored with those long-bearded hillbillies. Then as the day wore on, I saw more and more people on Facebook and Twitter and all of the other areas of the Internets (which I am now convinced should really be called the “Everyone’s An Expert Soap Box”) claiming that this guy’s right to free speech was being violated because he was suspended from the show for making homophobic comments. Phil Robertson for President Facebook pages were popping up. Keep Calm and Boycott A&E shirts were being sold.

Put down your shot guns and slow your fucking roll, hillbillies!

My friend Ava over at Journey of Jordanna East said it perfectly: “One of the biggest problems with America is that Americans don’t actually know how their own country works. It’s so sad.”

It is true that we have a freedom to speak what’s on our mind in this country. That is – essentially – the essence of the first amendment, though there are limitations. One of those limitations is that it truly is with regards to free speech on government matters. And it does not protect freedom of speech in areas like sedition or treason. I could continue, but this is a lot of technical mumbo-jumbo that’s deviating from the point. Did Phil Robertson have the right to make whatever homophobic, racial, or otherwise comments he wanted? Sure. Of course he did.

That right to say whatever he wanted, though, did not in any way, shape, or form protect him from the consequences of those hateful and hurtful words. That’s just not the way the constitution works.

People don’t seem to have gotten that, though. In fact, even when confronted with this logical discussion, and the basic facts of the constitution, people just seemed to be screaming louder and louder – FREE SPEECH FREE SPEECH. As if just saying that over and over again will refute any and all truth.

1504935_586891554731885_366015547_nAnd as the day wore on, it got worse. Suddenly the world of Twitter was discussing what everyone’s opinions about the first amendment and the definition of free speech is. I’m sorry, huh? Opinions? Interpretations? We aren’t talking about varying interpretations of the color of a person’s bowel movements here. We’re talking about an empirical and constitutionally upheld fact. Are you on the Supreme Court? Then all your fucking opinions are INVALID.

Here we have the reason why I think it’s about time we all get over the Duck Dynasty fad the nation has been enthralled in for years now: all this hillbilly TV has just further contributed to our collective stupidity. Instead of learning about things like the actual freedoms protected by the constitution, we slap ourselves down on the couch for six hours of television every, single night. We scream FREE SPEECH from behind the safety of our computers, all the while refusing to actually read about and understand what freedom of speech really is. And we do it not only behind the security of a computer screen, but under the sanctity of our religious views.

This is why so many people think religious people are ignorant anyway – because they choose ignorance over intelligence time and again, out of laziness and a general sense that saying something (FREE SPEECH!!!!!) over and over again will make it actually come true.

But it doesn’t make it true, no matter how many times you say it; and it doesn’t make Jesus love you, because Jesus does not love bigots. No matter how much the constitution guarantees their rights to proclaim that bigotry.

The thing that is so fascinating to me about the Phil Robertson/Duck Dynasty controversy is that people seem to be too chicken shit to actually say they want him to stay on the show because they hate the gays too. I mean some people are saying it, but more are just screaming that freedom of speech line and claiming Robertson had the right to speak “God’s plan.” Why all these smoke screens? Why not be real and say that you hate the gays too? That the thought of gay sex is icky to you and, therefore, Robertson can say and do whatever he wants?

Is it because of some fear that there may actually be consequences of you exercising your own free speech as well? But if you acknowledge that, then of course you’d have to accept A&E’s suspensions, which would then require you to acknowledge just how inherently wrong others in the world think your hate is.

I hate gays because FREE SPEECH? I love everyone just because.

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There is no room for literacy at my local pub…

Sadly, my local pub is apparently among those that prefer idiocy and ignorance to intelligence and education. Gladly, I don’t care if  anyone’s feelings are hurt that I honestly share my experience in coming to this conclusion. If you’re ever in California, don’t waste your time at Brendan’s Irish Pub and Restaurant (Camarillo, CA) if you think reading is important. Because there is no room for literacy at my local pub…

Some time ago, I was terribly disheartened by my own experience as a writer trying to seek out publication, and as an avid reader desperately searching for like-minded people who love books as much as I do. To say “I love books” is probably understating it. I am obsessed with books. I read all the time. The only thing that I love more than books are words, which always gets weird looks when I tell people this. I think a word is one of the most beautiful things in existence, and no one can ever take them away from you. So when I was disheartened a while back, I did some research and learned some startling statistics, which I reported on this blog. Among the most startling of things I learned when writing that blog was that as many as 33% of people that graduate from high school never read another book again after graduation, with 42% of the remaining never reading past college. Additionally, on a daily basis the Pew Report estimated that Americans spend an average of 4 hours watching television, 3 hours listening to radio or music, and no more than 14 minutes reading (usually in a magazine or news online). Every, single day – no more than 14 minutes. I came to the conclusion that in a world like this, there is no room for good literature.

But then you have a rare event promoting literacy, such as happened today across the country – an event that lifts your spirits and gives you hope amidst all the statistics and stupidity. Last year in Europe a movement began called World Book Night, which spread to the United States this year and created an unprecedented movement of people encouraging others to read. The idea was that the 501(c)3 would get (through contributions from individuals, organizations, and publishing houses) 30 books distributed in large amounts to volunteers who would then give the books away for free to members of the community. You could give them away anywhere – the mall, senior centers, the library, the grocery store, restaurants, bars … whatever you wanted, you just had to give them away for the event, and for free.

So I signed up and got my first choice for books – The Poisonwood Bible. I got twenty copies, specially printed with a letter on the cover about World Book Night and a list of all the contributors that made the event such a success. A book club I’m in had some ladies that were interested in participating as well, so we organized a meet up at the local watering hole to give away the book (and other used ones we had collected) to passers-by.

When I walked in, the hostesses at the front door welcomed me and my box of books with open arms. They each took one and said they were so excited we would be there. We had communicated with the place about the event, so this seemed only natural. The others in our group showed, we ordered drinks, and set out the books on the two tables we occupied. We gave out a few more books. We snapped a photograph. Then I saw our waitress talking to the bartender and looking at us, and as she walked over I knew things were going to go downhill. The conversation went something like this:

Cocktail waitress: “So, what exactly are you guys doing?”

Us: “We’re participating in World Book Night. It’s a national event where we have been given free books to distribute to people in our community at local hang outs.”

Cocktail waitress: “Hmmmmmm… who did you speak to about doing this? Did you talk to Chuck?”

Us: “We sent an email and also communicated on your Facebook page.”

Cocktail waitress: “Huh. I’m trying to figure out how to say this without being rude. We really can’t have you approaching people to solicit them.”

Us: “Okay, can we stay seated here with our books on the table?”

Cocktail waitress: “Oh sure, you are welcome to stay and drink but you can’t approach people.”

Us: “Can we move somewhere that more people will see this.”

Cocktail waitress: “I’m really just trying to say this without being rude, but no – you see none of us even know what the book is about, having never read it. If someone walks by and asks what you have on the table, you are welcome to give those away.”

She came back a few minutes later to make it clear that we could still give people the books if they walked by and asked, and when we asked if we could put up a handmade sign she said “no.” That was the end of our World Book Night as we thought it would be. Disappointing, but we had to move on.

After finishing our drinks and getting out of there, we ended up walking around the rest of the mall and distributing the books (mostly) to employees of the other shops and fast food restaurants in the area. Some of them were very appreciative, a few looked like they just wanted us to leave. One guy acted surprised that people were giving out books and actually acknowledged that illiteracy in our country is a big problem that things like this will really help fix. In the end, we successfully got all of our World Book Night books distributed and had a good time, but that really isn’t the point.

Had my local pub not been in a complex with other places, they could have ruined our efforts for the night. I get not wanting people to bother their patrons. I get not knowing what the book is about and being worried we might represent something they don’t believe in. But had they taken the time to look into it, or had they considered even just letting us set the books up in such a way that passers-by could see and inquire, this wouldn’t have made me so mad. Instead of doing that, though, Brendan’s Irish Pub and Restaurant let us show up and order drinks, only to shoot us down. Because the people working tonight had never read the book. Maybe they’ve never read any books, or they don’t believe that reading is as important as making money and discouraging anything but drinking at their establishment. Do I really believe that it was some grand conspiracy theory on the part of the place to actively discourage intellectualism? No. But it still is true that if their patrons decided to read more, they’d likely spend less time glued to the bar stool with their eyes on the many big screen TVs that cover the place.

In the end, it’s just a big disappointment in a locally owned restaurant and bar, and a reminder that for the majority of our present society, there really is no room for good literature. We weren’t selling things. We weren’t trying to convert people to any religious or cult-like groups. We weren’t interrupting people’s meals or breaking up their attempts at love. We just wanted people to see what we had to offer, and to have an opportunity to read and expand their minds.

It’s too bad that there is no room for literacy at my local pub… is there room for literacy anywhere anymore?

Contemporary Children’s Programming: WTF?!

Um, so can I just say what most parents should be saying? Caillou is a little fucking pansy, and I want to stab the shit out of Dino Dan every time he opens his stupid, Canadian mouth.

What in the fuck happened to children’s programming in the last ten or fifteen years, for children under the age of around 8 – 10 that is? When I was growing up, TV was awesome. It was Rainbow Bright, Glow Worms, Popples. It was My Little Ponies and the Smurfs. Sure I watched all the girl’s shows, but there were other ones that boys watched too – like Tom and Jerry, Mickie Mouse, and Looney Toons.

Now, it’s as if contemporary children’s programming is so overly concerned about hurting sensitive feewy-weewings, and being politically correct; as well as not allowing any illusion to violence whatsoever on the TV (because God forbid we have to take responsibility for teaching our children not to be violent, rather than depending on the TV to do it…).

I now have a Contemporary Children’s Programming Shit List, and while I’m sure there are some moms out there changing their 10 year old son’s diapers that think Caillou is just the bees knees, I’m sure the majority of you really agree with me.

Caillou

Caillou is this little, bitchy, bald ass four year old cartoon character, whose every-other-word out of his mouth is “mommy.” I always imagine this show is written by a woman who still breastfeeds her fifteen year old son because it is a tale in pansy, momma’s boy behavior. Ultimately, Caillou would be an awesome show that teaches kids about every day things, if only Caillou and his little sister Rosie weren’t being helicoptered to death.

Peppa Pig

Peppa Pig is (I believe) on the preschool channel – Noggin or Nick Jr. or whatever the hell it’s called now. It started as a short interlude between regular programming, but for some ungodly reason they decided to give it its own thirty minute time slot. Peppa Pig would be more tolerable if only those piggish mother fuckers didn’t snort and belch every couple seconds through the entire show. I get the idea of trying to make it “authentic,” but how authentic can a cartoon about anthropomorphic talking pigs be anyway? If they want it to be authentic, why not go all the way and have the pigs slosh around in their own shit and mud, laying around eating hay all day; rather than what the show really does, which is have these snorting, belching pigs out taking boating trips on their yachts and shit. Pigs on yachts – real values there.

Dino Dan

When Dino Dan comes on the television, I want to get ice picks and stab at my ears until I permanently damage my hearing so that I don’t have to ever hear stupid Dan and his unhealthy obsession with dinosaurs again. And what’s worse is that all the adults in the show enable Dan and his obsession – no matter what situation they are in, what they are doing, what they are learning in school, somehow Dan is always allowed to relate it to dinosaurs and completely derail what is going on into his weird imaginative love of the extinct beasts. Dino Dan teaches kids that it’s okay to have an unhealthy obsession that renders you entirely nonfunctional if not talking about that very obsession. Once I Googled “where’s Dino Dan’s dad” because he never appears on the show; and I found one discussion forum where the first poster said “who knows, probably abandoned Dan and his mom because he was too fucking annoyed by Dan and his stupid dinosaur journal.”

Good Luck Charlie

Yeah, sure – Charlie’s cute, Bridget Mendler is a great actor, and the slapstick comedy is a little more tolerable than the aforementioned shows. But has anyone actually noticed that Charlie has minimal roll in the show at all, not to mention this most recent stunt of the parents having another “accidental” pregnancy? Um, hi! Have we never heard of birth control, Disney channel? What does it say to a generation of little kids, when the world population is completely out of control and there are millions of orphaned children in need of loving homes, that the lovable sitcom Duncan family is on their way to having five kids? That’s +3 population growth – a concept I don’t expect most lovers of this show to understand, but is nonetheless an horrible example.

Ni Hao Kai Lan

The only thing cool about this Dora the Explorer knock off is that we all learn fragments of Mandarin Chinese while watching it. But it’s like the creators of the show sat down and said “okay, we want her to be just like Dora only Chinese, and her voice needs to be even more goddamned annoying than Dora’s, Boots’, and Tiko’s all were combined. In fact, imagine Dora, Boots, Tiko, and the Grumpy Old Troll all screaming at the top of their lungs and let’s make it even more fucking loud and annoying than that. And pointless, too. We know it’ll be hard to make it more pointless than a fucking singing backpack and a map that repeats the same stupid route to rainbow bridge over and over and over again, but we think we can do it with this little annoying Chinese chick.”

I’m sure there’s more. I can actually think of a few more, like Wow Wow Wubbzy (by the way, is Wubbzy a girl or a boy? or a transgender rounded cube that talks and has arms?) But these are really the cream of the crop in terms of annoying and stupid contemporary children’s programming. It’s sad that this is what it has been reduced to. A staple of childhood is watching your Saturday cartoons, or finishing your homework in time to watch that show you love more than the toy in the Cheerio’s box. I feel like mainstream media, bad parenting, and helicoptering of children has destroyed that; has made it this stupid, androgynous whiny and pointless shit that it’s become.

Oh, the irony

Here’s something ironic for you:  when growing up, I would constantly roll my eyes and scoff at my parents for saying that cartoons were too violent, and that TV had a negative influence on my behavior.  Routinely, I snuck around to watch shows like Ren and Stimpy.  Why would they air those on kid’s channels if they weren’t OK for kids to watch, right?  Flash-forward to now, and the disturbing irony has unfolded, as with children around I now understand that the profound impact TV really does have on our kids.

But in this there is something very serious to think about, that being the values that are conveyed through children’s TV shows.  When I was growing up, it was the violence of Tom and Jerry and Ren and Stimpy that parents lashed out against.  Violence was the evil in the world that kids were learning from these anthropomorphic cartoon animals that thrashed, maimed, and demolished each other one, glorious episode after another.  And while violence is still a problem in children’s programming (particularly cartoons), what I find more disturbing now are the values being set forth by the sitcoms being aired on Disney, Nickelodeon, and the like.  Alex Russo in Wizards of Waverly Place teaches children to be snarky, negative, and outright disrespectful of authority (including her parents).  Sam in iCarly teaches children to be similar to Alex, and to take it a step further by asserting themselves through physically violent to get what they want.  This slap-stickesque humor is used as a means to entertain, but in doing so it is teaching our children that such behavior is OK, even admirable.

After decades of outcry from parents and action groups, the TV networks that air such controversial programming just continue to air it, despite concerns abroad.  This, I believe, is inexcusable.  Whereas when I was growing up, a general sense of violence was the problem parents saw on the television their children watched; now, it goes a step beyond the violence to our values that have become skewed for our children by the television programming we allow them to watch.  But who is worse?  The networks for producing and airing the shows?  Or us for watching them?