When an op-ed piece or a news panelist starts with the confession, "I've never watched Duck Dynasty..." it's hard to listen to any more phrasings that follow. It's awful enough to hear crocobilly bromides about morality and the ironies that pile up by passing judgment on others while defending the rights of one to pass judgement. The trumped-up controversy of Phil being Phil continues to stir up the duplicitous dander of fans and foes, further extending the political divide -- all in the name of tolerance and intolerance. That's the American way. Anyone wondering if this media frenzy isn't orchestrated need only note the Duck Dynasty marathon scheduled the weekend before Christmas. After all, this is the same network that fired and rehired Christian bounty hunter, Duane "Dog" Chapman. If it waddles and quacks like a duck -- surprise! It's a duck.
Though the debate dances left and right, what's really missing in the discussion is original thought. Cliches abound: "I won't defend what he said, but I'll defend his right to say it." The arguments sway along the obvious tropes of platitudinal political rhetoric: "We should protect Phil's freedom of speech." Or "Freedom of speech is a legal issue to protect an individual from government. Phil's freedom of speech is not the issue." Or "Phil has the right to speak his mind and A&E has the right to fire him." Or "Why is this a surprise to A&E? It's a reality show and they know what Phil and his family are all about." Perhaps the flare to all this was launched last year when Phil went vocal (again in a magazine, for an article in Sports Spectrum) where he expressed his outrage at A&E producers for asking him to stop ending his mealtime prayer using Jesus's name. What happened in the GQ article was inevitable retribution. Amen!
Memes are mounting and popping up everywhere online, vying and jockeying for top spot on the viral hit parade. Some are clever and crass at the same time, like: Hovering over a photo of big bearded Phil are the words, "Leviticus 10:6 'Do not let your hair become unkempt.' Tell Me More About What the Bible Says, Asshole." Others are poignant, using the fighting of fire with fire technique, making one think, if but for a second: "Mark 10:25 'It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.'" A seemingly nice contrast, given Phil's millions of bucks accumulated from selling duck calls, plus all the programming and licensing deals. But what's missing? Just the rest of the verse, that "With God, all things are possible." The Bible is easily uni-dimensional and tweaked to fit one's moral compass when it's distilled into byte-size tweets. In context, Phil may very well be entering the Kingdom, given his efforts to reveal the Bible to the masses. Now, if he can get a duck call that quacks Bible verses, too.
Nine of ten episodes are already in the A&E programming quiver. Their last arrow is shooting the final episode arrow -- with or sans Phil. That last episode ought to be a real dilemma for the network to figure out. To quack or not to quack?
What really needs to be celebrated in all this hubbub-backwater brouhaha is that real issues that face America have been shelved over the Christmas season, like seasonal merchandise that didn't make it. We can take a rest and rejoice in a hot holiday debate about whether Phil is well-educated, well-fabricated, or well, just a dude speakin' his mind and worryin' about the sinners of the world. Nothing else matters now, Jack: Congress and the President are on vacation, insurance plans are canceled for millions, the Middle East is on fire, Americans are being held captive in foreign lands, our jets are being shot at, but you know what? It's Christmastime -- and Phil's never met any subjugated soul man who sang the blues during the Jim Crow days. Oh, come all ye faithful! As FDR trumpeted repeatedly during his New Deal spending frenzy of the Depression, "Happy days are here again!" Apologies to Ager and Yellen, but it appears your song was quite prescient.
Meanwhile, if you think taking the middle ground is safe, think again. Duck Commander products (licensed from A&E's Duck Dynasty brand) were partially pulled from the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain's gift shoppes. They cited the removal as part of their ongoing re-evaluation of product. Though they did not fully roll out the barrel of duckie goods, they slashed the prices by 50% in some instances, which riled many customers, including Betty from Huber Heights, Ohio, who declared that "removing some of the Duck Dynasty junk while leaving others on the shelf only proves that Cracker Barrel can't take a stand. As long as they're not sure whether they're for or against Phil, I won't eat their pot pies." A day later, Cracker Barrel put all the Duck D junk back on sale. Fortunately, Betty only went cold turkey one day without her pot pies, thanks to the willy-nilly nature of Cracker Barrel. On the other side of town, the local Wal*Mart sold out of all their Duck Dynasty products, which apparently make great stocking stuffers for heterosexuals.
As I write this in a Starbucks cozy chair, a motorcycle gang member next to me speaks intimately to a yogini blonde woman that all that matters to him is his spiritual growth. She's advising him on how to be a more relaxed person. His Harley is evidently making him uptight and high strung -- or maybe it's his overtly tight dungarees which has attracted the male barista. The yogini embarks on a discussion about wearing a Bose noise-canceling headset whilst listening to seven minutes of Gregorian Chants everyday. Sounds like sage advice. He forks over a fifty spot between their twin towers of caramel lattes. It's impressive: business is being transacted, souls are being saved, and no one is discussing Phil, or Christmas gifting, or the Affordable Care Act, or Guantanamo Bay, or drone attacks. For a moment, like the Grinch, my heart swells: could this be the miracle of Christmas? Then the door opens and a guy in his twenties dons a Duck Dynasty tee-shirt and struts around the floor like he's about to cock-a-doodle-doo. There is a palpable pause in the establishment. A total stranger on his way out stops in his tracks before the new patron and declares, "That guy's an asshole."
The real Christmas miracle is that we don't shoot one another all the time.
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