'Duck Dynasty' flap: Free speech and knowing when to zip it

Duck Dynasty: As Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson's personal comments continue to smolder, a mother teaches her kids the importance of free speech – and knowing when your opinions can hurt others.

A&E/AP
'Duck Dynasty' flap: This undated image released by A&E shows Phil Robertson from the popular series 'Duck Dynasty.' Robertson was suspended last week for disparaging comments he made to GQ magazine about gay people.

No sooner did I write about the virtues of "Duck Dynasty" for its good, clean fun and quirky family watchability, than the head of the Robertson clan got any mention of the show entirely banned from our home.

It started when "Duck Dynasty" patriarch Phil Robertson paraphrased the Bible in a GQ interview: "Don't be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers – they won't inherit the kingdom of God … Don't deceive yourself. It's not right." 

"We never, ever judge someone on who's going to heaven, hell. That's the Almighty's job," he added. "We just love 'em, give 'em the good news about Jesus – whether they're homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort 'em out later, you see what I'm saying?"

Holy smokes, Duckman!

Later, Mr. Robertson issued this statement: “My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the Bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together. However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other."
 
Not to join the Duck hunt here but, how does that foster love of all humanity and loving each other?

To really get the Ducks in the soup, Robertson then went on a spree about growing up in pre-Civil-Rights-era Louisiana, claiming African-Americans he’d met were happier under Jim Crow laws because he never heard them complain about poor treatment by whites.

The reality check there is that in those days in the cotton belt, an African-American could get brutally murdered for complaining to a white person.

I don’t know Robertson beyond what I see on TV or read in a magazine, so I can only guess where his heart truly lies.

We have only his words to go on – and that’s the point to make to kids, when discussing how we make our opinions known.

This has become a powerful lesson for kids on thinking twice before they speak and being mindful of how their words affect others.

In his workshop out back, my husband passes on to our sons the lesson his father, a carpenter, taught him: “Measure twice, cut once.”

I suggest Robertson apply the words of our family carpenter when preaching the words of another carpenter whose birth many are about to celebrate.

Robertson hacked up his family’s reputation and ran our family unity through the buzzsaw because he didn’t measure his remarks before running his mouth.

As a parent, I can see the silver lining. I get to teach a quote from Voltaire: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.”

This is also a chance to teach kids to turn away from hate and intolerance, without becoming hateful and intolerant ourselves in the process.

My husband detested “Duck Dynasty” before and now has banned even the mention of it from the house.

“If I see it on my TV, I will unplug the set,” he said in fury after reading about Robertson’s remarks.

So, while I preach tolerance of the intolerant, my husband has gone the more difficult route of trying to ignore something that is everywhere you turn, from TV to the internet, and even a trip to Walmart.

Those are the family challenges that “Duck Dynasty” has brought into our holiday home.

My hope is that our sons hold to what I have preached: “Just because we believe it doesn’t mean that saying it isn’t hurtful.”

While I am not asking Robertson to recant his religious beliefs, it would be appropriate for him to admit that restraint and being mindful of the feelings of others are sacred responsibilities, too.

I would consider that a Christmas gift to all family viewers.

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