Last year the “Duck Dynasty” crew became famous for espousing what might be considered right wing Christian values including, not surprisingly, a homophobic rant. I began to hear people praising the group, some going so far as to say that they were thrilled that people of such “high level” status were acting as advocates for their strongly held beliefs.
It was after the third similar claim about Duck Dynasty by someone I know, that I began to feel uneasy. This forced me to think about what was bothering me. The Duck Dynasty folks were an overnight sensation, their pictures all over Walmart, just like Miley Cyrus used to be. The similarity between the two is that they have been made into marketing prostitutes for big business. They drained the market dry for all that it would bear. Make no mistake: their status in the world is based on money, not ethics or faith.
Let’s go back to the beginning. Duck Dynasty is a reality show. It is most likely scripted as most reality shows are. The family is portrayed as goofy backwoodsman getting themselves into Beavis and Butthead level hijinks; there is nothing edifying about this nor is there anything substantial to learn from most of the material on the show. In other words they are not paragons in our society. The purpose of the show, from the start, was to tap into the boom market of reality television. It is doubtful, considering the silly things that happen on the show, that the family entered into the project with the idea of spreading right wing positive values. It they had, I would expect there would be more dignity in their show. Perhaps episodes about conservation, charity, or actual lessons about the role of faith in life would be a worthwhile addition. But the Dynasty crowd are, if nothing else, shrewd businessmen.
What makes people like this rallying point for a cause? Is it because they are on T.V.? But as we’ve learned anyone can get on T.V. if they have even a slightly interesting format. And why are they doing it?
To me the answer is apparent; they are doing it only for money.
What occurred to me is that Christians have been under fire due to the strident proselytizing of a very small minority. Coming from New York I find Christian bashing offensive, despite not being Christian. In New York the lines between groups are blurred. I’m not saying, “some of my best friends are Christians” or I had “nice” relationships with some Christians. For many years my best friend was Christian, as were a number of my girlfriends. That’s New York, another blog entirely and can be read here.
So when someone says something like, “Christians are always trying to control other people”, I ask, “Which one?” This usually knocks them back a few feet when they realize that their opinions about Christians may have been formed on the basis of stories they’ve heard, not experiences they’ve had.
Hearing their own values being stated on national T.V. by the Duck Dynasty crew has become one of the few opportunities for some Christians to have their views aired after a drought in which there was little expression of their views and their faith. Yet, I would guess that if we were not in a world of reality T.V. and a world where faith is disparaged, Christians would turn away from the likes of the Duck Dynasty crew because of their motivations for airing the show and the content of the show itself.
This is not a blog about Christianity whose values are not those of greed and do not condone manipulating the truth to make money. The fact that this is not about Christianity will become apparent very soon. I’m going to shift from reality T.V. to the cult of personality. You’ll see that they function in much the same way.
Within the last few months Donald Trump has made himself a possibly viable candidate for President on the GOP ticket. Being from New York myself, I could see some of you taking my disgust with the “Dynasty” crowd as being due to the fact that I am not a country boy and that I just don’t “get it”. Not so with “The Donald”. Trump is everywhere in New York, following all of us around in small ways. His failures decades ago were big news. The building I worked in just before leaving New York was torn down and replaced by a “Trump Tower”.
But outside of his business acumen, Trump has always been a side show. I was not surprised that he also dabbled in reality T.V., which I assume is scripted like most of the other shows. I doubt that Penn Jillette, with his financial success, was really concerned whether he was fired or not by Donald Trump.
Many people feel that Trump represents a politician several steps up from the standard presidential candidate. I will admit that his candor is refreshing but again, Trump represents a small trickle of political honesty after what seems like a drought lasting most of my lifetime; it seems like most of our presidents have played the same game of appeasing people to get elected, only to renege on most of their promises once in office.
It’s that drought of compete honesty that makes me believe that, like the Christians who were grateful for an expression of their beliefs from the mouths of the Duck Dynasty crew, the political right now feels vindicated and thrilled to hear “The Donald” say things they’ve wanted to be said.
Candor is not the same as truth, or the same as presidential skill. So far Trump has spouted statistics regarding Mexican illegal aliens that come from an unknown source. And, in fact, that is, disturbingly, one of the few times he has actually discussed anything vaguely related to relevant policy questions. For the most part Donald Trump has talked about himself and people he doesn’t like. The chasm between what Donald Trump has told us and a solid political platform is wider than the Atlantic Ocean.
What Trump does when he speaks is to bob and weave, all for the purpose of making himself look good, behavior that seems to be compulsive and uncontrollable. Imagine that kind of behavior if he were to become President of the United States. What is there to stop him from an outburst against enemies, foreign and domestic? Has he shown the patience required to carefully weigh his words or even his actions as president?
Most important, can he guarantee that he won’t let his outsized personality run wild at a critical moment in American history?
More to the point, does he have the skill and wisdom to handle foreign policy, military actions, economy building, education reform, etc? Nothing he has said has even come close to demonstrating his skill to handle even the simplest duties of a President.
I don’t hate the Duck Dynasty crew or Donald Trump. My point is this; as human beings we are vulnerable when we feel that we are “voices in the wilderness”. When someone seems to takes up our cause, or seems to, we jump at the chance to have our voices heard. Sometimes we jump too soon.
I suggest to you, all of you, that when it comes to our most important values we deserve and need more than what I would call “hucksters”. Their values are not yours.
Neil Newton: Author of “The Railroad” on Amazon