Duck Dynasty, Free Speech, and Mental Illness

Duck Dynasty. For someone who has watched a lot of and will watch reality TV at the drop of a hat, I have no place judging anyone who watches this show. I watched the first season of Tila Tequila's Shot of Love -- and we all know where she's ended up. I was in for most of the Flavor Flav incarnations and spinoffs, including a couple of seasons of Rock of Love with Bret Michaels. In order to know mine enemy, I even watched the first season of The Pickup Artist with slimeball extraordinare, Mystery. I have been at rock bottom as far as reality TV goes.

So, I don't really care about how the people on the show operate. That's not why I don't watch it. I"ve actually heard that they're quite smart and rich from making these duck call things or whatever. I've also heard a wide variety of people say that they've enjoyed the show. No bigs. It seems like one of the guys from the show -- one of the cast members, one of the actors, one of whatever you call people nowadays that agrees to be filmed non-stop for a certain period of time and then have it edited the way the producers see fit and get paid for such work -- said some pretty controversial things about gay people and then the state of African-American affairs in the world today.

I say controversial, because it means "giving rise or likely to give rise to public disagreement." I wholeheartedly disagree with Phil Robertson, but there are plenty of people who seem to think he's right on point. (Am I the only one who keeps reading his name and thinking Pat Robertson and/or Phil Mickelson? Sorry, Phil Mickelson.) The other thing the "right on point" people seem to think is that his temporary suspension from the A&E network constitutes some sort of 1st Amendment issue. That his "freedom of speech" is being restricted; that the network has no right to suspend him, because what road does this lead to?

Well, I'm seeing a lot of things. Sometimes, I think we've gotten to the point where we are trying to stop people and companies from certain kinds of speech when we should let them go ahead and broadcast their ignorance. Things are changing; people are pro-same sex marriage. They are rallying against bigotry of all kinds and becoming more and more progressive and compassionate and tolerant. (Jesuit Pope! Jesuit Pope! -- I still am not a fan of the concept of Pope and I still am reserving judgment in general, but this Pope seems to be pretty bad ass right out the gate.) If someone wants to say a bunch of crazy ass shit -- go ahead. I'd rather know where you stand on this stuff so I know what to steer clear of.

But if an employer (and let's be clear, A&E is his employer in this case) wants to discipline an employee for things said in violation of his contract (I'm not positive, but I bet there's something in there about not making the network look bad), then he should step away from the show to honor his beliefs or get with the program. The government isn't restricting him from saying anything -- I don't hear people getting up in arms about the way the government systematically and sneakily and not-so-sneakily made every attempt to shut down the peaceful Occupy movement, which is actually a violation of the 1st amendment.

The reason why I'm talking about this on my mental illness blog is this: let's get the controversy out of it. Forget homophobia or religion or racism. Let me give you a different take on this. In addition to being manic-depressive and ADD and mini OCD, I would not be surprised if I fell on the autism spectrum somewhere. Like high high functioning. There are times when I do things that are kind of ... unusual. That I know are strange -- and I can't help myself. One that I've figured out in the last 10-15 years is ... I don't look people in the eye when they talk to me. I don't look down at the ground or up in the air or whatever. I've found that when people talk to me, I just concentrate on their mouth. It would be like I was hard of hearing or deaf and needed to lip read, except for .. I'm not deaf. I don't think I noticed I do this for a very long time. And to be honest, I don't know how many people notice that I do it. Probably more than I'd like to think. Which sucks, because when I *do* realize I am doing it (which is almost never), I make myself look in the person's eyes (without creepily staring) and within seconds, I'm back staring at their mouth. I don't know what's up with that, but it's what I do.

I say that to give you some reference for my next oddball confession (this really is going somewhere). Sometimes, if I'm somewhere where there are a lot of people and it's really quiet (e.g., church, performance, waiting room, el, funeral -- you name it, I've been there), I get the urge to do/say something. LOUD. Partly to scare people, partly to shock people, partly to get attention, partly because I have a captive audience. I sometimes just want to scream, I sometimes want to sing a song, I sometimes want to give a speech. To date, I have not done this. But the whole time I am in whatever situation, the thought will recur.

I was proctoring a final exam for the College of Dentistry this past week as an employee for the Office of Academic Affairs (where I work). Students were intently working their exams; their brows furrowed, their eyes boring holes into their iPads where their tests resided. The silence was thick and my boredom was growing. I heard that internal voice -- "What would happen if you just screamed super loud right now?" I thought of the heart attacks I would cause. That would be so cruel. But maybe it would be softened if I yell-sang, "WE'RE LEARNING ABOUT TEEEEETH!"

And then I heard the voice of reason: "You'd get fired. At the *best,* your boss would KICK YOUR ASS." Right? We're not talking about me yelling "fire" in a crowded theater or saying "bomb" at an airport. No threat to public safety. Nothing even controversial. Just a musical bellowing with jazz hands (most likely -- to add flair). But I was keenly aware that would get me in a whole hell of a lot of trouble. Sometimes, you just can't say whatever you want, whenever you want because there might be consequences -- whether you think that might be right or wrong, whether you agree with it or not.

Best thing about freedom of speech is -- you can take to the Facebooks and say how terrible it is all you want. And I can think you're a misguided, backwards homophobe who doesn't understand what your Jesus was all about. It's all good. It's all good.

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Filed under: Government, Media, Memoir, Politics

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