Blasting across the free speech scene like a red neck during hunting season, Phil Robertson, patriarch of the family that stars on the A&E reality television show Duck Dynasty, created a feather storm of controversy as he (rather graphically) shared his views about homosexual marriage with GQ Magazine. Facebook news feeds from metropolitan LA to rural Verona, Ohio (population 245 and 3 cows) came alive with outrage at the news that Phil Robertson would be suspended from the show due to his comments. Within days, every national conservative leader stood in solidarity expressing outrage at the actions of the private company’s actions. Outrage was not the monopoly of national conservative leaders, either, with conservative operatives of all stratas commenting and jumping on the duck truck to have their followers sign petitions and shower A&E with purchased rubber ducks to show their displeasure.
Sounds like another event that happened not too long ago, doesn’t it? It wasn’t so long ago that a cow encouraging us to “Eat Mor Chikin” elicited the same outrage about free speech that the ducks (or duck hunters) have. And indeed these should outrage us. Our religious liberties and freedom of speech are liberties that we should fight to keep with everything that is in us. Whenever the wider public’s conscience is made to confront our shrinking liberties, it’s a battle won.
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But are all such victories pure?
Conservatives are great at grabbing an issue, blowing it up, and beating the quack out of it. We are much worse at being disciplined enough to set about working on an issue strategically, patiently, and effectively until success slowly but surely comes. Instead of teaching people why we support real marriage and the good it does for society as a whole; or instead of keeping our heads down and focusing on getting the Ohio Heartbeat Bill passed; or instead of working to convince our neighbors and friends that redefining marriage to include immoral, unnatural behaviors in Ohio is not in the best interest of Ohio — what are we doing?
Trying to get a redneck back on a television show that no one will care about in a few years. Can conservatism use this issue to explain what it means to be conservative and how it’s a better way of life for our society? Yes, we must. Have we? Sadly, no.
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Instead, we’re once again caught “tilting at windmills” — spurring our horses and leveling our jousts, so to speak, at imaginary enemies. Like well-intentioned but misguided Don Quixote, conservatives are chasing after the latest free speech “windmill,” burning our energy on soundbites. Meanwhile the other side slowly and quietly is redefining marriage and life and stealing your and my future children’s freedom and liberties.
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So as we come to a new year (and a new season of Duck Dynasty, with recently reinstated Phil Robertson), let Ohio conservatives resolve that 2014 will be the year that we stay focused, with the limited resources we have, on the battles in front of us here in Ohio, and present a unified front that will do more real, practical good than all the national controversies that will explode in the coming months. We can and must do better.
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In the eternal words of Uncle Si: “That’s a fact, Jack.”
Justin Powell is the Creative Director and a Co-Founder of Ohio Conservative Review.
All opinions expressed belong solely to their authors and may not be construed as the opinions of other writers or of OCR staff.