What the Duck?

Last night the internet broke due to Phil Robertson being suspended from his family’s television show Duck Dynasty. It seems that Phil was interviewed by GQ and said some pretty distasteful things about homosexuality and the segregated south. Groups complained and A&E placed Phil, the patriarch of this family, on leave. Almost immediately my Facebook and Twitter blew up with posts about free speech, liberals, Bible quotes, and “Save Phil” fan pages. There was also a smattering of “faggots” thrown in as well. I was fascinated and couldn’t look away.

The first thing that popped in my brain was, “Why the hell would Phil do an interview with GQ?” Is Phil sitting in a duck blind covered in camouflage and flipping through the glossy pages of GQ, wondering what the new hot tech item of the week is? I seriously doubt that is the case. My second thought was, “How did Phil not know this was a bait question?” To that one I answered that he probably didn’t care. Then I thought that what the interviewer did was dirty. It was easy and he knew what the answer would be. The entire show is dedicated to this family’s Christian beliefs and home-spun family fun. Phil is a man of a certain age, who grew up in the Deep South before integration; he quotes Bible scripture from memory, and calls himself a redneck. It does not take a leap of logic to assume that Phil may not be down with homosexuality. He is entitled to his opinion and voiced it to that GQ interviewer. Sometimes free speech has a cost.

A&E has suspended Phil with no known date for his return. No one is telling Phil not to speak his mind, he has a large following and preaches and speaks around the country. He has a vast audience that he is more than welcome to speak to regarding his beliefs, both biblical and otherwise. Again, no one is telling Phil not to speak about what he believes. However, Phil is an employee of A&E and they have just as much of a right to suspend an employee. Free speech is not free. He said something and was disciplined by his employer. It happens to people everyday; while discussing this topic with a co-worker my own supervisor said, “No, more Heather.” There are rumors that I can be a bit much. There is no need to “Save Phil” as he is a duck call millionaire with a vast army of supporters. Trust me on this one, Phil will be fine.

In the comments Phil made to the reporter he listed homosexuality as a sin and then jumped to bestiality. “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he tells reporter Drew Magary. “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 (Chicago Tribune).” I would like to again mention, as I have in another blog, there is no jump from homosexuality to bestiality. I looked it up and it is not a thing. Homosexuality is not a gate way drug to loving a horse, it just isn’t. Why people can’t get past this, I will never know.

Phil also had something to say about anal sex, “It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.” I need to take this to a personal place for a minute. I am fearful that Phil doesn’t have a very good imagination or in the very least doesn’t know about the reach around. Nipples are also fair game on both men and women. As a general rule tight feels good to a penis, and an anus is tight. I am 38, have three kids, and pee on myself everyday. It is safe to say that shit is not as tight as it once was. Never in my 23 years of sexual activity have I heard a man say, “Man, I wish it was a little looser.” Phil is heterosexual and would not find homosexual sex to be pleasant just as a homosexual man would look at Kay and think, “Nope, I’ll pass.” This isn’t rocket science. Part of what concerns me is that there is a presumption by some heterosexuals that homosexuality is strictly about sex. It is about love, friendship, companionship, bickering, and compromising just like my “straight” relationship. Sex is important to most relationships, but it isn’t the most important part.

My DVR has every episode of Duck Dynasty on it and I like to watch it as I fall asleep. Trey and I watch it for the mellow vibe and the relationships between the families. I often gripe about Phil to Trey because I think he has a disdain for women. The controversy that surrounds this show right now has nothing to do with free speech as his rights weren’t infringed upon and A&E is well within their right to suspend him. There is no need to “Save Phil,” he knows what he believes in and stands for. I appreciate that this close-knit family has rallied together and released a statement saying they won’t continue without him. Phil said what he did and now has to face the consequences. The words we use have power and they needs to be wielded carefully. What we need is a call to be kind and to think before we speak, which is something I struggle with everyday.

* After I finished writing this, comedian Rob Delaney posted a video explaining the “tight” thing much better than I do. It was funny. I would suggest looking it up.

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Garden Snakes, Rock Bands, and Joggers…Oh my

It was a wedding with no direction, a wedding that was so disorganized most of the guests had no idea where it was even being held. In the middle of a park surrounded by a train, joggers, a duck pond, and a rock show, I found a church.

Carvell and I had been invited to his friend Reed’s wedding. Reed, the groom, was a special type of person. The very definition of ADHD and the long-term drummer for a rock band, now he was adding husband to that list. Carvell had lived and traveled with Reed for a couple of years. This wedding was a chance for Trey to see his Raleigh crew, a crew that he missed very much.

We arrived at the unmarked venue and I was mesmerized by what I saw. People of every walk of life: musicians, a hippie wearing a “snake skin” suit, drug addicts, country club folk, and a tattooed minister dressed as Colonel Sanders of fried chicken fame were in attendance. Everyone took a seat and a young man pulled out a guitar and started playing quietly. The groom’s father let the garden snake he had caught loose and it slithered toward the pond. The pastor, Rev Hank, begin to speak of love and acceptance. He asked us to take a minute and think of those who were not afforded the right to marry. Immediately, I knew that my dad back home in Paducah had flinched and I thought, “Dad is dying on the inside.”

This pastor and service was very different from what I was used to. Growing up church had been Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, and Wednesday nights without fail. The pastor had looked a certain way and that way matched the congregation. They were a matched set. The church services almost always followed the same routine. We would sing hymns, pray, sing another hymn, and then the service would start. After the service ended, normally with an alter call, we would go out to eat and I would never think of the service again. Church was something I did, not something I felt.

Pastor Hank spoke of dignity and understanding. He asked those of us who had gathered for the wedding to wrap the couple with love and to keep them surrounded by our community of protection. He said that as friends and family it was our jobs to love them. I had been attending church for 30 years and this seemed like such a novel idea. Could it really be that simple? Just love each other. My life had been spent worrying about what sin I had just committed. Was that the sin that would doom me to hell? I think I am a good person; I try to do right by people and not be hurtful, but it just never seems good enough. On that warm day I discovered a church.

As Reverend Hank pulled out the ring box he said something that I missed and Carvell said, “Pay attention Heather.” It was difficult to pay attention because there was a great deal going on that day. Geese were quacking like mad. Joggers were running past the wedding and stopping for a second to watch the festivities. A band playing a Rock the Vote show could be heard in the distance. I was focused on where the garden snake was and had managed to miss my own engagement. It would have been very romantic, I’m sure, had I been paying attention. After the ceremony we walked up to Reverend Hank and he handed us the ring box. Inside was my engagement ring. I hit Trey and yelled, “Get out.”

We left the wedding and attended the reception at the bride and groom’s home. We ate cake and celebrated the couple. We laughed and discussed politics, religion, and music: no topic seemed taboo. This was a revival of spirits. All walks of life were joined together, their oddities were on display, and no one was ashamed. I could not help but to be shocked that this type of community existed. This community is what I wanted, a place that I could openly be different, where I was labeled neither a sinner nor a saint. I was just Heather, a woman that questioned her place in the world and in her family. Among this church the fact that I was socially liberal meant nothing. In this church our oddities were embraced, not hidden and secret.

That night I looked at my new ring 1,000 times from 100 different angles. I was in love and I was going to be married to someone I found infuriating, impossible, and interesting. While I was thrilled with my engagement what I found that long weekend was equally as important, a group of people who were as interesting as the stories Trey had told me. I had expected to feel apart from everyone but they had embraced me both figuratively and literally. Church isn’t always found in a building with four walls and a roof. Church is when two or more like minded people worship together. That weekend they bestowed love and grace on not just the bridal couple but a new couple as well.

I Fear I was Never Normal

In the fourth grade I developed a fear of the rapture. I was scared of crickets, granddaddy long legs, and the second coming of the Lord. This was no small fear. This was a lay in bed and worry how, if we were called to heaven, my body will make it through the light blue canopy of my bed fear. I don’t have memories of being told the story of Noah and Moses, although I know I was taught them. What I remember was the Children’s Church leaders who gasped when I asked questions about sin and God. I remember one of them saying, “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” The problem was that I was a sinner; I had bad thoughts and could never be Christ- like enough to make my way to Heaven. I lay in my bed with the blue canopy, and begged Jesus not to come back. I begged for him to not come back until I could be better. As a child I don’t remember God’s love in a way that was comforting; it was not about a relationship with Jesus, it was about rules and fear for me.

When I asked about sin and forgiveness, “Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven,” was quoted to me and I literally believed that I could only sin 490 times before God would stop forgiving me. At that point I started a notepad full of my presumed sins each little tally mark bringing me closer to the magic number. I did not understand parables and nuance. The Bible said this and therefore it was true as it was stated. They talked endlessly about the rapture and God calling home his children. My fear of the rapture and hell grew as I did. They helped to set in motion a lifelong fear.

Sleep is both my best friend and my greatest enemy. A couch nap is one of the best things ever and I wake up rested with contact lenses adhered to my corneas. However, when my real bedtime rolls around I know that anxiety and panic attacks will creep their way in. After I was divorced in my mid-twenties, I had what we will call an “episode.” Lack of sleep and worry, endless worry, brought back my fear of the rapture. This was how a normal evening went: Tuck the kids in and climb into bed. Fall into a light sleep. Hear the sound of the upstairs neighbor walking and assume it was the horns calling us home. Go to the kids’ room and make sure they were still there. Touch each of their soft little bellies and climb back into bed. Repeat four or five more times. This was every night. It sounds funny to read it now, but at the time I felt like I was losing myself in a toilet of despair. I also had compulsions and they were just as random as the rapture fear. I would be in public and have a consuming desire to touch a wall on the opposite side of whatever room I was in. There was something about the coolness of the wall that I found soothing. It was time to seek professional help.

The doctor and then therapist I started to see diagnosed me with a multitude of mental illnesses. At first I was a manic depressive. Then it was major depressive disorder. Next they tried obsessive compulsive disorder. We finally landed at a personality disorder. In hindsight I am not sure if I really had any of the above-mentioned disorders but I took the medicine and attended therapy. We talked about my childhood and if I drank. The answers were normal and I had some sort of peach drink at a friend’s house. These were not the answers of someone who had a deep dark secret. Nope, these answers were much worse, because they say, “crazy can happen to anyone.” I believe in generational curses. I believe that families are often stuck in a cycle of questionable brain chemistry. Depression and anxiety can pass, one by one, down a line of family members much like alcoholism and dependence. My family has a history of depression and each of us has chosen a different way to deal with it. Some pray and others take medication. My way, of course, is to make fun of it.

The all-time best crazy compulsion I ever developed was when I decided that my answering machine could save lives. This is how it worked: If I believed your life was in danger for any reason and you left a voice mail on the answering machine then you would be saved. An example would be if Trey called and left a message. “Uh, yeah, so call me back.” I would save that message so that he could not die in a freak snow sledding accident. If a bill collector called, “Mrs. Warren, this is an attempt to collect a debt.” I could immediately delete the message because them dying in a lake of alligators was of no real interest to me. I am crazy but also a pragmatist which seems to be the best combination. So every day that Trey’s voice stayed on my machine and he didn’t die in a snow sledding accident reinforced the belief that the answering machine worked. Saved on the answering machine were Mom, Trey, Kara, Lisa, and Neil Diamond (please notice that all but one of these people are still with us).

My compulsions have shifted and changed, but the desire to control the uncontrollable has remained. On September 11, 2001, I walked out of my apartment without my jewelry on. In the hustle to get two elementary school aged children out the door and me to work by eight, I did not grab the assortment of rings and bracelets that I wore every day. A short time later the first plane hit the first WorldTradeCenter. I told my best friend that night that my rings and bracelets may have been the cause. The event was too large and scary to understand and I needed a way to control it and make it my burden to bear. After a friend suffered a devastating loss I decided that not moving the items thumbtacked to my cubicle wall would sustain her next pregnancy. I was hyper vigilant in checking the items every day. She gave birth and all was well. While I logically understand my thumbtacked items had nothing to do with it, I still believe that my thumbtacks had everything to do with it.

So now I wonder all these years later how much of my crazy is related to brain chemistry and how much is related to an inadequacy that I feel as a Christian?  Is my inability to be Christ-like enough in direct relation to the desire I have to control the uncontrollable? In my mind I weigh the consequences of my actions. If I choose to masturbate, I must acknowledge that my sink will back up. If I buy the tee shirt I want, I have to accept that my car battery will be dead the next morning.

Brain chemistry is a bitch, isn’t it?