Jesse Jackson Sr. has jumped into the controversy surrounding comments by Phil Robertson, star of A&E’s backwoods reality TV show, “Duck Dynasty.”…

“At least the bus driver, who ordered Rosa Parks to surrender her seat to a white person, was following state law,” he said in the release. “Robertson’s statements were uttered freely and openly without cover of the law, within a context of what he seemed to believe was ‘white privilege.’”

Jackson’s human rights group, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, has demanded meetings with A&E and with Cracker Barrel regarding the two companies’ treatment of Robertson, who stars in the show as the head of a Louisiana family that makes duck calls.

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Phil Robertson is an old man of 67, and frankly, why should we care that his take on black history is not exactly enlightened? Such people are always with us, and do not prevent change from happening…

In that light, discrimination against gay people is more overt in modern America than against black people. Yes. We’re not used to thinking of it that way, but the general consensus on racism is that one of the hardest things about it is its subtlety. Sure, nasty words against black people in comments sections will always be with us. But there’s a difference between this and ongoing, open comparison of gay people to animals, designating their sexuality as a sinful departure from basic human dignity, and families disowning them.

Comments like Robertson’s of that kind, then, require urgent condemnation in 2013, especially given how few people would have batted an eye about them as recently as 15 years ago. Let’s face it—even embrace it—that we’re further along on racism now than we are on homophobia.

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Phase one is their tsunami of published hit pieces and media pundits branding Phil Robertson a sexist, racist, and homophobe. Phase two is to have the whole bowl of left-wing alphabet soup (NAACP, GLAAD, and NOW) attack Phil from all sides.

Phase three is Sharpton or Jackson demanding that they “get paid” and the offender kiss their ring. In the case of the Duck Dynasty controversy, master exploiter and extortionist Jesse Jackson has taken the lead, demanding that A&E and Cracker Barrel meet with him.

Whether or not A&E and Cracker Barrel bow down to worship Jackson remains to be seen. My plea to Phil Robertson is that he please, please, please not surrender. Do not on bended knee kiss Jackson’s ring and beg for forgiveness. It would be a mortal blow to the tremendous example Phil has set, inspiring Americans to push back against the tyranny of political correctness.

In every incident of a slip of the tongue or misinterpreted comment by a conservative or a Republican, the left’s political correctness police bludgeon the alleged offender within an inch of his or her political life. The targeted person humbly surrenders and begs for forgiveness. All of this empowers the left, furthers their agenda, and adds another notch on their guns.

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“Duck Dynasty’ is this era’s ode to “Amos ‘n’ Andy.” In that show — which aired on radio and television from the 1920s through the 1960s and which was created, written and produced by white people — Americans were given the opportunity to laugh at African-Americans, adding insult to the injury that this group of citizens was already sustaining before the civil rights movement.

Now, Americans have a new group to laugh at — a self-described “bunch of rednecks from Louisiana.”…

Now Phil Robertson is in hot water for staying in character and saying something colorful and crude. That is, Robertson was suspended for doing in print what he has, for the last four years, been paid to do on television.

That’s awfully hypocritical of A&E. The network is embarrassed and would surely like to distance itself from the Robertson family. However, it seems, it would like to stay acquainted with the millions of dollars the show generates each year.

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So far, the controversy understandably has been framed as a fight over free speech. My National Review colleague Mark Steyn writes: “Most Christian opponents of gay marriage oppose gay marriage; they don’t oppose the right of gays to advocate it. Yet thug groups like GLAAD increasingly oppose the right of Christians even to argue their corner. It’s quicker and more effective to silence them.”

I think Steyn has the causation right. The free-speech issues are the inevitable consequence of a venerable argument about what a free society is…

The children of Burke form the philosophical core of what was called the “leave-me-alone coalition,” a broad group of institutions and individuals who rightly, and occasionally wrongly, rejected a top-down effort to impose a one-size-fits-all vision of society. The children of Paine, empowered by their sense of cosmic justice, want all of society’s oars to pull as one. And if you don’t pull your oar to the beat of their drum, prepare for their wrath.

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A&E will cave. Some weasel-worded press release will go out, some oddly-constructed sentence about “faith” and “love” and some other stuff is probably right now being sweated and screamed about in the sleek city offices of A&E—you know what I mean, right? Aeron chairs and brightly-colored wall hangings, “fun” conference rooms and Nespresso machines—all because the programmers made a horrible, horrible mistake and put someone interesting on television.

They’re probably searching the office for someone—anyone!—who knows something—anything!—about the Bible to help craft the request to the Robertson family that they “clarify” their beliefs. My guess is that they’re trying to figure out how to ask Phil Robertson to say that he believes in Jesus Christ’s essential teaching—love others as yourself—and that we’re all sinners who need God’s grace and forgiveness. Which will be easy, I think, because Phil Robertson seems like a pretty devoted Christian and that’s a fairly Christian thing to say. But the gang at A&E doesn’t know that because—and here we get to the nubbin of the matter—finding someone who knows and respects religion in network television is harder than finding a rabbi in Tehran.

***

In an odd way, both gay rights groups and social conservatives deal with two different but occasionally overlapping motivations: they both want to be left alone and to change the culture. Proponents of gay marriage want to be able to live as they choose and also to make the culture more accepting of the way they live. Social conservatives want to protect their own religious liberty and also transform the culture according to their moral vision…

At the same time, people were more willing to be tolerant as they also came to believe that gay marriage, for instance, wasn’t such a bad thing on the merits. To protect their own religious liberty, social conservatives will have to keep making the positive case for their values—values that are in some cases derided as bigotry…

But that doesn’t mean social conservatives can’t take Frank’s advice. A good start would be to recognize that the Judeo-Christian ethic, in sexual mores and so much else, is no longer intuitive to a great many Americans. Heavy-handed appeals, be they theological or (in the case of Phil Robertson) scatological, are likely to fall flat. Don’t call people heathens or fools (or worse) just because you disagree with them.

While specific social debates come and go, the culture wars will never end. But neither will the reality that the combatants must live together.

***

Ironically, there was a day not too long ago when network executives thought it best for gay people to keep quiet about their lifestyle. It would have ruined careers, and shows.

It was a tragedy that actors such as Rock Hudson had to live a lie their entire adult lives out of fear they might be “outed” and lose everything. It’s a type of cruelty one can’t imagine, being compelled to lie to the world, and even families and friends, about such a fundamental aspect of your life — your sexuality.

That Ellen DeGeneres can be who she is, and what she is, and do a great show for all to enjoy, and do it with class, style, and wit, is a testament to how far we’ve come as a society. And how tolerant we’ve become. She has many Christian fans. I know, because I’m one of them…

As we reflect on all matters at the turn of the new year, maybe we should think about how lucky we all are to live in a country as rich, diverse, and beautiful as ours. One that allows the Robertson family and Ellen DeGeneres to live their lives freely, and to make a living without fear of reprisal for simply being who they are, and for believing what they believe.

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Fielding agreed that Robertson’s language was coarse and dismissed his mentioning homosexuality in the same breath as bestiality, with the state legislator calling it “completely foreign to the issue that he started out on.” Fielding also said he doesn’t believe Robertson’s comments that no African-Americans complained of mistreatment during pre-civil rights era Louisiana.

“We understand that they didn’t complain because they were afraid to,” Fielding said…

Fielding, echoing other Robertson supporters such as Sarah Palin, emphasized it was a matter of freedom of speech and religion.

“For too long, the silent majority has remained silent when we ought to be speaking up in support of these constitutional issues,” Fielding said. “We need to publicly get to moving and get the people fired up.”

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Via RCP.