It’s said that in polite society one should never discuss politics or religion. Following that axiom would kill cable news and TV evangelists, which might not be such a bad idea.
Sadly, we seem to have reached new levels of anger between segments of our society. The Tea Party has co-opted the GOP and the anti-corporate greed Occupy Wall Street movement is in 1,118 cities across the country with tents popping up everywhere. (During the Gold Rush the shovel manufacturers prospered the most, whereas now it might be the tent makers.)
Polarization has even found its way into the holiest of all American traditions, Monday Night Football. It began last week when famed country western singer Hank Williams, Jr. appeared on the conservative-bent “Fox and Friends,” to discuss politics. (Apparently George Will was busy.)
In the way of background, here’s a bit of trivia: Randal Hank Williams was born in 1949 and nicknamed “Bocephus” by Hank Sr. as homage to a ventriloquist’s dummy at the Grand Ole Opry (which could explain a lot about lil’ Hank). Since 1991, Hank’s version of “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight” has been the opening for “Monday Night Football.” Not any more.
Wearing sun glasses indoors in a studio in Nashville, a seemingly bellicose Williams was asked by a “Fox and Friends” host whom he liked in the GOP race. “Nobody,” he said tersely. I sensed Williams might be hung over. Thirty seconds later I was convinced.
Williams proceeded to rail angrily about Obama’s golfing with House Speaker John Boehner back in June during the debt ceiling crisis. “It’d be like Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu,” he said with in his southern drawl. Host Gretchen Carlson almost fell off the couch.
Hank babbled, “Especially in the country this shape was in.” (Clearly, he was dyslexic or drunk.) Sensing disaster, host Brian Kilmeade responded, ”I don’t see the analogy.” Williams snapped back, “I’m glad you don’t brother because a lot of people do.” He then called Obama and Biden “the enemy” and referred to them as “The Three Stooges” (which, if nothing else, seems a Stooge short).
After Williams’ quasi-apology a day later, ESPN unceremoniously permanently canceled his musical intro to the MNF game. (Ever the blowhard, Williams now brags that he quit before they fired him.)
As might be expected, there was an immediate public outcry from assorted right-wingers asserting that Williams had been denied his freedom of speech. This, of course, is absurd. The First Amendment applies to the government, not ESPN. It’s reminiscent of a Gilbert Gottfried joke where a disgruntled employee tells his boss that his wife’s rear end is as wide as a truck and, when the employee gets fired, he cries First Amendment foul. Williams isn’t in jail, he just got canned.
Also as might be expected, among those defending Williams most vociferously is Sarah Palin. (You betcha.) And this, just days after the former vice presidential candidate announced that she would not be running for the presidency. (Aww.)
“It’s a one-way street and we’re always walking on eggshells, aren’t we?” Palin lamented. “You know, like, oh geez, if I say that is somebody going to misinterpret it or spin it as something that is racist or sexist or anything else? But the other side … they can say whatever they want and nobody calls them out on it. I think it’s pretty disgusting.” (If you think that quote seems a tad incoherent, go to You Tube and type “Sarah Palin resigns” and get completely baffled.)
Frankly, I never bought Palin’s resignation excuse for a moment. After her failed 2008 campaign for vice president, Palin reassured Alaskans, “When I took my oath of office to serve as your governor, I swore to steadfastly and doggedly guard the interests of this great state like a grizzly with cubs, as a mother naturally guards her own.” Odd way of putting it, but OK.
But six months later, Mother Grizzly announced that she was abandoning her cubs by quitting. Palin explained that she didn’t want the state she loved to have a lame-duck chief executive, which, until she quit, it didn’t have.
Palin and Williams are both multi-millionaires. Palin made $15 million last year (a cool $150,000 for a 90-minute speech). And yet both claim to represent the common man (the common millionaire, maybe). I still don’t get the Hitler reference, however.
And yet on Tuesday Williams, wearing a Yankee baseball jersey two sizes too small (or he’s two sizes too portly) went on “The View.” He not only didn’t apologize, he said he was glad he did what he did.
It seems to me the country is doomed if Obama and Boehner trying to find common ground is viewed as “dealing with the enemy.” Hopefully, Williams’ negativity is as simple as it wasn’t easy growing up Bocephus.
Jack can be reached at Jnsmdp@aol.com.