Phil Robertson and your Facebook friends.

One night in college we all dressed up, left the dorms and headed downtown. One of my friend’s cousins was visiting from Miami. He’s gay. I don’t remember where all we were headed, but Boneshakers, a gay club back in the day in Athens, was one of our destinations. We had fun, and I thought, aren’t I so progressive, going to a gay club?

The next day, another friend pointed out to me that I had referred to several things that annoyed me that evening as “gay.” My friend and her cousin had exchanged looks, but never said anything to me. I was oblivious–never even realized what I was saying or how it would be perceived. I wasn’t saying it to be hateful, it was slang. But I immediately eradicated it from my vocabulary when I realized how it came across.

Same thing about the “r” word. I confess I used to use that word, too. It wasn’t until I personally knew people that were intensely pained by it that I finally got it and dropped it. Sometimes, we say things not understanding the impact. When my TSC friends discuss their hatred of the term and people who use it, I feel like there is a scarlet R burning on my chest, and I wonder, do they know? Do they know I was one of them?

I’m bothered by this whole Duck Dynasty thing, but not because of what was said and who said it. Frankly, take into account the guy’s age,  background and where he lives. It’s not particularly shocking. And if you met him in person, I think he’d be a really nice guy. I don’t watch the show, but I’ve seen bits and pieces, as well as stories of things they have done to help others in need. I personally don’t like what he said, and just as he has the right to say it, people have the right to be angry, and A&E has the right to “protect their brand.” That being said, I’m not all that sympathetic to A&E either because I’m sure they have to sign off on everything the cast does, and come on, they knew his beliefs. No, I don’t care about any of that. What I care about is what I see on social media.

A lot of fans are angry about Phil Robertson’s suspension from the show. They feel he is being attacked for being a Christian and living by the Bible. And so the posts and memes began. Phil Robertson for president! I stand with Phil! But then some started getting more…honest. It turned into a revering of someone who stood up for the truth about homosexuality.

Some nasty things have been posted as status updates, nasty comments have been made beneath them, nasty things have been “liked” that then show up in your friends’ news feeds. I even read some cruel comments made by family members of one of my FB friends who is part of the LGBT community. Family. Wow. This led me to look closer at the friends lists of some of the people whose disturbing posts I saw.

Are they aware that they are connected to members of the LGBT community? These days it’s hard not to be because Facebook isn’t just about who you know now. You reconnect with high school and college friends, co-workers, sometimes even elementary friends. We’re connected to other families who share our path with special needs or have common goals or beliefs. Maybe you actually think you don’t know any gay people? Are you sure? Check your friends list again. Maybe, just maybe, you have a gay friend who is working towards a goal you both hold dear. Did you want them to see that? Was it intentional or an accident? And now that you know, would you post it again?

I have no doubt I’ve said and posted things that others don’t like. Sometimes I have no idea I’m irritating someone until I break the last straw and  they unload on me because I’ve been rubbing them the wrong way for three months. Sometimes it takes me a while to get it, too.

There is a meme that floats around every so often that I always snicker at. It cracks a joke about a well known practice of a particular religion. I’ve wanted to post it more than once. But I never have because I know I am connected to people in that religion. I have no idea if they’d even care, but since this is one of those rare occasions in which I have some self awareness, I don’t.

I’m not trying to change anyone’s minds about their beliefs. I’m just saying, look through your friend list. Put an actual face on what you’re saying. I know I didn’t get it until I had faces for who I hurt with the words gay and retarded.

I’m not perfect. I might offend you tomorrow. Maybe I’m offending you right now. I have jerk thoughts all the time, and sometimes I say them, too. But think about how you feel when someone posts an update calling something or someone retarded. Or how you feel if someone posts that all Christians are hateful. Or all liberals are stupid. Or all conservatives are evil. Or when family and friends reject you because of the circumstances of your life. I wonder what it’s like to hop on FB to see what your friends are up to, only to see that a bunch of them believe you’re destined for hell.

I don’t write this because I think you will change your beliefs. I write it because I wonder if you’ll change the way you post.

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