Are you ready for some footbaaaaaall? And are you ready to censor and censure people who say things you don’t want to hear?
If you’re an NFL fan and tuned into last Monday night’s game, you probably noticed a big difference in the opening. Hank Williams, Jr., the country artist who performed the Monday Night Football theme song for years, has been relieved of duty – seemingly because of his recent remarks comparing President Obama to Hitler.
While I disagree with Williams’ analogy, I respect and appreciate his candor – the same as I appreciate my partner saying whatever she wants (or feels the need) to say to me. Admittedly, I prefer for my ego to be taken into consideration when she presents this information. But between her concealing her feelings and telling me something that might hurt my ego, I will take her honest revelation(s) any day. There are many things she could say that would be tough to hear – perhaps about dissatisfaction with our relationship or the sex, a desire to see other people, or a physical inadequacy. These may all be tough pills to swallow. But imagine the result if she did not feel comfortable sharing. While I might feel pain, I would be glad she told me, and that we had a relationship that allowed candor.
Likewise, I’m glad that Williams said what he said – not only because it is supposedly his right to do so, but also because everyone being polite and keeping their politically-uncorrect ideas to themselves creates an atmosphere that stifles difficult, yet important, dialogue. It is possible that Williams is a racist – as many have called him. It is also possible that he simply despises the president’s policies and politics. I think it is safe to say that he despises something about Obama. But rather than punishing, labeling, or categorizing him, I want to talk to him. I want to know why he feels this way. His views are different from mine – a great place to start a conversation.
Unless we know what others think (about a romantic partner, a particular race or a political party), there is a strained platform for discussion, for trying to understand where people are coming from, and for serious attempts to better the situation. Mother Teresa once said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” I would add to her wisdom that if you judge people, you have no time left to understand them.
Williams is not the first public figure to lose a job (or fans) for failure to keep his mouth shut. After the Dixie Chicks criticized George W. Bush during his presidency, many country-music stations stopped playing their music. And remember Don Imus, the talk-show host who called a team of black, women basketball players “nappy-headed hoes”? No more show for him. I understand why the NFL dropped Williams, and why Imus’ station cancelled his show. These are money-making businesses, and if outraged audiences stop tuning in, the decision-makers have to cut their losses. But I would like to see a society in which the NFL never had to make that decision – where the public could discuss and even be angered by what Williams said, without calling for his head on a platter. The current social dynamic is one where individuals involved with million- or billion-dollar organizations cannot express their thoughts. We are telling the world that we do not want to know what these people think, or what anyone thinks, unless it’s nice and diplomatic.
I would applaud someone in the public eye who had the audacity to say, “I don’t like black people,” “I don’t like men,” or “I am homophobic.” Those inflammatory remarks would be great avenues into a larger discussion about the hidden biases we all have. Talk can be cheap. It can also be valuable.
Likewise, we can’t talk with our partners about what they don’t like about us, unless they’re comfortable revealing their feelings, perceptions or dissatisfaction. As a society and as couples, let’s reveal how messed up, biased and controversial we really are – even though we’ve previously been too “nice” or scared to speak our minds. But more importantly, let’s provide a safe venue in which others can do this. Otherwise, it is doubtful they will do so for us. When we are not our authentic selves, we compromise a valuable portal that is useable for becoming the Powerful People that we are capable of being.
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