Thursday, November 1, 2007
Dawg vs. the Senator
Senator Robert Byrd in clearer, more principled times.
Yes, it's really him.
Dog Chapman's worst fear has become reality. The show is over. The reputation is in tatters. The future is gone.
Very few print or online outlets are admitting that there is context here in his telephone tape, and that it is ironic in the extreme. I've read a dozen or more stories to the effect that he has 'let loose a racist tirade loaded with expletives', 'replete with the N word', and so forth, but nobody seems interested in the actual point Chapman was making while saying those things.
And for clarity's sake, as for irony's, it bears examination.
I've listened to it several times, and the context is clear to me--
Chapman is upset with his son Tucker's choice of girlfriends. He distrusts her and wants his son to break up with her, believing she is the kind of person who will use what she knows about the Chapman family to destroy them, just for spite, or perhaps for money. Chapman issues an ultimatum to Tucker; break up with her, or find another job.
I think benefit of doubt applies to Dog in terms of his ability to judge character. He wasn't born yesterday, and he's seen every kind of phoniness and perfidy mankind can offer. He is certain about this girl, for whatever reason, and he is certain his son is starry-eyed and cannot see what kind of person she is.
Tucker's girlfriend is black, of course. Chapman's greatest fear, as revealed in the conversation, is that everything he's worked for over 30 years will be destroyed by an opportunistic black person who will reveal publicly what she has heard in the Chapman household as casual conversation.
Dog complains that America wouldn't understand the meaning, in his household, of these words. He claims to be innocent of the vicious racist meaning of the N word, using it only to differentiate between Black People and N****s, and the implication is that Black People are good ordinary people and N****s are vile, troublesome, dishonest and untrustworthy people who happen to be black.
This is not an unusual sentiment among ex-convicts-- and former KKK members. Senator Robert Byrd revealed his endorsement of that view on national TV, even to the extent of calling some white people n***s because of other aspects of their lifestyle that they, apparently, share with the authentic n***s. Whatever, Senator Byrd. Whatever. I still can't believe this evil old coot is still serving in the Senate.
But Dog's greatest nightmare has come true, ironically because of the telephone call with his son in which he explicitly asserted to Tucker that he was determined to avoid that nightmare.
What Dog Chapman has failed to realize (until it's too late) is that he was doomed from the outset. If in fact he's been using that word in casual family conversations and in personal time, as doubtless he has all his life, then the PC clock was always ticking, and the Sharpton bomb was always going to go off.
He is a victim here, of his own upbringing. He spent his youth in that environment, absorbed its language, and probably never thought twice about changing his style. He became a criminal and a murderer, went to prison, found Jesus, turned his life around, and in the years since it can be argued that he has done an awful lot of good in a world of very very bad people who need exactly what he offers.
But he never changed his habits. Like many people, he knows in his own heart that he means no harm by his language. It is simply a part of him, his personal history. And even today, many black people claim the right to use the term on similar grounds, that 'we know we mean no harm by it'.
I do not defend Chapman. He's a big boy, and he already knows more about actions and consequences than I ever will. And I won't defend the use of that word. It had its genesis in the name of an African country and in the spanish word for Black, but it accrued over time a heavy load of contempt and insult and it deserves the scrap heap. Rappers too should abandon it, but nobody will pressure them to do so.
But why does Robert Byrd deserve no consequences for the life choices he made, which even today have cost him NOTHING? Hasn't he used that word in casual conversation about a MILLION times? Isn't his personal opinion of black people already published and accessible to anyone who wants to look for it?
Some would say, 'yes, but he's apologized.' In fact that is what he says, when asked about all this.
So has Duane Chapman.
His show is cancelled, his life and contributions to the lives of others are ruined, by a telephone call illegally recorded and illegally released.
It was a painful private moment for a man whose early life made him this way and whose later life has by any measure redeemed him.
I wonder if any of the hardcase young men on whom he has made a positive impact will step up and speak for him. I hope so.
But the juggernaut of political correctness spares none from its heartless destruction, and I doubt any young man has the courage to publicly support him now.
Where are the democrats now, with their loud protestations about freedom of speech?
It doesn't apply, of course; this was a private moment, protected by laws about privacy, and nonetheless now raw and bloody and public.
Dog never changed his private personal style, even when he was probably becoming aware that it was risky business to continue with it. He trusted his family. And perhaps it was Tucker himself, angry at Dad for intruding into his romance, who released the tape. Perhaps he will live to regret it.
But political correctness has worked its magic and destroyed another life.
Dog's is a life that celebrates redemption and offers it to others.
Or at least it did.