A round this time of year, as high school graduates prepare to make the big leap to college, lots of advice gets dispensed out by their parents, elders — and probably random strangers too — who have “been there and done that.” Much of this sage wisdom sounds banal at this point because it has been said so many times.
But there is a reason these words have been uttered so much — they make sense. Phrases like, “Be true to yourself,” or, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,” or, “If you can dream it, you can achieve it,” or, “Life begins where fear ends,” come to mind.
This is all sound advice, and these words look very good written in script on posters with snow-covered mountains or babbling brooks in the background.
But there is one piece of advice that doesn’t look as pretty on a poster or flow off the tongue as beautifully, but it is still one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received and it’s, “Don’t be an a-hole.”
It’s simple but serves you well in life. Don’t get me wrong, I have certainly had and still have my own moments of a-holery, but I try to stay on the non-a-hole track as much as possible.
Unfortunately, some of our leaders have gotten off course of late.
The leader I speak of specifically is Mobile County Treasurer Phil Benson, who grabbed headlines last week for making offensive remarks on Facebook about the LGBTQ community.
In reference to a National Review story about the Colorado baker who was sued for refusing to bake same-sex wedding or gender re-assignment cakes, Benson posted on the Mobile County Republican Party’s page: “This poor guy needs to move to a place he is wanted. Freaking queers have gotten too much sympathy. A real abomination.”
This case has been part of the national debate for some time — prompting the discussion of when does religious freedom end and discrimination begin? It was argued all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the baker last summer.
But it’s also about more than just religious fundamentalists versus LGBTQ advocates, as there is also the issue of how government should interact with private businesses.
Even gay-friendly libertarian groups expressed concern that the government was trying to tell this guy what he could and couldn’t do at his business.
“The rights involved are not about free speech or free exercise of religion,” Bob Levy, chairman of the libertarian CATO Institute said just after the ruling. “The rights are property rights, privacy rights and, most importantly, freedom of association, the right to associate with whoever you please.”
The ACLU maintains that even private businesses should have to serve everyone if they are open to the public for business. There have also been First Amendment arguments by lawyers that the baker is an artist and he should be allowed to create whatever he likes.
And people have posed the question should bakers have to make Confederate flag cakes if they find them to be morally objectionable?
So, my point is, there has obviously been a lot of debate and discussion from a number of different groups about this case already. That’s not breaking news and the fact that Benson weighed in on this would not have been either — if he hadn’t just totally gone off the rails and used completely hateful, discriminatory and absolutely unacceptable language.
Freaking queers? A real abomination?
Come on, Phil. Even if those are your religious beliefs, is that the kind of language anyone should use, ever? But especially if you are a public official who is supposed to serve all of the citizens of Mobile County.
And sadly, it didn’t end there. He went back on the news again, doubled down and defiantly said, “Gay people are offensive to me!” and started trying to read the Bible to NBC 15’s Andrea Ramey.
An “abomination” is defined as “a thing that causes disgust or hatred.” And you just called your fellow human beings and many of your own constituents that, Phil. Can you imagine anyone saying that about you or someone you love … for any reason?
There are many gay people in this community who you just outright offended and there are just as many straight people who have gay friends and family members they dearly love, and you just “disgusted” them too.
Is there something in the Bible you could read aloud on live television about that kind of behavior?
If you can’t find any Scripture, might I suggest this verse: Hey, Phil, don’t be an a-hole.
He has since gone on Facebook and issued a non-apology apology.
Though the members of the Mobile County Commission have distanced themselves from his comments, they have pretty much said their hands are tied since he is an elected official. The voters, they say, will have to decide next year if they send the 77-year-old back for another term in 2020.
But is that true? Couldn’t the commission support a local bill abolishing this position in the next state legislative session?
This is a subject that has come up long before this whole embarrassing mess. The commission stripped Benson of some of his powers in April, and Mobile is one of the few counties that even still has a county treasurer position. Most have just been rolled into the finance department.
Since it pays around $40K a year, it seems like the commission could not only save us money, but also from future embarrassment from an office that isn’t even really necessary.
If not, then it’s on all of us to make sure this man is not re-elected. If we can’t put someone better in office than this guy, then maybe we are the true a-holes in this scenario.
Hey guys, let’s not be a-holes.
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