While you were sleeping, two Americas emerged. One aligns with a stock photo of a kid who wears pajamas and drinks hot drinks. The other aligns with a guy who made a fortune helping hunters shoot ducks and who dislikes gay people. You have 10 seconds to decide.
Yes, it's Day Two of PajamaBoyGate. An ad from Organizing For Action, an advocacy group unaffiliated with the Obama administration, raised conservative ire on Wednesday with its depiction of the sort of "effete" man (meaning: "gay") that backs President Obama. Then, on Wednesday evening, A&E suspended Phil Robertson, one of the heavily-bearded and incessantly-eye-shaded stars of Duck Dynasty, after he explained to GQ that being gay is a sin and that a vagina is "more desirable than a man's anus."
In short order, the two — Pajama Boy, as he's known, and Robertson — were shuffled into position as Representative Icons of America's Political Dichotomy from which we can Extract Significant Lessons. Matt Lewis at the Daily Caller had a full column up faster than you can call and then shoot a duck.
When you consider the more effete, cosmopolitan America that “Pajama Boy” represents, you’ll get a sense for why the Duck Dynasty folks are out of touch with today’s acceptable norms. There is a huge schism between red state America and blue state America, and these two stories seem to symbolize the yawning chasm.
"[A] big reason this happened," Lewis continues, "is that a pretty regular guy … is going to be rhetorically unequipped to navigate the PC land mines that 21st century fame demands." He suggests that the outcry against Robertson has elements of classism. Which is probably a bit of a fallacy: There's clearly a classist response both for and against the show at large, but dismissing gay people as weird and gross isn't really a "PC landmine."
Lewis wasn't alone in coming to Robertson's defense. Sarah Palin, a former governor of Alaska, weighed in on Facebook, posting a photo of herself with Robertson and his family, and writing that, "Free speech is an endangered species. Those 'intolerants' hatin’ and taking on the Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing his personal opinion are taking on all of us." This is flip side of the classism that Lewis was excoriating. Palin, a wealthy celebrity that commands a lot of media attention, wants to align herself as closely as possible with the "real America" that she jets away from with some regularity. "Hatin'." "All of us."
If we're going to read into the Pajama Boy / Robertson split, let's. This debate, this bisection of the country into Pajamerica and the Confeduckeracy, is a reflection of the long-standing character traits divvied up into our political Venn diagram. Pajama Boy is the feminine, soft, caring, young liberal America that wants to give your tax dollars — money you earned! — to poor people and who gets sad when he sees you eating a steak. (See Rich Lowry's very-late-to-the-conversation Politico essay which makes our case nicely: Pajama Boy is "as threatening as Michael Cera" and is "probably reading The Bell Jar and looking forward to a hearty Christmas meal of stuffed tofurkey.") The Duck Dynasty is comprised of don't-give-a-crap individualists who are self-sufficient, manly hunters that virulently oppose any suggestion that they're accountable to or dependent upon a broader community of Americans.
The Confeduckeracy is the "real America," the theory goes: the salt-of-the-Earth, white, Christian America that might not have a lot of money but has enough values to power through. The Pajamericans are pampered interlopers, willing to give up America and its values in order to just get along with everybody, undermining the First Amendment by asking that people not use gay slurs.
All of this is a sloppy shorthand, symbols we use to make political points like McCain-Palin trotting out Joe the Plumber to be Real America Personified in 2008. We pretend that the Venn diagram is two circles that barely touch, when we secretly know that it's basically one big overlapping circle with only fringes jutting out where people completely disagree with one another. The lines of class and compassion and acceptance are blurry and expressed in unclear language, but we disagree less than we pretend. I am not a Pajama Boy or a duck hunter, and neither are you.
(New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie walked that middle line pretty elegantly, subverting Pajama Boy by asking his state to put on an apron instead — and to go out and volunteer.)
One last irony in this goofy situation that's worth pointing out: the threads of class that wind through this (dumb) debate are uncoupled from actual economics. Robertson was suspended from a show which consists only of cameras following him and his family around documenting the massive wealth they accrued from selling duck calls. The model in the OFA tweet is an unknown, presumably a model that, like other young models, is hardly wealthy. One of these two men can afford to fly to Paris on a whim and scoff at America from the window of a private jet. He's the one that real Americans embrace.
The lines are blurry.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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