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Gordon Gee, Catholics, and Checklist America

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I’m a gay Muslim on Twitter and Outkick the Coverage. 

Why?

For two reasons: 1. to coopt the stupidity of consistent “your gay’ taunts on social media and embrace my gayness and 2. because it illuminates the continuing stupidity of the American social discourse. That is, we use the speaker’s background as de facto freedom of speech. 

A gay Muslim in America can truly get away with saying anything, you’re simultaneously the most free and the most reviled in our modern society. That’s a trade that’s worth making for me. I get the creative freedom to write and talk in areas that others can’t touch and at the same time I can embrace the hate that comes with that position.

In today’s America, if you’re a member of multiple minority groups you have different rules for what you can write and say than if you aren’t a member of these groups.

So I’m a proud gay muslim.  

Otherwise you need an ethnicity scorecard these days to figure out whether or not someone can say or write what they think about an issue.

In our modern society asian people can’t be racist against asian people, black people can’t be racist about black people, Muslims can’t be offensive when talking about other Muslims, and gays can speak freely about other gays.

But what if you’re not a member of any of these groups? Or what if you’re actually racist and a member of these groups. (Some of the most racist comments in our society come from members of these racial, religious, or ethnic groups talking about other members of these racial, religious, or ethnic groups, 

Then your acceptable standard of discourse shrinks tremendously, you aren’t allowed to be very honest about race or ethnicity or religion.

In fact, you probably don’t want to write or talk about it for fear of saying something “inappropriate.” Our society’s obsession with “appropriate” behavior proves that we really were once British colonists. It’s like Downton Abby, melting pot edition.   

Which brings me in a roundabout way to Ohio State president Gordon Gee’s recently published comments from this past December. For now I’m going to leave aside Gee’s thoughts on college expansion, the SEC, the state of Kentucky’s universities, the ACC, Bret Bielema, and other newsworthy comments and focus on one central element of Gee’s jokes. 

“The fathers are holy on Sunday, and they’re holy hell on the rest of the week,” Gee said. “You just can’t trust those damn Catholics on a Thursday or a Friday, and so, literally, I can say that,” said Gee, a Mormon.

Imagine that Gee had said, “You can’t trust those damn Jews on a Thursday or a Friday…” or “You can’t trust those damn Muslims…” In fact, insert just about any other non-Christian religion, race, sexual preference, or certainly any other ethnic group that he wasn’t himself a part of and Gee would be fired right now for what he’d said.

Even if, as was the case here, the intention was to be funny. 

While Gee’s jokes were stupid and not funny — honestly, can you not find jokes about Notre Dame that don’t involve Catholic connections? — they do demonstrate that Gee himself, a very smart man who I like personally, is aware of modern social fault lines. He wouldn’t have made the jokes about any other group, but felt that he could speak freely about Catholics as a group.

But why did Gee, correctly it turns out, feel this way?

After all, Gee’s not Catholic himself — which would have, in our modern media age, completely freed him to make these jokes.  Indeed, the article itself actually makes clear that Gee’s Mormon. Which means that if the Big Ten had been trying to add BYU and Gee had said the same exact thing about Mormons instead of Catholics, no one would have even blinked.

After all, Gee’s Mormon, he can’t hate himself! Ethnic scorecard checklist, column three. 

But Gee’s not Catholic, so why were these jokes okay when so many other religious faith comments would have gotten him fired? After all, religious faith isn’t like race, a decision that none of us actually made. We can all choose our religion.

It can’t just be because Catholics aren’t discriminated against now. Catholics in this country — and elsewhere — have a substantial history of persecution based upon their religious faith. It wasn’t very long ago that John F. Kennedy running for President as a Catholic faced a substantial part of the American electorate that wouldn’t vote for him based on his religion. There are probably some Catholics who cringed upon reading the comments, recalling a different era of WASP domination, when worshipping as they so desired wasn’t permissible.

Is it simply that the Christian faith and all its derivative branches are so embedded in our country’s firmament now that making fun of the majority religion is fair game for everyone? Could Gee have gotten away with substituting in Christians in his joke for Catholics? I don’t think so. I think he’d be fired for that too.  

But I bet you feel like there’s an ethnic scorecard out there too, don’t you? If you check certain boxes, you can say and write certain things, if you don’t, you can’t.

It’s amazing how lazy that construct is in 21st century multi-racial America. It’s a mindset of a much older generation setting the communication standard for a much more diverse younger generation that sees through the absurdity of arbitrary ethnic checklists that govern what can and can’t be said.

A checklist America ultimately guarantees that many of our leaders spend most of their time searching for people who violate those checklists. A checklist America presumes racism and improper motive — someone who is not a member of a group is authomatically opposed to it and must be fired for “inappropriate” comments — in the name of combatting improper motives.

Seems to me like the end result is that no one is actually very honest about anything.  

But what do I know?

I’m just a gay Muslim trying to make a dollar out of fifteen cents.  

Written by Clay Travis

OutKick founder, host and author. He's presently banned from appearing on both CNN and ESPN because he’s too honest for both.