Is Kirksey Swaggerting? (II of II)

All of Kirksey’s macho-manly-man swagger about banishing homosexuality comes, of course, in the waning days of Jimmy Swaggert’s blurt-and-backpedal routine about homosexuality last week. You may or may not recall that Swaggart worked himself up into quite a froth about gay marriage during one of his services and blurted out that if a gay man ever looked at him romantically, “I’m going to kill him and tell God he died.” First all, I should say, not in defense of Swaggart, but by way of context, that Swaggart was borrowing and modifying an old, old line from southern and backwoods culture, roughly formularized as “kill so-and-so and tell God he died.” And it’s just one of the many semi-violent folk expressions of hyperbolic exasperation that beloved reader JL reminded me of: “I could just wring his neck” and “I could kill him” and so on. Part of me would like to believe Swaggart is just smart enough to use the expression but not any more aware of the world than to have been surprised that most people wouldn’t be familiar with this formulaic saying. But the reality is that Swaggart’s statement (like Jerry Falwell’s earlier this year, when he suggested that gays were to blame for 911) more likely arose from calculated mendacity. You can’t unring the bell, and half-hearted, mumbly “apologies” about being misunderstood or misquoted (when in fact you were neither) never get reported with the same publicity as the original outlandishness. And someone as experienced and seasoned in the ways of grandstanding and headline-making as Jimmy Swaggart certainly knows this. In any event, it was a really stupid and scary thing to say. So, note to famous or influential people with large audiences (whether a church or a magazine subscriber base or whatever): even if you do detest or despise someone or some group of people enough to wish the death or, uhm, banishment of that person or group, probably best not to publicly use the language of “killing” and “banishing” when discussing your feelings about those people or that group. Because there’s still enough collective memory to remember what kinds of real and atrocious acts have been preceded by this kind of rhetoric.

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