I have a dilemma: the constraints of writing an article of less than a thousand words resulting from a recent interview with actor and writer Joseph C. Phillips, best known for his role on "The Cosby Show." He said so much of value that "pithy and concise" became a Herculean challenge.
My disdain for Hollywood is occasionally punctuated with flickers of hope. Philips’ remarks were less flicker, more thousand kilowatt beacon. His recent book, He Talk Like a White Boy, is a poignant journey through life events that have affected his faith, his fatherhood and his politics.
Phillips is an African-American Hollywood actor who is — gasp — a conservative. I know that is shocking. I’ll wait while you refocus on the screen. Being a conservative in Hollywood is like being a mini-skirt wearing blond on the streets of Saudi Arabia…it takes a spine of steel and he handles it with an ease and intellect that belies the tightrope he walks daily in an industry that doesn’t suffer the conservatives at all well.
I didn’t ask him about Anna Nicole but I did ask him to weigh in on the ridiculousness of the Imus fiasco. In an almost audible e-mail sigh, Phillips said, "Truly, I am tired of this story, but I am fascinated by how our moral equilibrium has been turned topsy-turvy. In today’s culture there is nothing worse than the label of racist — specifically white racist. Mel Gibson drove drunk. His endangering the lives of others took a backseat to his drunken, racist rant."
"Imus is raising millions of dollars for charity, but the charges of white racism and the corresponding guilt trump all. He was fired less because of what he said and more for the fear of the stigma of white racism by the networks and advertisers. It is why Obama feels free to publicly demand the firing of a radio host and yet remain amazingly silent when a television host proclaims the United States government was involved in a conspiracy to blow up the World Trade Center. Rosie O’Donnell’s ridiculous and far more egregious words do not carry the stigma of white racism….the audience applauds her because implicit in the remarks is the evil of a racist America so eager to kill brown people they will murder 3000 of their own citizens in order to do it."
And as for the spectacle of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson?
"The Teflon they wear is their immunity to charges of white racism. A nation blind to race and focused on character and virtue is frightening to them. The only virtue they possess is their rather deft wielding of the sword of white racism. We make a mistake when we make this episode about Sharpton, Jackson and Hip Hop and miss the greater lesson of finding a way to assuage our guilt over America’s original sin without destroying the foundations of our culture. That is not an argument in favor of incivility. It is an argument for perspective."
What about the rest of Hollywood? Phillips plops the responsibility right back in our collective conservative lap, exactly where it belongs.
"As outrageous as some of Rosie’s comments have been, where is the outrage? "The View"’s numbers are up. And as I say without the tinge of white racism, it will be some heavy lifting indeed to remove Rosie from "The View." Hollywood works like every other business, when people stop watching, shows go off the air."
Not content to simply walk away from a broken system, Phillips goes one, no ten, steps farther. "The best way to win in a capitalist market is to have a better mouse trap."
If you produce it, they will come. But it isn’t happening. Why?
Phillips opines, "There is a perception among conservatives that Hollywood holds some special power. Nothing could be further from the truth. Conservatives took over talk radio, we took over the blogosphere and cable news. If we put our minds to it we could run Hollywood as well. Perhaps the real reason is that we don’t really care, at least not enough to do anything about it."
As for the state of politics in general, Phillips pulls no punches and articulates the water cooler conversations I have heard a thousand times, “The GOP has largely abandoned conservative principles and suffered for it. They have not learned their lesson and seem content to continue to be democrat-lite and wonder why things are not working. We are poised to offer up another moderate presidential candidate in order to prevent Hillary and Obama from winning the election. If we win, we will be back to square one with a Republican president that does not believe in core conservative principles and will hedge on health care, social security, immigration and on and on AND then tell us we should be happy that our taxes are low.”
Phillips captures the frustration and exasperation that so many conservatives feel, but manages to remain enthusiastically optimistic, "I am excited about the principles that energize us as Americans and by the principles of the founding fathers: equality and natural rights, limited government and power in the hands of the people (as opposed to non-elected bureaucrats.) I have been a Republican because I have long felt that this party more than the other embodies these principles and has been the GOP’s strength from the beginning. This party must stand for more than low taxes. We must stand for limited but vigorous government, for putting power in the hands of the people, for equality under the law and for a united America. That is our strength and until we return to what we do best we will struggle and our nation will continue its slide into the multicultural abyss."
In closing, he relates a story a conversation Benjamin Franklin had with a woman during the founding of The United States. "The woman approached Benjamin Franklin and asked what they had been doing to which he supposedly asserted, ‘building a republic Madame if you can keep it.’ My hope for the future is that we can keep it."
My hope is that Joseph C. Phillips decides to run for public office.