Without This, We Won’t Make It
Every day, we’re inundated with news reports showing a widening divide between those who consider themselves to be liberal and those who would call themselves conservatives.
Tweets, videos, articles… you name it and it’s sure to be full of outrageous stories whipping both sides of extremists (and those who find themselves somewhere in the middle) into an angry, defensive frenzy.
You’ll see reports that a woman was punched in the head for holding hands with a man wearing a MAGA shirt…
Tweets demanding that the British monarchy be abolished…
Articles screaming that this side or that side is the source of all hatred and the future downfall of Western society as we know it…
And because those kinds of stories come in every day, we barely bat an eye when we see them anymore.
But when an American comedian is photographed watching a sporting event while sitting next to a former U.S. President, well, then, all hell breaks loose.
In case you missed it, last week, famous comedian Ellen DeGeneres and President George W. Bush were captured on camera at a football game between the Packers and the Cowboys. This sounds like no big deal…
Except that Ellen is an out and proud self-proclaimed “gay Hollywood liberal” and President Bush is (as you no doubt know) a dyed-in-the-wool Republican.
When this news story broke, social media commentators went wild. They criticized DeGeneres, asking how dare she sit next to someone so unlike her, someone whose beliefs were not in line with her own?
And in typical Ellen fashion, DeGeneres replied during a four minute monologue on her show.
“When we were invited, I was aware that I was going to be surrounded with people from very different views and beliefs. And I’m not talking about politics… I was rooting for the Packers. So I had to hide my cheese hat in Portia’s purse.
“Some people were upset. They thought, why is a gay Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative Republican president?… A lot of people were mad. And they did what people do when they’re mad… they tweet.
“Here’s the thing: I’m friends with George Bush. In fact, I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same beliefs that I have. We’re all different, and I think we’ve forgotten that that’s OK that we’re all different…
“Just because I don’t agree with someone on everything doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be friends with them.
“When I say, ‘Be kind to one another,’ I don’t mean only the people that think the same way that you do. I mean, be kind to everyone. It doesn’t matter.”
President Bush appreciated the sentiment, and passed on to USA Today (through his spokesperson) “President and Mrs. Bush really enjoyed being with Ellen and Portia, and they appreciated Ellen’s comments about respecting one another. They respect her.”
Once Again, The Backlash Was Swift
The Washington Post published an article with a headline proclaiming, “Ellen DeGeneres Tells America She’s Better Than Us.” Ellen’s fans on Twitter published scathing criticisms. Dozens of other celebrities chimed in with their opinions of the “scandal” and Vanity Fair published a piece warning of “The Limits of Unconditional Kindness.”
By now, the drama seems to be calming down, but I’ve got to ask – why are we placing limits on the kindness we choose to show our fellow citizens?
And since when did people have to explain their friendships and acquaintances?
It’s a rhetorical question, but humor me as I answer it anyway.
Ever since the media started going for blood because they knew it could get them more clicks and eventually more dollars, people in the public eye have been under scrutiny every moment of every day.
In the past, if a celebrity said or did something unpopular, it may have been published briefly, but then it quietly went away – as most (though not all) off-handed comments and events should. Have you ever made a comment in the spur of the moment that you later realized could have been phrased better? I know I have!
Now imagine you’re in the public eye and you make an off-handed comment. These days, it can land you in more than just hot water – it can get you fired, universally and publicly shamed. It might even end your career.
And lately, this has trickled down to the general public, too. It’s now possible for private, everyday citizens to face wrath over who they choose to associate with, what they say in just about any conversation, and of course, who and what they choose to vote for.
It’s like we’re all under a microscope, and we’re either so afraid we’ll say or do the wrong thing, or we’re quick to judge others who do. Sometimes, we’re both.
It Doesn’t Have To Stay This Way
Like Ellen said, we need to remember that it’s ok that we’re all different. It’s even ok to be friends with someone who has different beliefs than you. In fact, I’d say it’s a positive thing. I don’t agree with all of the beliefs of every guest I have on London Real. And often, those are some of the best broadcasts we have.
We need to put this into practice more often – with both our local community and those in the public eye.
The next time a coworker makes a tacky joke, there’s no need to go to HR. You are free to roll your eyes (maybe even just internally) and move on to the next topic.
The next time a celebrity says something tasteless, you don’t have to join in a full-scale boycott of their TV show. You can still like what you like regardless of a difference in opinion.
The next time you see an article on your Facebook feed screeching that such and such politician voted for an unimaginably ghastly measure, take a moment to fact check before you sound off in the comments section – or better yet, don’t even click on the trash media articles. If we don’t click, they don’t make money, and they’ll have to find something else to write about. Sooner or later, they’ll get the message that a constant stream of negativity is not the way to be.
And the next time you find out someone is voting differently than you, before you mentally write them off as an idiot, consider why they might have a different point of view than you. If you’re comfortable enough, maybe even ask them questions about it.
If we continue on this path where casual friendships lead to the calling for blood, we’re doomed. Period.
On the other hand, if we can make kindness and consideration part of our repertoire again, we can bring society back to the way it should be.
It’s up to us to change this. Let’s do it.
Editor, Brian Rose Uncensored