Wednesday, January 11, 2017

I Stand With Meryl

In the court of public opinion, you are damned if you do and damned if you don't. I am reminded of this adage as the annual Hollywood award season is now underway. Critics harp that these awards are nothing more than self-aggrandizing by an already spoiled Hollywood community. Yet, this year, when multi-award winning actress Meryl Streep gave a thank you speech for her Cecil B DeMille award at the Golden Globes, she put the spotlight on someone other than herself, yet still received criticism. Well, I applaud her. As befitting someone in a free society, she used the podium she was given to say what was on her mind. While I am not a decorated artist of any sort, I feel compelled to do the same. I have the capacity, the platform and the freedom to speak my mind. So I will use those privileges.

I agree with Ms. Streep's comments, I believe "violence does incite violence" and we should all work to stem violence to create the world that many of us would like to live in. I suspect that whatever way you voted last November, you would like to live free from constant threats of violence. I believe, despite this great feeling of a divide in the United States today, that we are more alike than we are different. We enjoy our freedoms, you can see countless expressions of freedom of speech on social media sites every hour. We also want to be safe, we want to be valued and we want the liberty to the pursuit of happiness in our own way. We have these rights up until the second those rights trample on someone else's rights. That is the agreement.

I also think most people would like to feel respected. Ms. Streep began the heart of her remarks by recounting that often replayed and sickening performance of the United States President-elect, imitating a person of differing mental and physical ability. As she pointed out, the campaigner, "outranked in power, privilege and capacity to fight back" the individual he was disrespecting. Yet he thought it was appropriate to do so anyway. Isn't this the very definition of bullying? According to the government website on bullying (stopbullying.gov), "bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose." Our now President-elect did almost all of those things in his opening campaign speech. It is curious to me that a nation which spent so much time, effort and resources to anti-bullying over the last decade has now elected the biggest bully to its highest office.

Supporters of this man, according to political polls and pundits, come from the conservative right. From the fraction of America that professes to be highly religious - specifically, Christian. I was raised, Christian. As I recall, Christianity promotes love; "love thy neighbor as they self", Mark 12:31.  "Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back." Luke 6:35. And, "Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of law," Romans13:10. So, I am mystified as to how so many so-called Christians could fervently support someone who shows so much disregard, such disrespect, such acts that are the opposite of love, toward others. Don't they want a leader who exemplifies traits they instill in their own children? I do.

I am also stumped as to how intelligent people can consider someone who routinely uses adjectives like "stupid" and "dumb" or "crazy" toward his opposition. As we say in education, "use your words." Use language laced with evidence, facts, data, to convince the public that you are in the right and your opposition is in the wrong. This type of healthy debate shows intelligence, wisdom, erudition, and respect. Our current elected leader has not shown any of these traits. I find that scary.

Fear, I believe, is driving the great divide in America today. Christians fear they are being singled out, simply because we now acknowledge that freedom of religion, in order to be truly free, must extend to all religions. This is not a threat to Christianity, it is a defense of the freedom to worship when, and how you chose.

Fear of people different from ourselves is fueling hate in this country. Hate is dangerous. Hate incites hate. "Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers all wrongs." Proverbs, 10:12. It is time for our leaders to rise above the "instinct to humiliate" and, like Ms. Streep, demonstrate to us that love trumps hate.