Ellen Degeneres gave hope to many when she dared to defend her friendship with former President George W. Bush in the face of the outrage mob.
On Sunday night, Ellen was photographed at a Dallas Cowboys Game next to the 43rd president, which sparked an immediate backlash from critics who were quick to insert themselves in the personal business of the daytime talk show host.
Ellen’s response to the outrage did not manage to settle the offended; however, it did something much greater — it made way for a larger conversation about unity and civility between those across the political spectrum.
During her monologue on Monday, Ellen spoke out about the instance, as well as the criticism that followed, stating that she was “aware that [she] was going to be surrounded with people from very different views and beliefs.” Joking, she said, “And I’m not talking about politics. I was rooting for the Packers and get this — everybody in the Cowboys’ suite was rooting for the Cowboys.”
Then, moving on to a more serious note, Ellen acknowledged the response that the picture garnered.
“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.”
Choosing to bring light to the positive responses, rather than dwell on the negative, Ellen read aloud one tweet that she “loved.”
“Ellen and George Bush together makes me have faith in America again,” she read, a comment that received roaring applause from her audience.
“Here’s the thing,” Ellen said. “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 that we’ve forgotten that that’s OK that we’re all different.”
She continued, “but 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. Doesn’t matter.”
Ellen’s response was a refreshing act of bravery in a time when many would rather suppress opposing beliefs rather than make way for open dialogue and productive conversation.
Her actions showed that celebrities do not have to succumb to the pressure of the cancel culture. When celebrities, who have the power to reach people with different backgrounds, beliefs and political affiliations, apologize for their actions because they are deemed objectionable by the outrage mob, they are submitting to the notion that mob rule should be the deciding factor in one’s actions.
Apologizing prematurely without the willingness to first reach across the aisle only divides our society. Instances of backlash and disagreement have a great potential to open discussion and dialogue, and Ellen’s response seized that opportunity.
As we navigate through this current cancel culture, we should do as Ellen did in her show — choose to focus on the positive responses rather than the negative. There are many people from all sides of the political spectrum who disagree with the intolerance towards political and intellectual diversity that has become commonplace in America.
Ellen’s remarks should be a lesson for other celebrities and public figures who face frequent scrutiny. It should encourage them to thoughtfully consider the implications of their actions, and show them the power of open dialogue. The monologue should also give hope for those who are in the audience, sitting at the edge of their seats, waiting for somebody to speak up as Ellen did.
We must continue to share and support these deeds and words of civility, instead of only shedding light on acts of divisiveness. We must stand together against the outrage mob’s attempts to divide us.
As Ellen says, “be kind to one another.” Our country will be better for it.
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