As America’s foremost nice lady on daytime television, Ellen DeGeneres responded to criticism over her overt display of congeniality with former President George W. Bush exactly as expected.
Noting “people were upset,” DeGeneres went on to say, “They thought, why is a gay Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative Republican president? And they didn’t even know I was holding the brand new iPhone 11.” If the insertion of a joke didn’t confirm her lack of serious consideration of her critics’ position, her highlighting the following tweet speaking to the controversy surely did: “Ellen and George Bush together makes me have faith in America again.”
So did this musing: “We’re all different. And I think that we’ve forgotten that that’s OK that we’re all different.”
And the declaration: “When I say be kind to one another, I don’t mean be kind to the people who think the same way you do. I mean be kind to everyone.”
Her monologue predictably drew applause from her audience along with outside cheers from various other celebrities and public figures. This country loves to see itself through the blinders of platitudes like those espoused by DeGeneres this week. The long-standing gimmick in America is to go on and on about the importance of civility — usually at the expense of embodying the actual characteristics related to kindness and decency.
I have long enjoyed DeGeneres as a comedian, actor, and talk show host. I have a great degree of respect for DeGeneres as a pioneering gay entertainer. As someone who plans to never stop bopping, I admire and actually envy her ability to get suburban moms to twerk something (offbeat but #inclusion?) to Cardi B and Beyoncé in the middle of the day. And yeah, I believe DeGeneres has the right to befriend whomever she chooses.
However, DeGeneres and her co-signers are all being disingenuous as hell about this and it is infuriating.
The issue here is not folks having difficulties grasping that it is possible to have a friend you disagree with in terms of some given political issue or even overarching ideology. We all have friends who see the world differently than we do. George W. Bush, however, is not merely just someone’s little friend.
Under his disastrous two terms as President of the United States, which began with the Supreme Court handing him victory rather than the American voter, he was responsible for the Iraq War. It was a war that began in outright falsehoods pushed by his administration. How many of our family members and friends are dead, maimed, or mentally damaged because of that unjust war? And how many dead Iraqis can be comforted by the sight of Ellen and W. sharing a laugh?
This is also the man whose gross negligence and incompetence resulted in the needless deaths of people trying to take refuge from Hurricane Katrina. He’s also the man who gave away billions in tax breaks to the wealthiest among us along with the multinational corporations who have far more control over our system than our elected officials — resulting in the worst economic crisis since The Great Depression. And in that crisis was the reality that many mortgage lenders were giving free rein to take advantage of Black homeowners. We still haven’t recovered from the subprime mortgage crisis.
And in policy that directly impacted DeGeneres, George W. Bush wanted a constitutional amendment barring her from marrying the woman she loves. Bush was such an awful president that white folks voted for a Black man named Barack Hussein Obama as president. We know how that ended, but the failure of Bush as president can never be understated.
Again, DeGeneres can be friends with whomever she wants, but her monologue disingenuously portrays her critics as intolerable when in fact, they are far more principled than the self-professed gay liberal Hollywood. No one has argued that Ellen should have thrown a shoe at Laura Bush’s husband or throw a drink on him like an episode of The Real Housewives of Dallas.
On the other hand, did she have to go out of her way to further sanitize the image of a man who has been credibly charged with being a war criminal?
George W. Bush has long been a fixture in my life as a Texas native. In fact, I remember him showing up at my mom’s job for a glorified photo op and my mom telling me she refused. When I said he may very likely be the next president, she didn’t care, dismissing him on principle.
My mama is no one’s Hollywood liberal, but she knew a charming man belies his ugly core in terms of how he governs and treats the average working American.
DeGeneres is not the only person helping sanitize George W. Bush. The Obamas and Obama administration alums are frankly just as guilty. These folks confuse not being as big a monster as Donald Trump as if it were some virtuous characteristic. Hardly.
These people will tell you that they are merely being civil when in reality, they are indirectly teaching you a lesson about the way power and wealth continue to function in this country. That once you reach a certain level of each, many of your sins are forgiven. They sell you that as civility and acts of kindness. They may even invoke God to defend their actions.
You can believe in being kind to every individual, but if you place a powerful individual’s interests over others – namely the people they hurt – you are not being kind so much as you are being complicit. To wit, even if I were to take Ellen at her word, I do have a question: Will we soon her hanging out with Kim Burrell?
DeGeneres banned Burrell from her show in 2017 following Burrell’s homophobic comments at a church were made public, but as President of the United States of America, Bush’s homophobia was far more damaging because his platform was far more powerful.
I highly doubt it, which tells you all you need to know about what’s going on here. And what all of these people fail to say is the language now being employed to excuse public fawning of George W. Bush and Bush-Cheney administration alums will soon be extended to Donald J. Trump and Trump-Pence administrative ghouls.
Hell, it’s already happening — see Sean Spicer on Dancing with the Stars and the celebrities who say he’s such a nice guy when you get to know him. You know, even if you don’t “agree” with him. Meanwhile, this week the Supreme Court led by a Bush appointee from a stolen election with the help of Trump appointees has made clear that queer and trans people may be excluded from employment protection under the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Should that happen, what makes anyone think they will stop there? It’s fine to have manners. It’s great to have a respectful debate. It’s not okay to buddy up with the oppressor and sell the masses a fable about civility when the real story is that some people become members of the ruling class and instead of challenging the status quo and those responsible for the rampant inequality in society, opt instead chose to side with its greatest offenders because they now feel protected by their status. If that makes you feel good about the direction of this country, I am depressed for you.
Either way, I can be kind to any individual, but I’ll be damned if I ever aid and abet a man who hurt so many under false pretenses.