Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Living Paradoxically

"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 that we've forgotten that we're all different.

But because I don't agree with someone on everything doesn't mean I'm not gonna be friends with them.  When I say be kind to one another, I don't mean only the people that think the same way you do.  I mean be kind to everyone.  It doesn't matter.
Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen found herself in a little bit of a Twitter controversy over the weekend, following pictures of her at the Dallas Cowboys game on Sunday seated next to President George W. Bush.  Ellen responded today on her show with the statement above, outlining a very straightforward principle:  the idea that we can disagree with other people, even on fundamental issues, but still be civil and friendly.

This is certainly an idea that I've championed in the past.  We all need to broaden our friendship circles.   We as a society cannot survive if we keep segregating ourselves and circling the wagons, surrounding ourselves with only like minded people.  It's bad enough media is doing it for us.  News media is presenting us with only one opinion, generally confirming our existing biases.  Social media does the same, bringing only certain stories to our attention.

If we are not in the business of regularly interacting with people that we disagree with, that challenge us, that push us out of our comfort zone, we will continue to exist in wind tunnels, amplifying our worst impulses.

How can we ever grow, how can we ever change, if we do not have any voices in our lives that push us to do so?

So, I'll repeat my urging from the 2016 election - if you do not have people in your friend circle that are not the same political allegiance as you, you need a bigger friend circle.  If you do not have people in your friend circle that are not the same religion as you, you need a bigger friend circle.  If you do not have people in your friend circle that are not the same race as you, you need a bigger friend circle.  The same for sexual orientation, gender, nationality, creed.

Generally, we all need a bigger friend circle.  A bigger neighborhood.

That does not mean the controversy did not have merit.

To many, W. represents the epitome of the opposition to Ellen's very existence, particularly focusing on his strategy in the 2004 re-election campaign to put anti-gay marriage Constitutional Amendments in as many states as possible.  It's a distinction between Ellen being friends with someone who merely disagreed with her and one who actively made her life more difficult.  It's the level of "disagreement" that is the issue.

There's also the issue of the symbolism.  Is Ellen supposed to represent the whole LGBT community and somehow absolve Bush for the anti-gay marriage stance and Amendments?  Does it make it better?   Likewise, why does it fall to someone like Ellen to be the one to rise above?  Why does the member of the minority need to be the one to rise above instead of the majority?

The same arguments were made with Brandt Jean and his offer of forgiveness to Amber Guyger.  While it is the most noble and most divine gesture, why does it continually fall to the minority to forgive and not the majority?

These aren't easy situations.  When do the needs of the group outweigh the needs of the individual?  Especially when they implicate such important truths?  Shouldn't the individual character control?

Ultimately, I feel most of the issue lies in the over publicity of such things.  Brandt Jean's apology would never have caused any controversy were it made in private.   Had the camera's not been in the courtroom.  There it would be what it was, the private outcrying of the soul.

Likewise, Ellen's fellowship with Bush during the Cowboys game would be what it was, a private friendship between a President who prides himself on his congeniality and a person who is most openly kind.

And when you think about it, wouldn't the world be a better place if those were more regular occurrences?

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