Ellen and George W. Bush's friendship begs the question: Should we all just get along?
On Sunday night, the Dallas Cowboys took on the Green Bay Packers at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. While it wasn't a huge shock that the favored Packers pulled off a 34 - 24 victory, people were bewildered to see Ellen DeGeneres, George W. Bush, and their spouses, sitting next to each other in Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones' suite.
The picture of the lesbian liberal comedian sitting next to a former Republican president who called for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, didn't sit well with a lot of folks on social media.
Ellen DeGeneres laughing it up with someone who has actively tried to harm our community feels disappointing, irresponsible, and dangerous. https://t.co/tgGfmCGQ5A
— Out Magazine (@outmagazine) October 7, 2019
While in office, Bush was nearly as polarizing as Donald Trump is today, but these days he's seen more as America's goofy old Uncle than a war monger who put our economy into a tailspin. He has actually become more popular with liberals in the Trump-era for being a critic of the current president.
In 2015, he said that he's "mellowed" on the issue of gay marriage. Which is an easy stance to take at a time when there's no benefit for him to discriminate anymore.
The next day on her show, Ellen discussed the blow-back she received on social media asking why is it wrong to be friends with people with different political beliefs?
Yes, that was me at the Cowboys game with George W. Bush over the weekend. Here's the whole story. pic.twitter.com/AYiwY5gTIS
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) October 8, 2019
She addressed the criticism she faced for sitting next to Bush saying, "People were upset."
"They thought, why is a gay Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative Republican president?" DeGeneres asked. " A lot of people were mad. And they did what people do when they're mad... they tweet."
She then shared some of the positive messages she received from people who are tired of the partisan divide in America and saw them sitting together as a sign of unity in a fractured country.
"Ellen and George Bush together makes me have faith in America again."
"Exactly. Here's the thing. I'm friends with George Bush," she said. "In fact, I'm friends with a lot of people who don't share the same beliefs that I have."
"But just because I don't agree with someone on everything doesn't mean that I'm not going to be friends with them," she said. "When I say, 'be kind to one another,' I don't only mean the people that think the same way that you do. I mean be kind to everyone."
So is Ellen right to buddy up with someone who fanned the flames of anti-gay bigotry in the United States two administrations ago? That answer is up to Ellen. Just as it's up to all of us to draw our own boundaries with whom we choose to associate.
Political beliefs don't exist in a bubble, they are a reflection of who we are as a people and we rightly tend to choose friends who share their same values.
There have been a lot of relationships that have ended during the Trump years. Trump thinks that it's acceptable to separate children from families, kowtow to vicious autocrats, and openly discriminate against Hispanic people and Muslims.
It's morally upright to find that that appalling and to be critical of those who think Trump is in the right. Why should anyone feel compelled to accept those who support propagators of hate?
Political tribalism and red-state blue state fractures are one of the ugliest parts of American culture. The idea of two people from different sides of the aisle sitting together, chomping on popcorn and watching America's favorite sport together is, no doubt, a heartwarming image.
But it, at best, the image serves to show that choosing who we associate with is a tough decision, as it should be. There are good people in America on both sides of the political spectrum and everyone thinks they support the team that's right.
So the real question becomes: Where is their heart?
It can be hard to see that a conservative can support Trump or can have cheered on George W. Bush while the U.S. murdered a million people unnecessarily during the Iraq War, and think their hearts are in the right place.
However, human beings are fragile, dynamic, hypocritical, emotional, and, for the most part, irrational creatures. It's probably best to give everyone the benefit of the doubt if they're coming from the right place ... but that doesn't mean you have to.
Bipartisanship at its best: George W Bush sneaking Michelle Obama a mint pic.twitter.com/Q9zBiPv7Uw
— Kiran Moodley (@kirancmoodley) September 1, 2018