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Opinion: George, Ellen, and who we ought to be

For a rational adult mind, the headlines are surreal. The Daily Beast:

“Ellen Defends Laughing It Up With George W. Bush”

CNN:

“Ellen DeGeneres explains hanging out with her friend George W. Bush”

Washington Post:

“Ellen DeGeneres defends watching football with former GOP president”

It is noteworthy, particularly for a leftist ideological movement that markets itself as paragons of virtue, tolerance, and compassion, that the headlines are not screaming, and his tribe is not demanding that George W. Bush defend himself for associating with Ellen DeGeneres.

That isn’t a meaningless observation. Conservatives and Christians, despite being consistently tagged by cultural elites as narrow-minded, intolerant rubes, are not the ones fuming at the sight of a President they liked fraternizing with “the enemy.” That xenophobic, “if you don’t agree with me, we can’t be friends,” position seems to be solely reserved for the broadminded and tolerant sexual revolutionaries on the left.

Which makes Ellen’s response to them all the more important to champion, promote, and praise.  If you haven’t seen her viral video response, it’s worth watching:

Besides believing that Ellen DeGeneres is one of the funniest people that God ever created, I could not agree more with the sentiment she expresses here. We should all be mindful that though lamenting the loss of civility toward one another is very chic these days, it’s quite easy to ignore the part we play in fomenting it. We are all apt to retreat behind keyboards, reduce those who think differently than us to diabolical caricatures, and say things about them that few (if any) of us would actually say to them in face-to-face conversation.

The connectivity of our modern world is unimaginable. And yet the communication between us has never been so superficial, so reductionist, and so insincere. Ellen illustrated that perfectly when she said,

“They thought, ‘Why is a gay Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative Republican president?’”

Dangerously, that’s how we’ve come to identify people rather than thinking of them as countrymen, friends, and neighbors.  But the truth is that Ellen DeGeneres is much more than a gay Hollywood liberal. She’s a unique individual that bears the image of God, who has tirelessly used her platform and fame to make people laugh and do immense amounts of good for less fortunate people. 

And George W. Bush is much more than a conservative Republican president. He’s a unique individual that bears the image of God, who has consistently modeled a genial and affable spirit towards even those who have recklessly slandered him.

And despite their differences of opinion on a host of issues, the two have found friendship, common ground, and a mutual admiration of one another. And they have done so not through 280-character exchanges on social media but through sharing actual conversations.

It’s disappointing that in a nation that prides itself on diversity, this respect for intellectual and philosophical diversity is so rare. Failure to see beyond our own keyboards and appreciate our common humanity is deadly for an open society.

When we reduce people to their politics alone, and we isolate ourselves from interacting with anyone who doesn’t march in lockstep with our personal dogma, we will accomplish nothing more than depriving ourselves of encounters with some truly extraordinary people that God has gifted with the ability and desire to bless our lives.

People are more than their opinions. Failing to appreciate that doesn’t make us champions of a “cause,” it makes us pitifully shallow. In a luxury box at a Dallas Cowboy football game, President Bush and Ellen DeGeneres showed us the way forward. We’d be wise to follow.