A little over a week ago, the Twitter-verse decided to hear themselves talk after gifted comedienne, Ellen DeGeneres, was photographed hanging out at an NFL game with former Pres. George W. Bush. Noting the attention that included both generous commendation and condemnation, DeGeneres responded further the next day by saying, “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.”
Multiple celebrities responded [all emphasis mine]…
From Blake Shelton: “Amen… thank you for saying this.”
From Jamie Foxx: “Thank uuu very much for that!!!! Soooo needed and necessary.”
Reese Witherspoon, Gwen Stefani, Kristen Bell and many more supportively weighed in. Others, however, responded strikingly, differently…
From Mark Ruffalo: “Sorry, until George W. Bush is brought to justice for the crimes of the Iraq War, (including American-lead torture, Iraqi deaths & displacement, and the deep scars — emotional & otherwise — inflicted on our military that served his folly), we can’t even begin to talk about kindness.”
From Susan Sarandon: “But missing the point entirely, DeGeneres framed the issue as simply a matter of her hanging out with someone with different opinions, not a man repeatedly accused of being a war criminal.”
Far more than Ruffalo and Sarandon — many others who do not even know DeGeneres — took time to judge her from afar (… amazing how generous we can be with our judgment… especially when we don’t really know someone).
ABC’s “The View” responded with the following question: “Should you be friends with someone you disagree with politically?” And they disagreed.
Co-host Joy Behar actually inserted, “I’ve always said I didn’t want to get to know George W. Bush, because I knew I would like him.”
Friends, do we see what’s happening?
Very intelligent people are struggling with basic moral questions…
Is it ok to be kind?
And many are justifying “no.”
When wrestling with the puzzling reason behind the refusal, in my semi-humble sense, it’s because we’ve got the order wrong.
If we actually got to know people first — and if we started to actually like them — to see that they aren’t evil, they aren’t stupid, and there is no way they are totally nuts, then we might actually have to wrestle with our own thinking — and why we are different. But we instead insulate ourselves with likeminded opinion so that we never have to allow our thinking to be seriously challenged. Many of the intelligent among us are unwilling to allow their thinking to be challenged.
And in that process, we…
… refuse kindness…
… question forgiveness…
… and forgo relationship.
So what if we changed up the order? What if we got to know people first? What if we really got to know them (and put the disrespectful tweets and status updates away)? What if we could actually see the wisdom in Ellen’s words?
Music icon Elton John weighed in on Monday…
“George Bush has made a lot of mistakes. I made a lot of mistakes. Ellen DeGeneres has made a lot of mistakes… Yes, there were things that he’s — decisions were made. But they’ve been made by Democratic presidents and Republican presidents [too]… I admire Ellen for standing up and saying what she did.”
Notice the humility in the singer’s statement. It amazes me how in humility, it is far easier to extend kindness. When we instead refuse humility — when we refuse to respect, to interact with, or to even attempt to like those who are different — we are more prone to insulating judgment.
Something, friends, seems wrong with that. If “we can’t even begin to talk about kindness,” something seems unwise and less fruitful in us.