Comedian Ellen DeGeneres and former President George W. Bush were spotted enjoying a Sunday afternoon together watching the NFL game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers in the Dallas stadium.
After the cameras televising the game put the two on screen, the moment immediately went viral with many Twitter users quick to shame the liberal comedian and television host for spending time with the former conservative president.
On Monday, DeGeneres addressed the backlash on her show, giving Americans a much needed lesson in civility, quipped with humor and humility.
“During the game, they showed a shot of George and me laughing together, and so, people were upset,” DeGeneres explained. “They thought, why is a gay Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative Republican president? Didn’t even notice I’m holding the brand-new iPhone 11.”
DeGeneres continued to make a point that Americans would do well to live by in an age of historic levels of political polarization saturated with contempt.
“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,” DeGeneres said. “We’re all different. And I think that we’ve forgotten that that’s okay that we’re all different.”
DeGeneres analogized to having friends who wear fur, saying that while she also didn’t like it when people wear fur, it doesn’t stop the former vegan from being friends with those who do.
“Just because I don’t agree with someone on everything, doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be friends with them,” DeGeneres said. “When I say be kind to one-another, I don’t mean only the people that think the same way that you do. I mean be kind to everyone.”
The message to be kind is simple. In fact, it’s a lesson learned as children, but often appears to be forgotten in the political world as America’s growing addiction to contempt continues to sow division in a deeply divided nation.
According to a 2016 poll from the Pew Research Center, 55 percent of Democrats said they had a “very unfavorable” view of Republicans while 58 percent of Republicans held the same view of Democrats. A more recent Pew survey published in July shows 85 percent of American adults believing the “tone and nature” of our political discourse has become more negative in recent years.
The deterioration of civil discourse in America has led to the destruction of genuine relationships essential to the human condition, which, as DeGeneres explains is unnecessary. A Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 15 percent, or one in six Americans, reported that they had either stopped talking to a close friend or family member over the result of the 2016 presidential election.
It is not however, simply the restoration of American civility that will save the country from further division, but it is the eradication of contempt for one another. The country has developed a sick addiction to deeming people with different political beliefs as less than human, and not worth listening to. Perhaps even, “deplorable.” One can be civil and tolerant with another and still avoid discourse.
DeGeneres’s monologue is an important message that is so simple yet so easily forgotten in the modern political environment, but is imperative to healing the nation. DeGeneres’s speech is a good reminder for many that life should not be defined by one’s political preferences.