The Packers beat the Cowboys 34-27 last weekend. Besides the hard-hitting action on the gridiron, there was also something special happening in the stands. Talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres was seated next to former president George W. Bush during the NFL game. Television cameras caught the pair seemingly enjoying their time together! Oh, how surprising it was to see the scene of DeGeneres laughing alongside Bush! It seemed kind of normal.
Looking into the Twitter responses and DeGeneres’s discussion of the subject on her Tuesday show, there were more than a few people who were outraged by the two individuals enjoying each other’s company. “Ellen was trying to act like being nice to a homophobic war criminal is a radical positive statement,” tweeted @gwylock1. “Ellen is a self-hating degenerate scumbag,” tweeted Dominique. It seemed as many users wanted DeGeneres to stay on her side of the fence and Bush to stay on his side. “There is no way in hell the two should ever go out and be around each other” was the general voice from a segment of the population. It is almost as they felt it was too dangerous for those on opposing sides to interact with each other, as they could end up agreeing on something or, even worse, not agreeing on any issue and still being friends! The bottom line was that Bush is an awful man and DeGeneres is wrong for spending time with him. End of story.
Thankfully, DeGeneres debunked all the conclusions drawn in the previous paragraph. In fact, she underlined the only conclusion worthy of being drawn: it is perfectly normal and acceptable to develop positive relationships and friendships with those who do not think like you or agree with you. In an age where it is easy to dismiss an individual as a “nut-job”, “wacko” or “crazy” because of their political, social or moral beliefs, DeGeneres and Bush are a breath of fresh air. One Twitter user, Matt, tweeted, “it makes me have faith in America again.” While I agree that seeing those prominent figures together increased my faith in our nation, it also underlines how far we have drifted. Dialogue has been replaced by individuals telling their position and the other party either agrees or does not. There is no middle ground. Too many lines are drawn in the sand, and unfortunately, we are not allowed to “chill” with or talk to those on the other side of the line.
I grew up in one of the most pro-Trump areas in the nation—rural, Southern Indiana. Since moving to college, I now have lived in two of the ten most liberal cities in America, according to livability.com, St. Louis and Boulder, Colorado. I have been on both sides of the aisle, and I can tell you one of the few common traits the opposing groups share is the threat of an idea that is not the same as theirs. Open dialogue and time shared with those of opposing opinions, like the time DeGeneres and Bush shared, could seemingly bring down the universe. In fact, it does quite the opposite.
As a nation, region, city, community, family, etc., we are stronger when we work together. We are stronger when we have many viewpoints and ideas contributing to our world. We are not stronger when we all agree. We are not stronger when we tear each other down. We are stronger when we choose to build others up. The days following 9/11 and the outpouring of support for Hurricane Harvey victims are excellent examples of how choosing to work together and putting differences aside can create positive change. Personal beliefs went to the wayside to help others in need. What if we did not just do this in times of tragedy? Could we make a positive change?
DeGeneres and Bush gave us an example of how we should act: kind, friendly and considerate of those around us. Respect, genuineness and acceptance of others’ opinions are vital to the advancement of our world. I challenge all to follow in their example and be kind to those who do not think like or agree with you. Treat them with respect and forge a friendship. If met with resistance, just try again. I do not know many who will turn down a friend who is kind, caring and respectful. This is how positive change happens. It is the only way positive change happens.