So Ellen DeGeneres sat next to former President George W. Bush at a football game over the weekend, and it made a lot of people very angry. Then the fact that people were angry at Ellen made a lot of other people really angry, and now CNN wants to tell us how we should all feel about it.
For my own part, I must admit I did fume a little when I saw that image of Ellen and Bush sitting there together, laughing and smiling. I don’t particularly care whom either of these people might choose to sit next to at any given event, but this image upset me because I remember the 2000s. I remember when Bush hoodwinked us into launching an illegal invasion of Iraq. I remember him swearing up and down that we’d find “weapons of mass destruction” in Saddam Hussein’s back yard (even though we never did). I remember him giving his little “Mission Accomplished!” speech, when the mission was anything but accomplished. I remember hearing of atrocities that were caused by our own troops in Iraq, such as the Haditha massacre, the Mahmudiyah rape and killings, and the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal. I remember friends who were vets and who couldn’t pay any of their bills after returning home from the war. I remember the Bush Administration cutting deals with private military contractors like Blackwater, which ended up massacring innocent Iraqi civilians. Bush sent countless men and women to their deaths over a manufactured crisis that never actually happened, and he will never have to pay any kind of penance for this—thanks to the fact that he is white, male, Christian, rich, and the American equivalent to royalty.
And has everyone forgotten about the Federal Marriage Amendment already? That was when the Republican Party (under Bush) tried to ban same-sex marriage at the federal level (a curiously federalist stance from a party that’s supposed to be all “gung-ho” for states’ rights, as Arizona Senator John McCain correctly noted at the time). Bush and his cronies wanted to turn people like Ellen DeGeneres (and several of my own loved ones) into second-class citizens, and these assholes very nearly succeeded. These are the exact same people who claimed that “Legalizing same-sex marriage will open the door to legalizing bestiality” and other such nonsense—which is really just another way of dehumanizing LGBTQ people and calling them “animals.”
Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad Ellen and Bush were able to enjoy the game and not get on each other’s nerves. It would not have been good if they had ended up in a fist match (though if they had, my money would have been on Ellen, because she’s spry). And I do not begrudge Ellen her right to feel and react to the situation in the way she thinks is best. If she was comfortable sitting next to Bush and pretending all that garbage in the 2000s never happened, well more power to her I guess. But at the same time, neither Ellen nor CNN nor the GOP can tell the rest of us how we’re all “supposed” to feel about it. If I feel anger when I see Ellen getting chummy with Bush, that is just the way I feel, and they can both eat my shorts if they don’t like it.
Yes, American society and politics are more polarized now than ever before, and we desperately need a return to civility in public discourse. But telling people to just forget about the past and be friendly to each other isn’t going to work. The things that Bush and his cronies did hurt people, a great many people in fact, and no one on their side has ever acknowledged this or tried to make amends for it. Their beliefs on the matter have not changed in the slightest, as they would still like to see every same-sex couple stripped of their basic human rights. This isn’t just some disagreement over how to boost the economy or support a foreign ally; it’s a fundamental disconnect over whether certain American citizens count as being truly “human” or not. And if you are someone who thinks my queer family members don’t deserve all the same basic rights I do, you are unworthy of my friendship—end of story. I will treat you as respectfully as I can, but I won’t be sending you any Valentines or inviting you to any dinners, capisce?
When interviewed about her interaction with Bush, Ellen said:
I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same beliefs that I have.
That’s nice, Ellen. Enjoy feeling superior to all the rest of us while you still can. I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same beliefs I have, as well. But none of them ever pushed for a federal ban on same-sex marriage, and none of them ever ordered an illegal invasion that resulted in countless deaths. There’s a big difference between being “open-minded” and having a totally air-conditioned brain.