When a picture circulated of comedian Ellen DeGeneres sitting with former President George W. Bush during a Dallas Cowboys football game, it raised some eyebrows and questions. As Ellen said, in a USA Today story, people asked themselves, “Why is this gay Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative Republican president?”
The implication seemed to be that by her sitting with the former president, she was compromising her own convictions; his conservative presidency had not exactly supported the LGBTQIA community. “Pathetic” was how one Twitter user characterized the picture of the two. (For a sampling of celebrities’ reactions, check out a Billboard story.)
Think Through It
So, let’s think about what would have happened if Ellen had responded differently.
She and her wife Portia had been invited by Cowboy owner Jerry Jones’ daughter, Charlotte Jones-Anderson, to be her guests in the owner’s box. When she learned they would be sitting next to the Bushs’, would it have been better for Ellen to have declined? “No, we won’t sit there, next to them. Do you have any other seats?”
How tacky is that? How petty is that?
Also, how insecure is that?
My hunch is that people who refuse basic civility to others because they don’t agree with them reveal a lack of confidence. Is it essential to use every occasion as an opportunity to protest something? One trick ponies are just that: they have only one cause, and they look at everything and everyone from that one angle. It makes you question why they believe so strongly and myopically.
It also makes you wonder if they can ever be fully happy. If someone is obsessed with a burning issue and is consistently judging others according to friend or foe, how satisfied will they ever be? Casting judgments takes a lot of energy.
Ellen’s response to her critics was right on target. She said that she’s friends with lots of people, and some of them see and believe things differently from her. She says that’s the way it should be.
“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. Doesn’t matter.”
Maybe sitting with the “enemy” is a much more positive way to protest than to make a scene and demand to be seated elsewhere. Sitting with the “enemy” shows that you have confidence in yourself and are secure in your beliefs.
What’s more, it shows humility. None of us sees things perfectly. We’re all biased, as Brian McLaren has astutely noted. What’s wrong in sitting with people with whom you disagree, and perhaps even having a few laughs in doing so? Maybe we, and they, can learn something.
Because you’re being human with another person doesn’t mean you agree with them. It means that you’re connecting to them as one flawed person reaching out to another. There’s something beautiful in that.
If you can’t sit with your “enemy,” can you ever love them?
And if you can’t love them, can you truthfully say that you’re following the example of Christ?
He’d sit with anyone.
That’s because he loved them.
And so should we.