Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Sanction(s)

Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence invites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”

     -Meryl Streep

 

Meryl Streep performed last night.

Instead of making a speech that thanked the organizers of the Golden Globe award ceremony for giving her a lifetime achievement award, the veteran actor made a speech that was, shall we say, not as narrowly focused on that – but which was fairly squarely focused on one individual.

From the Washington Post:

Streep accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award — basically a lifetime achievement award — but didn’t say much about her career. Instead, she spent the minutes allotted to her to speak critically of the current political climate and [Donald] Trump, although she did not mention the president-elect by name.

There was one performance this year that stunned me,” she said. “It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective, and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth.

It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life.”

Streep was referring to Trump’s remarks during the campaign, when he appeared to mock New York Times reporter Serge F. Kovaleski, who has arthrogryposis, which visibly limits the functioning of his joints.

And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing,” the actress said.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the idea that Streep referenced in that last paragraph. The capacity of a person, by their words or deeds, to give permission to someone (or someones) else to behave in a certain way. To give sanction to certain attitudes and actions.

Curious word, sanction. It’s one of those words that makes the English language both exasperating and glorious. Pointing in one direction, imposing sanctions on a country is punitive. Pointing in the other direction, giving sanction to a behavior is encouraging.

 

Sanction (sank’ • shun) [noun]

[1] a threatened penalty for disobeying a law or rule. “A range of sanctions aimed at deterring insider abuse” … synonyms: penalty, punishment, deterrent

[2] official permission or approval for an action. “He appealed to the bishop for his sanction.” … synonyms: authorization, consent, leave, permission, authority, warrant, license, dispensation, assent, acquiescence, agreement, approval, approbation, endorsement, accreditation, ratification, validation, blessing, imprimatur

 

Over the last year and a half, we have witnessed the political rise of an entertainment figure. That rise has been, of course, propelled by that star’s words and actions.

These words and actions were unquestionably grounded in antagonism toward (to name but a few) religions, ethnic groups, women in general, and economic classes … and all this antagonism was accepted and embraced by the people who supported the man who said and did them.

The support and encouragement was reciprocal; a circular dance that revealed unsettling truths about the American population.

The political candidate said inflammatory things, did offensive things, and proposed cruel and mean policies; and a great majority of those activities involved the humiliation of individuals or groups of people.

(Khizr and Ghazala Khan. John McCain. Megyn Kelly. Judge Gonzalo Curiel. Alicia Machado. Katy Tur. Serge Kovaleski.)

His supporters heard and saw those words and deeds … agreed with them … urged them forward. His supporters seemed to feel that he confirmed for them that believing and saying and doing those things was okay – because he was rich and famous, or because he railed against “political correctness” just like they did, or for whatever other reason. He gave them sanction to behave the way they’d always wanted to behave. Badly – but now people couldn’t tell them that they were behaving badly. Or if people did, they had been given sanction to tell those people they were losers, and to f*** off.

So they voted for him.

And he won a primary. And then another. And then several others. And then he locked up his party’s Presidential nomination. And then he appeared to garner more Electoral College votes than anyone else.

And all the votes (and, at rallies, all the cheers and chants and adulation) of his supporters convinced him that he was right to say and do and believe and promote these words, deeds, ideas, notions, attitudes. At least partly, he was convinced of this because, for his entire life, he has seen success as being achievable through how many other people gave him compliments and adulation, and in what amounts.

His supporters gave him sanction to continue to be who he has always been, to act how he has always acted, to believe … well, to believe whatever he needs to say, in a particular moment, in order to convince people to like him and do what he wants them to. The art of the deal.

And around and around it has gone.

Sanction as an admonishing concept now appears not to affect him.

Or his supporters.

And we are now eleven days away from inaugurating as President of the United States (one of the world’s most influential positions of role modeling) that person – who rests on the clouds of adulation sent up by his supporters … themselves borne on the wings not of rational discernment but of his cult of personality … and that personality is, quite simply, one devoid of human empathy and therefore teeming with the ability to be unfeelingly cruel.

To allow Meryl Streep to reiterate:

[T]his instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing,” the actress said.

And here we are. Trump’s America.

 

[Ed. Note: Eleven days until we inaugurate a consciously cruel person, one who seems impervious to constructive criticism like, “hey – quit it. You’re embarrassing yourself”.

[RESIST. REJECT.]

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January 9, 2017 - Posted by | celebrity, current events, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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