I expected many things from Sunday’s Golden Globes: Hollywood parading down the red carpet, a tribute to the late Carrie Fisher and jokes at our President-elect’s expense. I was not expecting to hear Meryl Streep, one of the most talented actors alive today, accept her lifetime achievement award by so succinctly defining the political zeitgeist in today’s America.
On January 20, one of the most dangerous challenges to our democratic institutions takes office. While his supporters say that he will do away with liberal notions of “special snowflakes” and the “politically correct” fascism that has governed our society, what he has really done is attack without impunity and make a mockery of the Office of the President of the United States.
Meryl Streep could have devoted her time to thanking friends and family for her award, but instead, in that room full of Hollywood elites, she made one of the most astute political commentaries we’ve seen since Donald Trump emerged on the political stage.
“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 said.
Indeed, we are seeing a worrying shift in the way politicians interact with the public and the media. While Lyndon B. Johnson famously bullied congressmen, he did so to get an agenda passed. What we are seeing today is completely different: Donald Trump belittled a reporter for a disability, made horribly sexist comments and incited hatred this country has not experienced in quite some time.
Trump is taking the bully pulpit to a whole new level.
Streep highlighted an even more worrying trend in this country: the increasing vulnerability of the free press “Just to pick up on what Hugh Laurie said: You and all of us in this room really belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now. Think about it: Hollywood, foreigners and the press.”
Trump has vilified the media at every turn. An institution once known as reporting on truth and facts has been accused of peddling “fake news” and a “liberal agenda.” We are in an unprecedented time when facts are lies told by Hillary-supporting liberal reporters while lies told by a man who has been involved in more than 3,000 lawsuits are accepted as facts.
What Streep did was highlight exactly what has gone wrong in our politics and society. Rather than holding those we elect to a higher standard, we are attacking those very institutions and individuals who are meant to defend that standard. And we are letting the big orange man do it.
Those of us who recognize this worrying trend and want to do something about it should listen to Meryl Streep’s parting advice, “As my friend, the dear departed Princess Leia, said to me once, ‘take your broken heart, make it into art’.”