Should we all just get along?
No, according to the outcry Ellen DeGeneres faced when she hung out with George W. Bush at a Dallas Cowboys football game last Sunday. She addressed the controversy on her show, first joking, “Why is a gay Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative, Republican president?” and later launching into a monologue about their unlikely friendship.
“...Here’s the thing, I’m friends with George Bush. In fact, I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same beliefs that I have,” the talk show host said. “We’re all different, and I think that we’ve forgotten that that’s OK that we’re all different...just because I don’t agree with someone on everything, doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be friends with them. 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.” Bush’s representative responded to Fox News,"President and Mrs. Bush really enjoyed being with Ellen and Portia (de Rossi) and appreciated Ellen’s comments about respecting one another. They respect her.”
Video: Ellen DeGeneres Defends Sitting With George W. Bush
Many questioned why a woman whose career was almost derailed for coming out as gay would be paling around with a former president who once called for a constitutional amendment to exclude gay couples from marriage.
Yes, that was me at the Cowboys game with George W. Bush over the weekend. Here’s the whole story. pic.twitter.com/AYiwY5gTIS— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) October 8, 2019
Mark Ruffalo tweeted “Sorry, until George W. Bush is brought to justice for the crimes of the Iraq War, (including American-lead torture, Iraqi deaths & displacement, and the deep scars—emotional & otherwise—inflicted on our military that served his folly), we can’t even begin to talk about kindness” and “The Good Place” star Jameela Jamil who reportedly first supported DeGeneres, according to BuzzFeed, later called him a “monstrous leader” adding, “I now understand the rage.”
Other celebs expressed support for their friendship. On Instagram, Orlando Bloom wrote “Kill ‘em with kindness.” Kristen Bell shared a photo of the comic and politician with a bunch of crown emojis, and then deleted it. Reese Witherspoon also tweeted — and then deleted — “Thank you for this important reminder, Ellen!”
While not excusing policies that hurt a lot of people, is there value to building bridges — or at least having conversations — with people who hold different viewpoints? Yes and no, according to experts.
Exchanging contradictory ideas can lead to personal enlightenment and compassion for others, according to Los Angeles psychoanalyst Bethany Marshall, PhD. According to a small preliminary study by Keystone College in Pennsylvania, “Associating with friends with different personality traits may be an advantage to you both, as each of you supplement the other’s weaknesses.”
Marshall warns that power dynamics can break these friendships, though. “There’s a difference between people agreeing to disagree and one person weaponizing or legislating ideas to suppress the other. Sometimes there are real consequences to a difference of opinion.”
But healthy friendships can still develop among big differences. “People are better at tolerating different beliefs if they are confident in their own values,” Marshall tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
The Republican leader’s relationship with high-profile liberals has amused. In October, Michelle Obama explained why President Bush famously passed her a cough drop at Senator John McCain’s funeral. "...He's my partner in crime at every major thing where all the 'formers' gather. So we're together all the time,” the former first lady later told Today. "I love him to death. He's a wonderful man, he's a funny man."
In 2017, Bush was interviewed by Degeneres and said of his bond with Obama, "(The friendship) surprised everybody. That's what's so weird about society today, [the surprise] that people on opposite sides of the political spectrum can actually like each other."
And why shouldn’t that surprise people? A 2018 Ipsos Mori Social Research Institute poll found that 84 percent of Americans say their country is “divided” with 44 percent blaming political views for the “greatest cause of tension.”
Would Ellen, a “Hollywood liberal” have sat through a baseball game with Bush if he were still in office, actively exercising conservative ideals? We don’t know.
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