by: Octavius Calloway
As the clock hit midnight on Dec 31, 2016 America rang in the New Year. On its surface it was a familiar celebration. In Times Square the lights shined and the music soared as a sea of people eagerly counted down the final seconds until the ball dropped and signified the end of a trying year. However, under the surface there was a country at odds with itself. A nation steeped in uncertainty and haunted by harsh truths-one of those brutal realities being that of a Trump presidency. It’s a concern shared by millions of Americans and one that was echoed beautifully by Meryl Streep in her poignant speech at the 2017 Golden Globes. With a limited amount of time and a strained voice she stated:
“There was one performance this year that stunned me; 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 mocking of a New York Times reporter, Serge F. Kovaleski who suffers from arthrogryposis, a condition that significantly limits the functions of his joints. She continued:
“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.”
Mrs. Streep perfectly highlighted the essence of Trump’s campaign by labeling it a “performance” because that’s exactly what it was. A performance piece acted out by a powerful, egotistical protagonist for the benefit of a frustrated, fearful and at times, dangerous sect of our society. It was a braggadocios campaign that focused on rhetoric, Twitter and hate speech rather than the problems our nation faces and how they might be fixed. It was a performance that looked to blame China for job loss rather than acknowledge the estimated 5 million jobs that will be lost by 2020 due to technological advances. It was a scene that looked to blame Muslim extremist for the violence in our country when a mere 17 people were killed in 2014 by terror attacks compared to the 1,200 that were killed by police, with the number of terror attacks decreasing by 14% since. It was most definitely a performance, and as Mrs. Streep pointed out, not a good one but a very effective one. And how did Trump reply to the criticism and concerns voiced by Meryl Streep and shared by millions of Americans? He took to Twitter and insulted her of course. The president elect tweeted:
“Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn’t know me but attacked last night at the golden globe. She is a…..”
He went on to call her “a Hillary flunky who lost big” and stated that he “was not surprised” to be attacked by “liberal movie people.” It’s a stark contrast to 2015 when he was asked “Any actresses you love?” by a Hollywood Reporter, to which Trump answered:
“Julia Roberts is terrific, and many others. Meryl Streep is excellent; she’s a fine person too.”
This change of heart is nothing new considering Trump has backtracked on numerous things over the years. His affiliation with the Democratic Party and support of Hillary Clinton in 2008 for example. Or more recently, his stance on climate change and his promise to “drain the swamp”. Trump went on in his Twitter rant to further berate the disabled reporter as well stating.” I never mocked a disabled reporter (would never do that) but simply showed him groveling.” Proving Meryl Streep’s point that he’s a bully and also that he doesn’t know the difference between a physical handicap and groveling.
As America prepares itself for a presidency under a man whose preferred method of communication is Twitter, and whose political message is one of intolerance and misinformation, it will be up to the people to keep the Trump administration honest and hold them accountable for their actions, as well as to safeguard the rights and freedoms of one another. Like Mrs. Streep said:
“We have to remind each other of the privilege and responsibility of empathy.”
If the African American community, the Muslim community, the Hispanic community, the LGBT community, the liberal left, and everyone who feels like an outcast in Trump’s America can act empathetically and appreciate one another for our differences, then we can make the next 4 years the best America has ever been.