Ellen Degeneres recently received criticism for hanging out with George Bush. In response, she stated Bush is a “beautiful, funny, kind, sweet man.” She added, “I’m friends with people who don’t have many of the same beliefs I have. Just because I don’t agree with them on everything doesn’t mean I’m not going to be friends with them.”
Sadly, Ellen’s defense conflates beliefs and crimes against humanity. Bush believed charter schools served students better than public schools. That’s a belief. We can disagree on that issue and still be friends. But Bush killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, and he’s responsible for the death of more than 4,000 American soldiers. Ellen can’t whitewash his atrocities with nachos.
Ellen’s lack of awareness serves as a sobering reminder of the absence of thought in American society. Bush knowingly launched an unlawful war. Ellen’s distortion fails to distinguish between competing ideas and the indefensible bombing of a nation. The mass repulsion over Ellen hobnobbing with Bush isn’t a rejection of being kind to people with opposing points of view. No need for the civics lesson. It’s not an act of courage to sit in box seats with a former president. In this case, it’s an abdication of morality.
Bush’s actions were unjustified, horrifying, reckless, and consequential. Imagine if another country attacked the United States under the same pretenses and the people killed were our neighbors, family, friends, and coworkers. What if bombs were falling on cities in Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Iowa? Would we view the carnage, bury our loved ones, and excuse it as a mistake? The lives of people we don’t know matter as much as our own.
At a time when our nation needs to hold the current president accountable, Ellen provided cover for one of the most destructive and deceptive presidents in American history. Her callousness and cavalier response strike a nerve in an age when we need more justice and accountability. Ellen fails to realize that by normalizing Bush, she normalizes Trump. If she wants to befriend people who have different beliefs, she may consider meeting with the family members of the people Bush killed.
Americans have an uncanny ability to devalue the lives of people outside their immediate orbit, especially in faraway places. The tears at a funeral are no less painful for an Iraqi family. Ellen reminded us that all lives don’t matter. That George Bush is fun to hang out with at a football game is immaterial. He’s a war criminal. The only place I’d meet him is at The Hague.