At Sunday night’s Golden Globes, actress Meryl Streep was honored with the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement. Her acceptance speech honored and encouraged all of us who try to be mindful of the dignity and respect we owe our fellow humans. If you haven’t yet watched that speech, it’s only about 6 minutes. Well worth your time. The crux of it: Use your power for good.
Without mentioning the President-elect by name, Ms. Streep said,
“…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.
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. Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”
This chapter we’ve entered isn’t about politics. Though some argue that everything is political. Perhaps. But most of us parents don’t think about politics as we raise our children. We think about the basics of the job at hand. Food. Shelter. Economic and emotional security. Education. And if we are fortunate enough to have those boxes checked, we can begin to think about the kind of people we want our children to grow up to be. We think about how they will treat others. What kind of friends and partners they will become. We think (and often worry) about how others will treat our children.
We try to be positive role models for our children and for all children. In this time and place where hate speech and duplicity are becoming normalized, we must redouble our efforts. When we see disrespectful behavior we must speak out against it. We must teach our children to speak out against it. To do otherwise encourages more disrespect and hate and violence. Make no mistake, polite silence is not an option. It never was. Neither is exasperated head-shaking. If we are to be teachers worthy of our children, committed to creating a saner, safer world for them, then we must actively push back against the growing normalization of hate. In the absence of moral leadership, each of us must lead.