Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep

On Sunday evening Meryl Streep was given the Cecile B. DeMille Award for a Lifetime of notable work.  It was presented at the Golden Globes Awards by the Hollywood and Foreign Press Association.  My wife and I love her acting.  She brings characters to life.  We would personally agree with those in the know as well as those in the theatre seats that she has given a lot to her profession and to those who have watched her.  Our minds, hearts, and experiences have been expanded because of her contribution.  Thank you, Meryl.

In her acceptance speech, Ms. Streep stated some important observations about the power of those in the public arena to shape social attitudes and behaviors.  CNN reports the following from her six-minute-long acceptance speech:

Streep used her speech to highlight the importance to American culture of outsiders and foreigners, whom she said were among the “most vilified segments in American society right now.

“Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners and if we kick them all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts,” Streep said to huge applause from the room.

[without naming the president elect] Streep said Trump’s attack on the New York Times reporter legitimized bullying.  “It kind of broke my heart when I saw it and I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie, it was real life,” Streep said. “This instinct to humiliate when it’s modeled by someone in the public … by someone powerful, it filters down into everyone’s life because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same.” 

Streep added: “When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”  She called on the press to “hold power to account, to call him on the carpet for every outrage” — another apparent reference to Trump.

Streep asked audience members to support the nonprofit Committee to Protect Journalists “because we’re going to need them going forward and they’re going to need us to safeguard the truth.”

In this short speech, Streep highlighted some extremely important behaviors from within our culture that became highlighted during the past political campaign.  Even though president-elect Trump said them, they resonated with all too many of our citizens.  Here are a few of my own observations accompanied by my comments as a pastor. 

  • Making promises with no intention of fulfilling those promises is lying.
  • Mimicking people because of a disability is demeaning of all human beings who are created in God’s image and beings for whom Jesus died.
  • Calling people names is a form of bullying. It is an adolescent tactic of pulling a person down to make oneself look better.  I am reminded of a Psalm a friend sent to me.  Psalm 52:7 says, “Here now is the man who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others.”  If Melania Trump is truly going to focus on cyber-bullying as her primary work as First Lady she may want to begin that work at home.
  • To target women as an object for self-gratification (even though it was only locker room banter) not only reveals the narcissism of an individual but also creates a predatory atmosphere in society. Adultery, even though it is often portrayed in the movies as being exciting, is a destructive force in human relationships.  Often it is children who suffer the most when adultery breaks up their family causing society to become destabilized since family is one of society’s primary building blocks. 
  • To make universal statements is a sign of arrogance and stupidity. A friend once told me that universal statements were “God Almighty” statements because the only person with the right to make them was Almighty God.  Therein to lump all people of a given race or nationality or religion into such a universal statement is wrong.  To call a group of citizens “deplorables” is wrong.  We simply don’t have enough information to do so.

The list from one of the ugliest political campaigns in American history could go on. 

Not only the press, but all civilized human beings need to stand against such behaviors.  It is only when people join forces and say “NO” that there is hope for these behaviors to stop.  Unfortunately, I do not believe attitudes behind the behaviors will end with “just say no.”  That type of change only takes place when a person is willing to admit their attitude is wrong and choose to work hard at replacing it with something better.  However, when people stand against these wrong behaviors a message will be sent that people who engage in these illegal or immoral behaviors will be held accountable.  This accountability for wrong behaviors may assist in transforming the underlying attitudes.    

On Monday morning (1/9/17), Kellyanne Conway, president elect Trumps senior advisor, rejected the reaction to president-elect Trump’s negative statements.  She stated on a CNN interview that people are listening to Mr. Trumps words and not to his heart.  She implied that his heart is different than his words.  My biblical Christian friends should remember the scriptures we memorized as young people:

Proverbs 17:27 (NIV)
A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered.

Proverbs 18:4 (NIV)
The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.

Proverbs 10:19 (NIV)

When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. 

Psalm 19:14 (NIV)

Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. 

And these familiar words from none other than Jesus need to be remembered as well:

Matthew 12:24 (NIV)

Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

Yes, we need to listen to Mr. Trump’s heart.  But, the scriptural presentation says that the heart is revealed through the words. 

Based on the use of words by Mr. Trump, I believe we have justifiable reason to question his heart.  In this free society, we need to be bold to raise questions for in so doing we will also help Mr. Trump, his supporters, and our nation as a whole to better understand the heart from which those statements have come. 

One final thought.  I do not believe that Ms. Streep went far enough in her criticism expressed in her acceptance speech. 

Presidents of the United States are not the only ones with power.  It seems to me that the very industry in which Ms. Streep participates has a great deal of power as well.  Hollywood creates images and delivers messages to millions upon millions of people every year worldwide.  Not all of those movies are noble and uplifting.  Not all of those movies dignify humanity.  These messages presented in public…

“… by someone powerful, it filters down into everyone’s life because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same.” 

I understand the argument that the arts simply reflect the realities of the world in which we live.  To a large degree, I believe that is true.  However, it must be an acknowledged that art, especially expressed through movies and music, educates society as well.  They create images, not unlike the image she says she cannot get out of her head, images that reside in our minds for a long time.  Not all of that education is constructive.  Emotionally stable people can interact with the message of movies and music and agree or disagree.  But those who are not as emotionally stable are given “permission…to do the same.” 

So, Ms. Streep, thank you for highlighting what has caused anger and heartache in so many.  The policing of our elected officials is important because our voice and vote put those individuals into office to make decisions on our behalf.  I challenge you, do the same analysis and confrontation amidst those who stood to applaud you last night.