By: Trever McKenzie ~Copy Editor~
Before Sunday, most people probably liked Meryl Streep. They probably thought she was a great actress worthy of her many, many awards. Yet, because we seem to have lost the ability to not reduce people to their political views, she has since been lambasted for criticizing President-elect Donald Trump. People have said that she shouldn’t be allowed to express opinions because she’s an actress and that she should just “do her job.” Well, she did her job, and she did it pretty damn well.
Here’s something you should know about actors: we are opinionated. Ask any actor his or her opinion on something, and they will have it, and they will express it proudly. You cannot tell actors not to be opinionated – it’s like asking them not to breathe. So, yes, Meryl Streep, like every other actor in existence, has an opinion, and she used a platform that was allotted to her to say what she wanted to say. She had every right to express her opinion under the First Amendment that Americans hold so dearly, and she used her privilege for the betterment of society, not for herself. That is the core idea of what actors are taught to do: use your craft to give a voice to those whose voice is not loud enough.
Her speech, if one bothered to read or listen to it, contained some extremely insightful observations about the attack on criticism. She made a very clear choice to talk about the press and its role in our lives. Let’s face it: without the press, we don’t know what’s happening. We can do our own research, sure, but the fact of the matter is, we need the press to alert us to what’s happening. Even if you think you don’t get news from the press, you do. You hear the initial story, and hopefully, you do research on your own to form your own opinions about it.
Unintentionally, she makes a much bigger point: the need for criticism. Without criticism, those in power will only ever do what they think is best, which is not always what is best for everyone else. Throughout this election cycle, and even after it, I have witnessed Trump, who is currently holding the highest seat in government, reject nearly all forms of criticism against him, regardless of who it comes from. He did it with Streep, saying that her opinion doesn’t surprise him because she’s liberal, as if that somehow invalidates her opinion (spoiler: it doesn’t – she’s still a human) and he’s done it many times before.
This kind of response to criticism is unacceptable for the President. It undermines democracy by ignoring the voice of the people. Like it or not, Meryl Streep is a citizen of this country, and she reserves the right to voice her displeasure at unfavorable behaviors taken by the current President-elect. Instead of dismissing the disagreeing voices, Trump needs to listen to them. As a president, he is going to have to cooperate and compromise – there is no way around that. If he truly has the best intentions of every citizen in mind, he’ll start listening and cooperating with them and those representing them to help them.
As for his supporters, you should hold your candidate accountable for his actions and do not support him when he ignores criticism, and you should not ignore the criticism, either. You’re going to be listening to a lot of it for the next four years. If you start acknowledging that his being wrong will not tear down the foundation of your morals and that different perspectives will help you understand and empathize with those you disagree with, you will have a much better chance creating the unity you said you wanted on the day after the results came back.
The one thing we can all learn from actors is empathy. When you put on the shoes of an enemy, you might just make a friend.