The sight of Ellen DeGeneres (one of the most significant LGBT figures in pop culture history) getting chummy with former President George W. Bush (a homophobic war criminal) at a football game last weekend represents the height of selective memory and revisionist history.
As if yucking it up with the man who cynically won re-election in 2004 on the backs of our relationships wasn’t unseemly enough, DeGeneres went on to justify the encounter in an awkward commentary on her show.
“I’m friends with George Bush … we’re all different and I think we’ve forgotten that’s OK that we’re all different. ”
She has a point, of course, inasmuch as we should resist Donald Trump’s efforts to permanently divide us from one another based on exaggerated partisan views. But she misses the larger point that we must not blithely ignore or excuse away the horrible behaviors and abuses of our oppressors without some semblance of apology or remorse.
As a reminder, Bush aggressively pushed for the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would have permanently ensconced anti-LGBT discrimination in the law, barring recognition of our relationships at a time when such recognition was growing. He used the State of the Union Address to plug his heartless plan, demonizing us in front of a global audience. Imagine the impact of his words on a closeted kid, sitting in front of the TV listening to the president of the United States attacking same-sex relationships in the State of the Union. Reprehensible.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the man tasked with advancing the plan — and pushing for similar amendments in 11 swing states — was closet case Ken Mehlman, our modern-day Roy Cohn, who ran the RNC and the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign.
That’s to say nothing of Bush’s Iraq war that was justified and launched based on lies and false information that killed hundreds of thousands of people. Or his reckless economic policies that nearly triggered the next Great Depression.
Sure, people make mistakes. In light of the latest Republican nightmare occupying the Oval Office, some even look back fondly on the Bush years. But we must not forget the assaults on the LGBT community spearheaded by Bush.
Maybe if Bush went on Ellen’s show and explained himself, apologized to the LGBT community and vowed to earn our forgiveness, we could accommodate him. But he hasn’t done that. The Blade has since reached out to Bush’s office seeking an interview to find out whether he still supports the FMA and has regrets about his handling of LGBT issues. He likely won’t respond to us, but he would to Ellen. She should use her platform to conduct that interview so Bush can finally explain his actions and begin to atone for them, as Mehlman has commendably done.
So far there’s no indication such an interview is in the works. Ellen’s extreme wealth has twisted her brain such that she sees nothing wrong with socializing with the man who sought to ensure she could never marry her wife. She is the poster child of privilege.
Everyone deserves a shot at forgiveness and redemption, but only if they ask for and earn it. Bush, so far, has not.
Kevin Naff is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at [email protected].