Pursuing Health in an Anxious Age by Bob Cutillo, Free for CAPC Members
Dr. Cutillo seeks to engage readers in rethinking, and re-engaging, health and care from a redemptive approach.
Every other Wednesday in Cool Takes, S. D. Kelly offers a fresh reflection on hot topics by exploring the intersection of faith with high and low culture.
Ricky Gervais, who hosted last Sunday’s Golden Globes, set the tone for the awards show before it even began, taking to Twitter ten days before the show to pre-apologize, in a sorry-not sorry fashion, for all the offensive things he was bound to say. True to his word, when the Golden Globes rolled around, Gervais made a whole bunch of rude jokes at the expense of a whole bunch of people in the room.
His jokes even came at the expense of the show itself, which Gervais undermined with an extended riff on just what it is he does with the three Golden Globe statues he’s won in the past. His description started with using one of his awards as a doorstop and ended with using another one of his statues in a way that degraded both man and statue. It was a weird, uncomfortable moment.
Gervais, his pixie face beaming at the audience in between insults, managed to cover a range of topics, from Caitlyn Jenner’s big year to Mel Gibson’s ongoing PR issues. The occasional gasp mixed with cheers and a few jeers could be heard all over the ballroom as Hollywood stars tried to chuckle along, showing us what good sports they are. Gervais may be one of them, an insanely successful actor and comedian, but he is not like them. Because he doesn’t care what they think of him. He also doesn’t seem to care what the NBC executives who employed him to host the Golden Globes think of him. He doesn’t care what I think of him, or you, or anyone in America. Which is probably just as well since most of us prefer the U.S. version of The Office anyway.
While all parties involved want to seize this moment as the right one to speak truth to power, there is vast disagreement on who is in power and what constitutes truth.
Gervais has issued a steady stream of get-over-it tweets since the awards aired. The effort to explain to Gervais the way in which his jokes were offensive–especially the joke about Jenner–just spur Gervais on. It’s like feeding spinach to Popeye. Gervais’ jokes may be gross to other people, but taking offense at what he says only serves to make him stronger.
Ricky Gervais and Donald Trump are two peas in a pod in this respect. Just two rich dudes, hanging in the wind, speaking truth to power. The more outraged you are at their behavior, the more convinced they are of their own rectitude.
Trump, like Gervais, is not afraid to say what he thinks. According to his supporters, who are apparently legion, this holds great appeal. It seems that not being afraid to say what you think has become a hot commodity for a public figure. It certainly seems to be the quality that is holding Trump’s campaign together. And not just holding it together, but putting him at the front of a very large pack of Republican candidates, made indistinguishable by virtue of their relative civility, ironically.
About that truth to power thing: in a strange way, Trump supporters and Trump detractors are alike. The same with Gervais and all those earnest people explaining the magnitude of his offenses to him. What each side has in common is an intense belief that the time has come to challenge the status quo. The people in charge need to listen to the people at the margins, the wrong people are in charge and the rest of the people are really mad about it, etc., etc.
And here the mighty river of outrage diverts into various tributaries. While all parties involved want to seize this moment as the right one to speak truth to power, there is vast disagreement on who is in power and what constitutes truth.
Gervais, in his way, seemed to be sticking it to the man during the Golden Globes. I swear I saw a wild gleam in his eye during his opening monologue, almost as though he would have preferred to ramble on about how stupid award shows were, punctuated by incendiary jokes about the various actors playing transgendered characters until NBC executives dragged him off the stage. I can see it now: Gervais holding his drink aloft, not spilling a drop while his hosting duties were taken over by Bob Sagat, or some other comedian with a similar flour-and-water personality. Gervais’ defiance would have been a direct action, in the parlance of activists. A thumb in the eye of the very people who have helped make him rich and famous.
It’s the same with Trump. It’s as though he can’t wait for the next opportunity to say something so outrageous that the mere act of saying it seems warrant enough to have him committed for observation. Something like “I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful.”
And the crowd goes wild.
Wherever Howard Dean is, he must be gnashing his teeth that his 2004 presidential campaign was derailed by a single misguided yell, a passionate rallying cry misconstrued by the press and public as the ravings of a potential mad man. And yet, twelve years later, here is Trump, sounding his barbaric yawlp at each campaign stop, every interview and during each debate, growing stronger every time he screams.
But at least he’s not afraid to say what he thinks. What does he think exactly? I’m not sure any of us want to find out. But nevermind that, the point is: he speaks his mind. And don’t the American people want someone who is not afraid to challenge the establishment, to take on the people in power?
In this atmosphere, where everything is believed and anything is believable, at least to someone, nothing can act as a norm. All that is left is power. And, in a fallen world, we do well to be cautious when all there is, is power. — David N. Wells
Maybe America is in the middle of a cultural moment right now, where the only thing the people on the right and the people on the left have in common is a desire to challenge power. Wherever it is perceived to be. And maybe this is where Christians on the right and Christians on the left need to take a step back and reconsider our participation in the power wars. Because the thing about power is that, whether you’re chasing it or chastising it, you’re still making it the center of all things. And if power is at the center of all things, there isn’t room for anything else.
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