Ellen DeGeneres made history this week by buddying up to George W. Bush at a Dallas Cowboys football game. Instead of being reflective, and condemning her ill-thought action after some internal reflection and contemplation, DeGeneres instead, like Trump, doubled down, and tried to spin her betrayal of the human spirit by arguing she was just being “kind” to those who don’t think as she believes. All of that would have been just fine if the person you were being kind to was a real person deserving your love and respect — and who also didn’t happen to be accused of war crimes against humanity — but the real insult in the moment was in DeGeneres’ apt refusal to just admit she was using her money, and her fame, to sidle up next to a faded presidential power. This was all about corruption of the spirit in exchange for a moment in the skybox with a decider, and it had nothing whatsoever to do with kindness.
History is filled with other sycophants who became infamous for sucking up to a power that corrupts.
In August 480 BCE, we find Greek traitor Ephialtes, telling Xerxes’ Persian army about the Thermopylae Goat trail behind the barn that would lead to the surprise backdoor decimation of Spartan king Leonidas’ defense of Attica and Boeotia — and the impending fall of central Greece — oh, I’m sure Ephialtes was a really great guy down deep, and I’m sure Ellen wouldn’t mind befriending him over a warm cup of Spartan blood if it meant they could exchange phone numbers on their new iPhone 11 Maxes.
There are all sorts of corruption that remove human dignity from power, and we need look no further than the example of — Kim Kardashian — who became infamous, not for kindness, but for what is now a 17-year-old sex tape, and who has then done nothing of substance since 2002 to impress us, or to convince us, that she really is more thoughtful resonance than just sexual transmittal. We know Ellen DeGeneres is the official PR pitstop for all things Kardashian, so the kindness brush is already painting the empty barrel.
With Donald Trump being his own unique example of infamy sucking up to his own self-induced corruption, we are now only left to wonder how soon Ellen DeGeneres will start comforting Trump to soothe him in the avenging flames of Hell and high water. Can an impeached Trump, and a mummified Ellen smiling into her iPhone 12 Maxximum selfie lens, be left far behind in the besties Kindness sweepstakes?
We also cannot begin to forget the notorious American Nazi Charles Lindbergh — not so famous today for achieving the first solo transatlantic flight in 1927; but now infamously reviled for being a Nazi sympathizer — “America First” was Lindbergh’s rallying cry in 1941, and his whimpers echo, rabidly, throughout history today. If Lindbergh can love Hitler; then DeGeneres can be kind to Lindbergh’s Fascism and offer him redemption through friendship — and television visibility.
It’s never too late to rehabilitate a damaged reputation earned for repudiating the United States Constitution. Just ask George W. Bush! He has the Ellen selfie as pudding proof!
People who have great power — either earned, or purchased, or both — owe it to the rest of the world to carefully wield the wounds they receive, and replace, from the irredeemably corrupt; because if they do not, if they buddy up to the worst of us because it is convenient, and fun, and insoluble, then the rest of us are left morally diluted wondering where the monsters, and how the demons, are allowed to root in the dark.
If everyone is eligible for friendship and undisputed kindness — no matter their crimes, and even if they have ravaged the meaning, definition, and the depths of humanity — then nothing is sacred in the exchange between fame for access, and comfort for disassembly.
Just ask Ellen DeGeneres. She’s ready, and available, to sit next to you for any opportunity to divine fame for a power that corrupts as it grins — bundled with an existential, entitled, entertaining phoniness that stings while it grates with brittle liberal ideals, and stale fantasies of comity in situ.