Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Ranting On...Rosario Dawson and the Politics of Bullying

Rosario Dawson is not who you'd consider one of my favorite actresses.  She's beautiful, and likely would have been a bigger star were Hollywood able to find better roles for women of color, but whenever her name comes up in a Kevin Bacon game situation, I panic and try desperately to remember if we've already used a cast member from Men in Black II, the only movie that immediately comes to mind when she is mentioned, and that's saying something considering that movie was, well, dreadful.  So when she popped up in the news this past week over comments she made at a Bernie Sanders rally, it was more of her as a celebrity than as an actress (usually a vantage point much easier for me to forgive-see Susan Sarandon for a counterpoint) that I was connecting with the comments.

For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, Rosario Dawson, at a Bernie Sanders rally, while attacking Hillary Clinton, pointed out that she "is with Monica Lewinsky...bullying is bad."  Later on she tweeted "if you're an Obama fan, you should be with Bernie...youth/crowds/everyday people w him like Obama. Youth=#rightsideofhistory."  This caused the traditional uproar that anything controversial does on the internet, but while I'm not a fan of knee-jerk reactions to comments, particularly from celebrities (who are almost always better at acting than at politicking), the comments from Ms. Dawson made me particularly upset, and I wanted to work through that on-paper.

It starts out with hypocrisy here.  Rosario Dawson is admonishing Hillary Clinton for bullying, but then turns right around and bullies her back.  The Clinton/Sanders battle has gotten to uncomfortably nasty levels for me, quite frankly.  I'm fine with negative campaigning (there's a lot at stake in this election, so hurt feelings are hardly something we need to put on the top of the priority list), but when it's a Democratic Primary, where both sides are ultimately fighting for the same causes, it feels harsh and counterproductive to cast Clinton or Sanders in a particularly galling light.  This is true in particular in this case, as Bernie Sanders (maybe not his supporters, but the senator and his inner circle) can see the writing on the wall and knows that he will never be the nominee-the superdelegates are not going to go away from the woman who is leading in most contests won, the popular vote, and the overall delegate count.  It's not going to happen, and there isn't enough race left for Sanders to make up the ground.  Attacking Clinton viciously at this point is just giving ammo to Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, creating campaign ads of the "Clinton's own party can't even stand her" variety.  However, there's a line that you don't cross, and Dawson went sailing over it.

The reality is, and I don't say this lightly, but attacking Hillary Clinton in this way is anti-feminist.  Clinton has been in the public sphere for decades, and as a result has a long paper trail of comments and positions from which anyone could reasonably attack her on the issues.  As First Lady, a US Senator, a two-time presidential candidate, and Secretary of State, not to mention as a very public private citizen the last couple of years, she has taken enough positions that if you don't agree with her like Ms. Dawson, you can stand against her with relative ease and easily-cited references.  Attack her on the Goldman Sachs speeches, her stances on the minimum wage or Wall Street reform or how long it took for her to endorse gay marriage or even the email controversy-these are all fair game.  However, going after Clinton for bullying Monica Lewinsky-that's insane.

I've been on record as saying, as a country, we owe Monica Lewinsky a communal apology for what she went through in the late 1990's and I'm a fan of her anti-bullying message, and think she's an appropriate and challenging choice for the movement.  However, attacking Hillary Clinton over anything that happened with Monica Lewinsky is wrong, and we should all know that.  The Monica Lewinsky saga is, if any Clinton is to blame (and I don't think that Ken Lay and congressional Republicans are totally out-of-the-woods in terms of laying the blame here, as they turned a molehill into an inappropriately-impeached mountain) it's the former president, not his wife.  Hillary Clinton doesn't deserve to be saddled with Monica Lewinsky being attacked, as no one should be asked to be the bigger person to the woman who slept with her husband.  Clinton was also publicly berated, humiliated, and second-guessed by the media, in the same way as Lewinsky, and she truly did nothing wrong in this situation-she was caught in an awful situation and had to "stand by her man" six years after she proclaimed she didn't want to do any such thing.  Hillary Clinton was just as bullied as Monica Lewinsky, and while she had the moral high ground in the situation, that doesn't mean that she had to be completely magnanimous here.  Attacking her because of her husband's indiscretions is something we should all see as inappropriate-we don't attack male politicians for things their wives say or do, and we shouldn't hold a double-standard when the husband happens to be insanely famous and an easy target.

Before I go here, I want to address the other part of this coin, that of youth, by virtue of being young, being on the "right side of history."  I think this is specious reasoning, and quite frankly reeks of ageism.  Yes, by-and-large when it comes to the progressive movements of the past century, the youth of the nation have been the ones fighting in the pits, out protesting and campaigning, but the reality is that youth is hardly always on the right side of history.  Young people in America frequently don't vote,  and they are not a communal group in lock-step, and don't always go to the same politics that Dawson agrees with-it's hard to imagine, say, a group of young people like those that came of age worshiping Ronald Reagan being of particular example for her.  The reality is that you can have poorly-informed views at any age, but this constant upholding of youth as innovative and "always right" is a dangerous mentality perpetuated by Dawson and frequently progressive-minded writers.  It crosses the line into ageism on a regular basis, and dismisses experience, which is something that I think, especially in Congress, we need right now.  After all, it's not the Republicans who have been in Congress for decades that are blocking all legislation (well, save Mitch McConnell)-frequently the likes of Orrin Hatch or Susan Collins are the people who can get something passed, but instead the newer Tea Party movement, spurred by younger people getting their voices heard, who have caused the gridlock.  I want to be clear that this doesn't mean older voters or politicians are better (this is a two-sided coin), but concluding that you're right because you're young is the same as assuming you're right because you're old-both are problematic and discriminatory.  Holding up the opinions of youth as a reason for voting one direction is ageism, plain-and-simple, and Dawson, and all of us, should know better.  After all, ageism is the only prejudice that we all, should we be so lucky to live that long, will have to endure.

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