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Meryl Streep, Character and Moral Authority

Estimated Reading Time : 5 Minutes 08 Seconds

Last night after finishing up some work I sat down and turned on the television just in time to catch Meryl Streep's speech when she won her much deserved lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes. In the speech, Streep spoke out against president-elect Trump but never mentioned him by name.  Here is the speech.

Streep's speech has received a great deal of attention, both good and bad, and everyone seems to have an opinion on it. Here is mine.

I love Meryl Streep. If she isn't the greatest actress of all time, she is most definitely in the discussion. Her talent and passion for her art are only surpassed by her mastery of craft and technique. In addition to being a tremendous artist, Streep has the reputation of being a wonderful human being, kind and generous to everyone with whom she comes into contact . With all of that said, I found myself getting very angry as I watched her speech last night. I wasn't angry because I disagreed with her, I didn't, I agreed with nearly everything she said. I was angry because I was wondering, where have you been for the last eight years Meryl?

If the things Meryl Streep talked about last night meant so much to her, why didn't she speak up for them during Obama's presidency? If she is so concerned about foreigners or immigrants being singled out, why didn't she speak up when Obama deported nearly three million of them, more than any other president? If she is so concerned with "bullying" of the weak and defenseless, why didn't she speak up when Obama ordered the extra-judicial murder of Americans including a 16 year old American and then had his spokesman say the teen "should have had a better father" as being the reason he was killed ? And why didn't she speak up when Obama failed to prosecute torturers and war criminals in the Bush administration? If Streep is so concerned about protecting the press, why didn't she speak up when Obama had twice as many prosecutions of whistleblowers, eight, as all of the other presidents combined? Why didn't Streep speak up for Chelsea Manning who sat in solitary confinement for nearly a year? Or Edward Snowden who sits in exile in Russia? or Julian Assange who has been imprisoned in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for over four years now? If Meryl Streep cares about those issues as much as she passionately displayed last night, why didn't she fight for them when Obama was president? Could it be that she is actually more interested in style over substance? Political party, power and ideology over Truth?

Sadly, Streep's speech will resonate with no one outside of those who already agree with her. She will change no minds and change no policies with her words from last night. The Obama presidency was the opportunity to change things for Streep and those like her. Streep could have spoken out vociferously for immigrants, foreigners and the weakest among us during the last eight years, if she had, she may have been able to change things. She may have, with her respected standing in the public eye, been able to have gotten Chelsea Manning pardoned, or Snowden, or Assange (or Leonard Peltier for that matter). She may have been able to hold Obama accountable for the extra-judicial drone killings of Americans and gotten that policy changed and saved innocent lives that Obama calls "collateral damage". She may have been able to speak out for poor and working class people who didn't get bailed out while Wall street did, but she didn't. She may have been able to force Obama to fight for single payer healthcare and not the corporate friendly Affordable Care Act, but she kept quiet. She was silent on all of these and a host of other issues she claims to hold dear, only speaking out now that Trump is soon to be president. 

The problem with Streep staying silent during the Obama years is that she has lost all moral authority to lecture anyone. She had her chance for eight years to fight for Truth and change things, and she blew it. She stayed quiet when speaking up could have cost her something in her liberal community, but also when her voice could have really made a difference. Streep's anger may be righteous, but she has lost all moral authority and standing because she failed to speak up at a time, during the Obama years, when her critical voice would not have been so warmly welcomed by her Golden Globe compatriots. That is the sin of the Obama years, liberals stayed quiet in order to stay in power, or to support the party or to not be seen as attacking the first Black president. Whatever the reason, it was a most egregious mistake and one that they will rue for decades to come. It is when your side is in power that your voice and dedication to principles must be loudest because that is when you can actually effect change, not when those who oppose you take the reins. Speaking up against Trump now was a safe move for Meryl Streep in the largely liberal world she inhabits, speaking up against Obama during his presidency would have taken real courage.

It is not only what you say or do when you are out of power that defines your character, but what you say and do when in power that reveals your character. The democrats and Obama supporters revealed their lack of character and cowardice by not being true to their supposed values and speaking out forcefully against Obama when he failed to uphold the constitution and fight for the people. When Obama sided with Wall street over Main street, democrats gave him a pass. When he sided with the insurance companies and big pharma over regular working folks, democrats sat on their hands. When Obama imprisoned whistleblowers and murdered Americans without trial, democrats kept their mouths shut. Democrats revealed their character during Obama's presidency with their silence, and they no longer have any moral authority to speak out against Trump. That doesn't mean they won't speak out, it just means no one will listen or believe them when they do. The Obama presidency was a lost opportunity for democrats to prove their character and their moral authority, and they failed miserably. It will take a long time for them to ever be able prove to people that they mean what they say or are worthy of trust.

The first step for Meryl Streep, and other like-minded people, is to come out and apologize for losing their way and failing to uphold their convictions and principles during the Obama years. If Streep came out and said she was wrong to blindly support Obama, and that she is now going to be loyal to Truth above all else, then maybe…just maybe…she can regain the moral authority that is needed to change hearts, minds and policies. Will she do that? Not likely, as self-righteousness is a warm blanket few refuse in favor of the cold, hard struggle of self-reflection. Which is a shame, as Meryl Streep is an important voice that needs too be heard, it just needed to be heard for the last eight years, and not just last night.

©2017