Prior to this election cycle I had never heard of stand-up comedienne Amy Schumer. No doubt she is very funny, and I simply don’t watch the shows or movies in which she appears. But these days she is a minor public celebrity. From what I can gather, Schumer’s act is Rosie O’Donnell-esque and she enjoys, like O’Donnell, popularity with people who are chiefly on the Left of the political spectrum.
A few days ago Schumer was performing in Tampa, Florida. At some point during her act she shifted to a serious discussion of politics and invited a Trump supporter from the audience to join her on stage. Bravely, a man accepted her invitation. Schumer then gave the sort of interview where the interviewee is interrupted and mocked.
Those of us who speak publicly are well aware of the dangers and temptations on both sides of this scenario. Whether in the classroom, on television, radio, or the stage, you should be sensitive to the students or audience members you engage in conversation. You have the power to be a bully. Of course, occasionally there are obnoxious or abusive people in the crowd, but generally speaking people are intimidated for the very reasons I have just outlined. Earlier this year I did an interview with BBC television where the imperious interviewer (unsuccessfully) attempted to use his platform to ambush me. (Watch it here.)
Back to Schumer. The not-so-funny (in this instance) comedienne started by saying that she was not out to humiliate this poor fellow beckoned to the stage before an audience of some 8,000 people:
“I appreciate you coming up,” Shumer said with a reassuring hand on his arm. “I am in no way trying to shame you. This is not a political rally for either of us.” So far, so good.
She then proceeded to do precisely the opposite. As the man was answering her questions in a rational and civil manner, she pulled the mic away and sent him back to his seat with this classless flourish: “Okay, you can go back and sit down…. It’s cool to hear from one guy who doesn’t seem like a psychopath.” Psychopath? Feeling the strength of her fans, she knew she could do this and get away with it. Did she think she was funny? Did she think she was making converts to her political position? Hard to know. Regardless, that she would choose to use her platform in this way is appalling. (Watch the interview here.)
I suspect Amy Schumer really believes she is standing on the side of justice and equality and all that is good in the world. Whatever her intentions or her sincerity, her behavior was abusive in the extreme. Suppose conservative comedian Dennis Miller invited a Hillary Clinton supporter on stage during one of his routines and humiliated his guest with a comment like this: “It’s cool to meet one woman who doesn’t seem like a corrupt rapist-enabler”? There would be an outcry and for good reason. Because hate is hate regardless of the political position from which it comes.
We have become a mean, angry, and hateful people. At the root of all of our problems in America is a spiritual problem. Human nature is dark, and no legislation or government program can change that. “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them,” wrote Nobel Prize winning author and Christian Alexander Solzhenitsyn. “But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
As I wrote in my first book The Grace Effect: “Fascists think society’s problems are a question of race. Eliminate the ‘lower orders’ of our species and you solve everything. Communists think it a question of economics, a class war. Seize private property and redistribute it equally and—voila!—utopia. Atheists think the problem is religion. Environmentalists blame industrialization. Democrats blame Republicans. Republicans blame Democrats.” According to an October 13, 2016 Gallup Poll, only 28 percent of Americans are satisfied with the direction of the country. Everyone agrees that there is a problem, but efforts to identify the source of it are incomplete, misguided, or evil.
“The defects of human society are the defects of human nature,” wrote The Lord of the Flies author William Golding. Amy Schumer is naive if she thinks November 8th will change anything other than the political landscape. It cannot and it will not change us. And if her performance in Tampa is any indication, that is precisely what needs to change.
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”