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Vargas: Don’t dismiss celebrities who speak out against Trump

Alani Vargas, Columnist

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Today’s political climate is anything but civil. President Donald Trump is hell-bent on keeping campaign promises based on his xenophobic rhetoric. So it should come as no surprise that many are speaking out and protesting against his presidency and against his executive orders that have already targeted reproductive rights, the Dakota Access Pipeline and Muslim immigration.

While many people are raising their voices in a time of turmoil and injustice, celebrities with large fan bases are among the most heard. I am bewildered by the outpouring of hate many celebrities are getting for expressing their frustrations with Trump. For example, a friend shared an article about Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes speech, with the first comment expressing the opinion that celebrities should not comment on politics. With that reasoning, however, neither should Trump. That didn’t stop the almost 63 million American people from voting him the leader of the free world.

Trump is a celebrity, and although he proved a successful politician, he has thus far proved an astoundingly incompetent president. Ronald Reagan was an actor before he assumed the position of commander-in-chief, and also proved to be a disappointing president.

Putting their skill as politicians aside, celebrities have always spoken out about causes they hold dear, and political commentary on the red carpet and in acceptance speeches is the norm, especially in this tumultuous political climate. Nonetheless, on Jan. 9, Trump tweeted “Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn’t know me but attacked (me) last night at the Golden Globes,” the day after Streep condemned Trump for mocking a disabled journalist and encouraged the protection of journalism and free press.

The speech was hardly inflammatory; Streep didn’t even mention Trump’s name. Since then, more actors and singers have spoken out against his executive orders and his role as president.

Although there are very few celebrities and popular figures who will speak up in support of Trump, they do exist. These differing opinions, whether through social media, in the press or in everyday life, are what make a democracy flourish.

Although Streep was widely criticized for her political acceptance speech, few conservatives were criticizing Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta after his seemingly pro-Trump tweet in November. Granted, his did tweet critique Hollywood, saying that high-profile actors should “pony up and head for the border,” but Arrieta is still a public figure himself. Yet when another athlete, Colin Kaepernick, staged a silent protest against police brutality, conservatives were fast to burn his jersey.

Celebrities are have opinions just like the rest of us. When given a prominent platform, these personalities should lend their perspectives on important issues, stand against injustices and give a voice to those who have none. To tell celebrities they have no place in politics or advocacy is hypocritical. In denouncing celebrities for speaking up, we are criticizing them for using the right to free speech we practice every day — and are practicing in denouncing them.

Alani Vargas is a Medill junior. She can be reached at alanivargas2018@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com.
The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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