Like many people who watched the 2017 Golden Globe Awards on Sunday night, I was deeply affected by Meryl Streep's speech about the dangers represented by Donald Trump's hateful rhetoric and the newly-increased importance of vigilance in the media. The full text of the acceptance speech is well-crafted and thought-provoking from top to bottom, and you already know she delivered it like a dream. But there's one powerful quote from Streep's Golden Globes speech that is particularly insightful and that I know I'll return to many times in the coming months and years for support.
The line came about three-quarters of the way through the speech, which Streep delivered after being honored with the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award at the Jan. 8 ceremony. She had already touched on the vast contributions that foreigners — those being honored with nominations that night and beyond — have made and are making in Hollywood. She registered her concerns about Trump allegedly mocking disabled reporter Sergei Kovaleski and asked the press to stay vigilant. And she underlined these points with a set of words that perfectly encapsulates the right way to think about this issue:
Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.
This is such an intelligent way to frame this idea, because it puts the onus not only on someone like Donald Trump, but on anyone holding any kind of position of power. It's a reminder not to fall into the same traps and habits that you call out in others. It's one thing to hold Trump accountable, because he's about to take the highest office in the land, but, if you find yourself using an inequality of power, influence, or privilege to demean others in your own interactions, then you really need to examine that. It's important to hold yourself just as accountable as you attempt to hold those in positions of authority over you — otherwise you're just allowing that oppression and dismissal to trickle down to the next level.
This is a moment when awareness and context are vital, and it would be easy to regress into name-calling and summary dismissal of anyone with whom you disagree. But take inspiration from Meryl Streep, who selflessly used her national platform to call out unfairness and bullying in a moment when she could have just as easily basked in her own success. That's the kind of incisive, nonviolent activism that I aspire to.
Seeing Streep deliver her message in such a passionate and compassionate way makes me feel like she has my back, and makes me all that much more eager to have hers, and all of yours, in the coming years.