Informed Opinions (Vol. 70, Issue 3)
As far back as there have been Presidents in the United States, there have been men who publicly opposed them. And why not? Free speech is guaranteed by the First Amendment. If you feel strong enough about an issue, it is your right as a citizen to state your disapproval.
However, there is a right way and a wrong way to voice your opposition. Over the past year, I have noticed that some critics speak eloquently and respectfully, while others disgorge tastelessly at what they dislike. A prime example of the latter is filmmaker Michael Moore, whose film, "Fahrenheit 9/11," ruthlessly attacked President George W. Bush.
"I would like to apologize for referring to George W. Bush as a 'deserter.' What I meant to say is that George W. Bush is a deserter, an election thief, a drunk driver, a WMD liar, and a functional illiterate. And he poops his pants," said Moore. Is anyone really supposed to listen to anyone who can show no sort of decency?
Actor Ben Affleck, on the other hand, said, "Bush is a patriot and he's a man who believes in the country. He's trying to further an agenda he believes in. I happen to disagree with most of his policies, but I respect the man." Whether you agree with Affleck or not, you must give him credit for presenting his opinion in a polite manner.
Of course, I find myself asking why do we care about the opinions of any of the politically active celebrities? Why do we value any of their opinions over anyone else's? These are people who, for the most part, have no more than a high school education, have absolutely no political background, but because they are rich and famous we constantly hear about their political opinions.
In truth, we should just ignore it when a celebrity makes a political statement. Let the Dixie Chicks, Good Charlotte, Whoopi Goldberg, and all the rest do their thing, and let us intelligent citizens get our own information from people who are actually knowledgeable in the area.
But as human nature has it, we are interested in what the celebrities have to say. When we turn on the news and see a preview telling us to stay tuned and watch what Susan Sarandon, or whichever celebrity said, we curiously await the report.
In sum, we must realize that while criticism is one of the basic principles that help keeps our democracy strong, it is up to us to decipher what is beneficial, articulate and informed criticism, and what is just spiteful talk. We must be able to make out what criticism comes from a trustworthy source-- truly interested in the betterment of society, or criticism which comes from someone who just wants to see his or her name in the paper.