That Shania Twain would think she needed to apologize for a vote she never cast for Donald Trump is a sad commentary on today's political incivility.
That's my takeaway from the recent controversy that began with a throwaway line from a recent interview the country superstar did with the Guardian. At the end of a long, extremely personal, nonpolitical profile that was published last Sunday, there was this:
If she had been able to vote in the U.S. election, she would have plumped for Donald Trump, she says. "I would have voted for him because, even though he was offensive, he seemed honest. Do you want straight or polite? Not that you shouldn't be able to have both. If I were voting, I just don't want b—. I would have voted for a feeling that it was transparent. And politics has a reputation of not being that, right?"
Notwithstanding that the Canadian wasn't even eligible to vote in the 2016 American election, Twain was the recipient of immediate internet blowback and quickly sought to do damage control with four successive tweets.
I would like to apologise to anybody I have offended in a recent interview with the Guardian relating to the American President. The question caught me off guard. As a Canadian, I regret answering this unexpected question without giving my response more context. I am passionately against discrimination of any kind and hope it's clear from the choices I have made, and the people I stand with, that I do not hold any common moral beliefs with the current President. I was trying to explain, in response to a question about the election, that my limited understanding was that the President talked to a portion of America like an accessible person they could relate to, as he was NOT a politician. My answer was awkward, but certainly should not be taken as representative of my values nor does it mean I endorse him. I make music to bring people together. My path will always be one of inclusivity, as my history shows.
No doubt she panicked amid concern that her brief political statements might damage her brand just as she embarks on a comeback tour. But even if the logic of her initial assessment regarding Trump's honesty was flawed, she should have stood her ground.
By retreating, she has perpetuated self-sorting, the further stratification of society where too many of the like-minded are choosing to live, work, worship, and recreate only with those who share their views. That's the opposite of what's needed. Now is a time for more dialogue, and the commingling of experience and opinion. (That prescription quite obviously does not apply to purveyors of hate speech.) Instead Twain establishes a slippery slope.
Consider that two days after Twain's mea culpa, the New York Times published comments made by Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie at a private league meeting in the NFL's headquarters in October. According to the Times, the meeting was to discuss raising money for groups fighting social injustice in the aftermath of the president's attacking the league. After a player said the owners had a trust issue due to their support of Trump, Lurie reportedly said:
"Another fact I want to throw out there: Many of us have no interest in supporting President Trump," Mr. Lurie said, according to a recording of the meeting obtained by the New York Times. "Yes, there are some. There are some players who do, too."
"But this is not where you brandish a group of people because they own assets in a sport we love, supporting what many of us perceive as, you know, one disastrous presidency," he said, using a vulgarity to emphasize "disastrous," then adding, "Don't quote me."
No doubt he didn't want to be quoted lest he be subjected to the same type of criticism as Twain. After all, if lovers of Shania Twain who don't approve of the president see fit to walk away from the recording artist because she expressed a rather benign political opinion outside of her recording work, then Eagles fans who voted for Trump might similarly abandon the team because of Lurie's comments. Where does that nutty thinking end?
Are family members from the opposite side of the political aisle now to be excommunicated? Should social circles be defined by red and blue colors? If you learn that your pet groomer, favorite restaurant owner, mechanic, or exterminator didn't share your ballot preference, is that a reasonable grounds to abandon a business relationship? Is a teacher with a yard sign for a candidate you didn't support no longer fit to teach your kids?
Talking about Twain this week, a friend shared with me that she uses a window washer whose van is covered with "Abortion Stops a Beating Heart" bumper stickers. While she doesn't embrace his pro-life passion, she still uses him because he's cheap, fast, and excellent.