SAN DIEGO, January 24, 2017 —Last Saturday, singer and actress Madonna came under a lot of criticism for a passionate speech aimed squarely at newly elected President Donald Trump. During the Women’s March in Washington D.C., an event timed closely to Friday’s inauguration, she took to the bully pulpit to say:
“Yes, I’m angry. Yes, I am outraged. Yes, I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House…But I know that this won’t change anything. We cannot fall into despair.”
Warning: Some strong language
Saturday’s firestorm was followed by a Sunday attempt to calm the situation. Madonna sought to walk her comment back with an Instagram post:
“I am not a violent person, I do not promote violence and it’s important people hear and understand my speech in its entirety rather than one phrase taken wildly out of context. My speech began with ‘I want to start a revolution of love’.”
Supposedly that explains everything. Will people believe her? Was it really out of a desire to be loving that she offered up words such as “anger” and “outrage?” Was it for the purpose of promoting peace that she mentioned blowing up the White House?
To those points, Madonna clarified even further,
“I spoke in metaphor and I shared two ways of looking at things — one was to be hopeful, and one was to feel anger and outrage, which I have personally felt. However, I know that acting out of anger doesn’t solve anything. And the only way to change things for the better is to do it with love. It was truly an honor to be part of an audience chanting “we choose love.”
Many in the news media seem willing to accept Madonna’s explanation including Lisa Respers France, producer of CNN Digital Entertainment, who wrote, “Madonna was just trying to express herself at the Women’s March on Saturday.”
She expressed herself all right! On that matter, everybody agrees.
Offering his own comments about such “expression,” former Speaker-of-the House Newt Gingrich had a slightly different take than the CNN Entertainment producer. Gingrich tweeted out: “Madonna ought to be arrested for saying she thought about blowing up the White House.”
Snide, abrasive political comments are certainly nothing new for show biz celebrities. However, lately Donald Trump has been treated to an extra, heaping helping of Hollywood’s tinsel and glitter.
We’ve heard everything from Rosie O’Donnell’ s call for “Martial Law-Delaying the inauguration-until Trump is ‘cleared’ of all charges,” to Meryl Steep’s Golden Globe acceptance speech which offered some special bonus comments lampooning Trump for the time he “imitated a disabled reporter.”
In the fine tradition of her peers, Madonna likes to spread her wings from time to time, offering contentious concern for the direction of our country.
Should her words about blowing up the White House be taken at face value or is she being unfairly quoted out of context as claimed?
Madonna did, in fact, mention a “revolution of love” early in her speech. But if the context of her words is important, an examination of the entire speech is also fair game, especially those words that immediately preceded the incendiary remark:
“And to our detractors that insist that this March will never add up to anything, f— you. F— you. It is the beginning of much-needed change. Change that will require sacrifice, people. Change that will require many of us to make different choices in our lives, but this is the hallmark of revolution. So my question to you today is are you ready? I said, are you ready? Say yes, we are ready. Say, yes we are ready. One more time: you’re ready.”
It was at this point that she added the fateful statement,
“Yes, I’m angry. Yes, I am outraged. Yes, I have thought an awful lot of blowing up the White House, but I know that this won’t change anything. We cannot fall into despair.”
After that, her speech softened and offered up the word “love” once again:
“As the poet W.H. Auden once wrote on the eve of World War II, ‘We must love one another or die.’ I choose love. Are you with me? Say this with me: We choose love. We choose love. We choose love.”
Even if Madonna’s angry rant was sandwiched between disclaimers about love, the meat inside the bread should not be hastily dismissed, especially since she told us herself that the notion of blowing up the White House was something she had “thought an awful lot about.”
The very idea of Madonna thinking at all before speaking should capture our attention. This is the same Madonna who just days after 9/11 offered some thought challenged words from her Drowned World Tour in Los Angeles:
“I’d like everyone to say a prayer that President Bush practices restraint in his decision making, and he does not retaliate this act of violence with another act of violence, ok. Because violence only begets violence.”
This was not about whether or not to go into Iraq. This was a call to avoid the use of force against terrorists who planned the destruction of the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
But last Saturday at the Washington March, Madonna was actually reading her speech. This suggests she wrote the speech, which suggests she actually did think about it ahead of time. It was not an example of unfortunate words accidently pouring out of somebody’s mouth.
Just imagine a conservative celebrity or radio show host talking about blowing up the White House during the Obama administration! They would be ground up and spit out by the mainstream media.
They might even be arrested.
As it happens, the Secret Service does claim to be looking into Madonna’s speech but this is a secret service under the new Trump administration. If Obama were still president and she had talked about blowing up Trump Tower, one wonders if any investigation would follow.
In Madonna’s defense, we do have a First Amendment right to freedom of speech. While that right does not include calling for a violent overthrow of the government, Madonna did add immediately in her Saturday chat that she was not really calling for such a thing, but had merely thought about it.
Those were still serious words. Then again, this IS Madonna, no stranger to unusual comments. While, as a general rule, any citizen’s talk of violent action should be taken seriously, it is difficult for most people to take anything Madonna says seriously.
This would include other portions of Saturday’s speech which expressed concern for the so-called suppression of women in the United States.
“The revolution starts here. The fight for the right to be free, to be who we are, to be equal. Let’s march together through this darkness and with each step.”
Madonna is not free? Madonna is not being treated equally? Madonna’s fame and fortune do not provide a lifestyle better than 99 percent of the globe?
Such words would have been welcome in the America from long ago when women were not allowed to vote. And in the more recent past, women certainly had additional rights to fight for.
But in the present, one cannot resist the obvious observation that this assembly of protest was NOT a violation of federal law and is in fact listed in our First Amendment as the right to assemble. Try to imagine such a gathering of women in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria or Somalia.
Yes, women are absolutely being treated like property and slaves in many countries around the world. America is not one of them. Instead, America has female Supreme Court Justices, female senators, and female candidates for the office of President of the United States.
Madonna does have a record of promoting peace, misplaced as it may be. The countries that truly suppress women and send terrorists to America do not seem to concern her as much as the United States using violence against such places.
And so, while Madonna can probably be taken at her word that use of lighting charged incendiary verbiage last Saturday was not a true call to violence (despite the fact that her choice of phraseology actually was preplanned) the intended heart of her speech; the belief that women in the United States are still being suppressed, is where we should really take issue.
But that opinion, for better or worse, is an opinion Madonna is entitled to precisely because she lives in the very country she criticizes.
And so, in this particular case, it might be best to extend some grace and let the matter drop. Alas, America does not yet have laws against running off at the mouth like shining beacons of ignorance.
This is Bob Siegel, making the obvious, obvious.
Bob Siegel is a weekend radio talk show host on KCBQ and a columnist. Details of his show can be found at www.bobsiegel.net