The best thing that’s ever been written about George Clooney and South Sudan was written by Ken Silverstein for the publication formerly known as Gawker. Which is kind of ironic because Ken is editing this story even as we speak, because I have “work” to do.
Anyway, before getting to the point you should all read Ken’s story — link here and here — and let me briefly quote from it here before I return to the topic of George Clooney and his more recent stupidities. [Editor’s note: Maybe read this story after finishing Melissa’s fucking brilliant story, it does provide important context but may be a distraction here.]
All human history, everyone knows, comes down to sex, violence and oil, so that in the end is the story of Sudan.
But Sudan’s story also includes dumb people in Hollywood and Washington who wanted to be in Hollywood movies and how they helped create the world’s most failed “failed state” and how this outcome was predictable to smart people…
What [happened] is that some governments succeeded in creating South Sudan and some celebrities, like George Clooney and Nicholas Kristof, succeeded in making it the world’s emotional petting zoo. And it has also become a cash cow for NGOs and international aid workers.
Fuck, that is pretty fucking good copy.
In any event, dimwit Clooney recently decided to lead our country in a moment of prayer. In an exclusive for the Daily Beast (why?), Clooney pieced together this lackluster plea to our troubled nation, which he no longer calls home.
In the past, the A-list activist has expressed his deepest misplaced concerns for countries and causes such as Haiti, Darfur, and, as noted briefly above, South Sudan. But as always with Hollywood, not everything is all that it seems.
Take South Sudan, for instance. Clooney’s involvement in “liberating” this newly formed country a few years back (you can Google it for more specific info) seemed like a success but if you read this Gawker article by Ken Silverstein (some allegedly “inspiring” journalist) it is obvious that this was all more of a clueless PR maneuver without any real knowledge about what was going in South Sudan.
The grandiose attitude of dumb celebrities — and Clooney is Exhibit A along with Meryl Streep, Morgan Freeman and a few others — seems to anoint them with what they imagine to be Save-the-World supernatural power. Which brings us to the ridiculous litany that England-residing, faux-diplomat, Clooney just bestowed upon us with a “prayer.”
First let’s note that George is clearly referencing the recent #takeaknee “controversy” that swept the nation last weekend. His ghostwriter or he used all the keywords — Tamir Rice, unity, police, armed services, dissent, kneel — so I’ll give him credit for covering all bases even through he basically “both-sided” the issue.
Other than that, though, the prayer itself is a complete disservice. Why?
Point A: Anyone who wants to call for unity needs to make clear distinctions about what is actually going on. When Colin Kaepernick initially protested the lethal rise of systemic racism he sat during the national anthem, but began kneeling when he was told sitting was disrespectful. When he began his protests President Obama was in office and even Obama was criticized for not sufficiently combatting institutional racism and police brutality.
Point B: NFL teams or players choosing to kneel during the national anthem should not be viewed as a dividing act. Period.
Before 2009, we did not even see players on the field during the national anthem and there is no formal rule that states they must stand, it is merely encouraged. Only after the NFL received a large infusion of advertising cash, in return for paid patriotism, did professional football become considered a symbolic celebration of “American freedom.”
A main criticism by some (primarily White, almost surely) football fans of the whole #takeaknee phenomenon is that it is disrespectful to the flag. But it’s hard to see why kneeling during the anthem should be deemed disrespectful, especially when cheerleaders and advertising images of hot, blonde women on the beach in USA! bikinis don’t elicit pitchforks and boycotts. (We all know what they do elicit, and while it’s not illicit it’s offensive to many people.)
As to claims that kneeling is akin to spitting in the face of those who served in the military, we might want to ask for comment from those who have actually served our country. Many veterans and veteran groups came out in defense of #takeaknee because THAT IS THE FREEDOM THAT THEY BELIEVED THEY FOUGHT FOR, and sometimes they did.
For example, during War World II this country was engaged in a very deadly and costly war against an evil ruler, Adolph Hitler. Hitler wanted his countrymen blindly follow him and forced citizens to show their “nationalism” or risk severe punishment. World War II veterans served and died to prevent that sort of blind patriotism from ever happening again.
Clooney has no clue what drives someone like Colin Kaepernick to take a knee for a better America. He can pray for unity all he likes, but is he willing to put time and money into dismantling systematic racism and police brutality as he did in his “humanitarian” work that dismantled — I mean saved — South Sudan?
God, I pray he will.