There was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good. There was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power, and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it. I still can’t get it out of my head because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life.

And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.

Both Trump supporters and some on the left have criticized coastal ”elites” for continually preaching to the converted, and overlooking much of the US. And Streep’s speech seemed clearly crafted for an audience of Hollywood’s powerful writers, directors, actors, and producers—but that was the point. She admonished them to treat empathy as a privilege and a responsibility, to support journalists, and to keep on working:

“As my friend, the dear departed Princess Leia, said to me once,” she said, “take your broken heart, make it into art.”

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