[This article is for citizens, like myself, who were bothered by the hateful messages put out by Roseanne Barr. For citizens who tend to agree with Barr’s perspective – I will need to pitch this argument differently. I sense what you would find below as distasteful and coarse – or maybe just — stupid.]
The son of a close friend of mine described his parent’s marriage as a “negative role model” – a term that seems to reverse itself – but actually expands a meaning. Ms. R. Barr is a “negative role model.” But rather than shutting her down, we need to embrace her as an icon of distaste – of disgusting humor – of hatred and bad behavior — because to some degree and in various ways, all if us are vulnerable to Barr’s hate canker. And Barr and others like her can be a guide to a better self and a more effective society.
Take Christopher Columbus. He did some not so nice stuff. AND – Chris did some really good stuff; he had a talent for finding things — for which we are grateful. Adding it up – do we take Chris down from his pedestal in the middle of the circle on W. 57th Street? Or – do we use him as a negative role model? Initially, he was hoisted up there for the good stuff he did. BUT now we see the complete Chris – a flawed person. So what’s to do?
What I am calling a “mature” society can recognize Chris as a complex personality – he can be honored for certain acts of bravery and insight. AND at the same exact moment, he can be vilified for his acts of violence. For in the wild dynamic of being human – we are Chris and he is us. Chris can be a negative role model – a guide to what is possible in various extremes. By contextualizing Chris within the broad range of human potentials, we might mature as individuals and as a society. Knocking him from his perch does nothing but create more division.
Take Roseanne Barr. She is a talented actress and comedienne. AND she is a hate-filled person with an out-of-control temper. Rosie did and will continue to do nasty stuff. It is her sad nature. BUT her TV “sitcom” has value both as entertainment and as a negative role model – an opportunity for valuable social contextualization. Rosie is a flawed person. My “mature” society can recognize the full sad and wonderful state of Rosie – the talent and the angry child – and in that moment of grasping both we can learn about ourselves. We embrace in one moment of feeling both – and grow to something better than Rosie and Chris – we become a mature society.
The Disney media corporation lost this opportunity when it cancelled “Roseanne.” It might have embraced the social reality — the dynamic of talent and angry hate, existing as one. Why not let “Roseanne” continue – but disassociate from Rosie’s hatefulness. Allow us to mature by learning about who we are – really. Of course — that is not the purpose of any media corporation — a dynamic improvement of the society.
So maybe it is an activity we can engage in as individuals and communities. The trick in this effort of social maturing is not to bifurcate – that is, in the fullness of the feeling, not to take sides – not to be for or against anything. Bifurcating is a simple, and incorrect attitude – “this or that” is a truly fake way of seeing the human dynamic. We are nothing so simple as “this or that.” The trick is to embrace both the talent and the hate – to soften our hard edged, quick decision-making walls – to engage the fullness of the human experience. The human soul yearns to mature, to become full with the complexity of relationships within and without. Bifurcation destroys. Embracing rejuvenates.
OK – now watch a re-run of “Roseanne” with widened eyes — and learn about yourself.