Celebrities deserve chance to change Trump’s mind

Usmaan Hasan

Matthew McConaughey, part-time actor and full-time UT mascot, caught heat for his political commentary in the tradition of Hollywood actors. In suggesting that the country should embrace President Donald Trump, McConaughey drew the ire of the internet (surprise). We need our heroes to be uncomplicated, to neatly pass our ideological litmus tests so that support for them is easy. However, reaching across the aisle does not indict the character of those working for progress.

The response to the McConaughey incident demonstrates an increasingly difficult tightrope public figures walk, striking a balance between working with the Trump administration while avoiding the normalization of its ludicrous policy positions. Boycotts and condemnation are powerful tools that must be tempered.

Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick was on the receiving end of massive public outrage in recent weeks. Lifting surge pricing during Muslim ban protests at John F. Kennedy International Airport spawned criticism, accusing Uber of trying to break taxi drivers’ strikes. Similarly, Kalanick’s inclusion on the president’s business advisory committee saw the CEO being branded as an enabler of the Trump administration’s divisive agenda. Farhana Khera of Muslim Advocates, states that “being a member of this council is an endorsement of bigotry”.

This view is myopic.

Rejection of the evils of the Trump administration is critical. Billionaire donors like Betsy DeVos, questionable politicians like Jeff Sessions and unqualified bureaucrats like Ben Carson should not be allowed to buy, caucus or leverage their way into positions of power. But sympathizers to the plight of immigrants, such as Elon Musk, Travis Kalanick, Bob Iger and Indra Nooyi should not be condemned as supporters of bigotry. Elon Musk used his presence in the council to force conversation over the immigration ban, and simultaneously joined the lawsuit against the order. Engaging with the Trump administration does not equal espousing bigotry and anger.

Even if someone waved a magical wand and removed these people from the council, who then would fill their place? Out with the Indra Nooyis, an immigrant from India, and in with Peter Thiel and his ilk, who believes that freedom and democracy are not compatible? Awkward. 

Rejection of an institution does not mean it no longer exists. The council will still do business, Trump will still be president, except this time, there will be no moderating presence acting as a counter-balance to the aggressive policies he pushes forward.

It is absurd to view engagement as condoning the nefarious elements of President Donald Trump. Knee-jerk rejection of Kalanick and McConaughey closes our minds and separates us from the very institutions we aim to change.

This is not a call for complacency, to shrug our shoulders and sigh c’est la vie when we perceive our values being sold out. However, the blind pursuit of black and white truths — simple and easily palatable realities — erases the nuances of difference and precludes progress.

Hasan is a business freshman from Plano. Follow Hasan on Twitter @UzzieHasan