Vargas to Meryl Streep: ‘People aren’t killing actors’

By Joe Vargas

I was half watching the Golden Globes last night when I watched the iconic Meryl Streep receive her Lifetime Achievement Award.

Ms. Streep started by saying, “You and all of us in this room belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now.”

While she may have some very strong feelings about the vilification of actors, foreigners and the press I would have say, “Welcome to the club.”

Try being a police officer right now and maybe you would really comprehend the concept of vilification. People aren’t killing actors simply because of their profession.

If you’ve forgotten, 20 police officers were killed in ambushes last year.

These police officers were killed while writing reports, eating in restaurants or sitting in their cars.  They were killed simply because of their profession.

Over the last few years, I don’t think anyone would have to dig too deep to find hundreds of celebrity tweets jumping on the cop-bashing bandwagon. Celebrities do this without any empathy or concern for the thousands of police officers who are doing an amazing job every day.

The Twitter world and pundits exploded over her comments last night and I must admit I have some areas of agreement with her.

Ms. Streep said, “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,” she said. “Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”

I wish she and other celebrities would take to heart the impact their words have when it comes to commenting on policing across the country. There is little doubt the national trend of violence against innocent police officers is often fertilized by what people see and read.

This includes celebrities who use their fame as a powerful platform to espouse a point of view that oftentimes is based more on fiction than fact.

What’s the solution? In Ms. Streep’s own words, “…we have to remind each other of the privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy.”

The overwhelming majority of police contacts never end in violence. Police officers are doing an amazing job of responding, helping and protecting us every single day.

Empathy means understanding there is no easy, nice way to put handcuffs on someone when they don’t want them put on.

Empathy means understanding why compliance is so important when policing an armed society.

Empathy means understanding that split-second decisions made by human beings who are just trying to make it through one more day on the job are never going to be 100% correct.

So Ms. Streep, your carefully chosen words do strike me as meaningful and powerful. I would ask that actors and journalists take these words to heart as they comment and report on the truly vilified profession of policing.