A President, a Beauty Pageant Contestant, and a neo-Nazi Walk into a Bar…
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Of course, if one has access to social media, a television, or a newspaper, it’s almost a given that they’ve heard this line. Maybe it came as a mild shock, but then again maybe not. With the barrage of news stories that have been pummeling the public sphere since January, it’s easy to get desensitized by each new headline.
The headline that inspired the opening line is one from this past August. Following the outbreak of race fueled violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, President Trump took the time to declare that he was fully against the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.” For many, that statement left a sour taste in their mouth, seeing as there seemed to be two clear sides during the tragic events in Charlottesville (and one side had clearly been wearing swastikas and making Heil Hitler salutes). Following that press conference, President Trump was met with a flurry of backlash, not only from civilians, but members of his own Republican party. As a result, he eventually backpedaled and delivered a more temperate response, denouncing the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who’d gathered in Charlottesville and had initially instigated the violence against counter protesters. But, never one to keep his opinions to himself, President Trump then went back on his redaction, digging his heels into his assertion that there were many sides to blame for the violence in Charlottesville. He even seemed to sympathize with members of the alt-right, claiming that some were “fine people” who simply wanted to protest “the taking down, to them, of a very, very important statue and a renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.”
Many people just couldn’t understand why it was so difficult for President Trump to resolutely denounce a group of agitators that, for the most part, many agree are (to steal a phrase from Trump himself) “bad hombres.” Interestingly enough, an unlikely person was able to articulate (in less than a minute) a response to the violence that would have been befitting for the leader of a country. Margana Wood, a Texan beauty pageant contestant who’d competed for the title of Miss America was asked, during the question segment of the competition, about her opinion of Trump’s response to the violence that had taken place in August. In her response she said, “I think that the white supremacist issue, it was very obvious, that it was a terrorist attack. And I think that President Donald Trump should’ve made a statement earlier addressing the fact, and in making sure all Americans feel safe in this country. That is the number one issue right now.”
Jess Cagle, the editorial director of People and Entertainment Weekly, and one of the judges on the panel for the competition, later remarked that Woods had given the best answer of the night. Many echoed his sentiment, marveling at the fact that this Miss America contestant had given a more socially acceptable and palatable response regarding the violent actions of neo-Nazis than the President had.
Unfortunately, this joke doesn’t come with a punch line, but it does come with a lesson. Everyone can have an opinion, and is entitled to it. However, at some point we do need to take responsibility.