Turns Out Sarah Silverman Can Learn

In something of a Thanksgiving miracle, perennial Trump hater Sarah Silverman spent some time with Trump supporters in the course of creating an episode of her new Hulu streaming show “I Love You, America” and reportedly “fell in love” with them.


In an interview at Los Angeles’ Vulture Fest, Silverman told the crowd that in interviewing supporters of the president she had an epiphany of sorts about something that arguably most people already know: people, even if they don’t agree with you politically, can still be good, inviting, interesting and engaging.

“When you’re one-on-one with someone who doesn’t agree with you, or whose ideology is different than yours, when you’re face to face, your porcupine needles go down,” she said. “The surprise was… I fell in love with them. I had a great time with them and I felt comfortable.

“I’m trying to be open,” she explained. “I’m finding if I do engage with someone who is angry at me, or angry and I’m a place where they can put that anger… it’s almost always a good experience, because more than anything, all of us what we have in common is, we want to feel seen. We want to feel like we exist. We really should — all of us — work on not getting our self-esteem from outside forces, but it is so much when somebody just sees you. It’s just like, everything melts away. We just all just human out again.”

While Silverman’s change of heart is grabbing the headlines, the more interesting question here is why on earth, as a nearly middle-aged woman, the comedian has never reached this conclusion before? By her age, most people have come across those different than themselves. Her relatively sheltered existence either speaks to the intractable bubble that Hollywood lives in, or it speaks to a choice Silverman has made to simply never engage across the aisle.


This is not to denigrate her new-found open mind. Silverman’s eye-opening is indeed a welcome development and should be encouraged by those on the right capable of the same kind insight. But in watching her grow, it is interesting and edifying to observe how she — and presumably many liberals — analyze people that disagree with them as if they are aliens from another planet.

Vanity Fair wrote about a dialogue Silverman had with a Westboro Baptist Church ex-pat on her show, where the former church member had to explain to Silverman that people with extreme views are usually not clinically insane.

Megan Phelps-Roper, a former member of the Westboro Baptist Church…left the church and her family five years ago after expanding her social circle on Twitter, where she got into a series of discussions with her now husband. With this exchange, Silverman clearly makes her case for conversation—even when it’s difficult, frustrating, or yes, even dangerous.

“I think one thing that’s really important for people to understand is that I think extremists generally are not psychopaths,” Phelps-Roper told Silverman. “They’re psychologically normal people who have been persuaded by bad ideas. And we can’t expect to, like, isolate these people and hope that those ideas will just fade into oblivion. We have to actually engage those ideas and find ways of, one, understanding the mind-sets of the people that we’re dealing with and then effectively constructing arguments and evidence and presenting those things. And it’s not just for the sake of these extremists . . . because they impact the rest of society.”


It really does start to seem that Silverman, to this point, has actually felt far enough removed from people that simply disagree with her to view them as a nearly distinct and separate species; one that must be put under glass and subjected to scientific experimentation in order to understand.

It’s just funny and intriguing. But perhaps it shouldn’t detract from the positive improbability that generally too-clever-by-half hostess is willing to drop the pretense and try to understand her fellow man. That’s a hopeful and encouraging sign. And even avowed critics of Donald Trump must admit his election was the catalyst. There’s your silver — ah, Silverman — lining, never Trumpers.


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