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Friday, June 23, 2017

Dear Kathy Griffin

Written by  Brian George Hose

Dear Kathy Griffin,

You said you wanted to give us something to talk about, and, as usual, you delivered. Yes, I’m talking about the photo. It was controversial, provocative, and visceral – all the things that make art art. And I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it because the photo and our response to it (and you) has given me quite a bit to talk about.

I suppose I should start by thanking you. Thank you for being more famous and relevant than Marilyn Manson and GWAR, each of whom has depicted violence against our president with absolutely no backlash. Thank you for allowing us to see how men and women are judged differently for the same behavior, as well as the hypocrisy of a country that tolerated multiple images of President Obama being lynched, but perceives a professional, artistic photograph open to interpretation as a death threat. I feel fairly confident that you and this whole mess will now be standard reading for women’s studies classes from now until forever.

While I’m at it, thank you for opening up a conversation about free speech and censorship. Though I understand the criticism surrounding the photo, I interpreted it quite differently. All the talk of impeachment that has surrounded this administration from Day One was in full force, spurred on by talk of obstruction of justice. I thought the message was that he was about to get caught in the mess he made, that he would now be accountable. Others saw it differently, which is fair and valid. But what’s most important is that it got us talking about what we will and will not tolerate and what is and is not allowed under free speech. Thank you for reminding us of the power of art.

Thank you for being the bright, shiny object that distracted the world from more important matters. In a way, you were able to unite a divided country by being our common enemy, which is a new level of paradoxical achievement. During the backlash we saw ourselves for who we are – a society that wants to destroy anything it doesn’t like, which in turn reminds us that our country is built on freedoms and choices that we take for granted. It reminds me that America is like a buffet full of interesting and diverse options and that if I don’t like creamed corn, I don’t have to put it on my plate. Instead of flipping the table like a Jersey housewife, I’ll just avoid the corn and leave it for the people who like it.

Thank you for being an ally. From the beginning of your career you’ve been openly supportive of the LGBTQ community, long before it was cool or fashionable to even speak of us in public. Seeing your comedy helped a younger me know that things will get better, that there are smart, interesting, funny people in the world who would embrace me as I am. Thank you for raising funds and awareness for our causes and for using your celebrity as a platform to do so. Thank you for breaking your own world record for most televised comedy specials of any artist, male or female, living or dead, and taking us along for the ride.

Thank you for the lesson I’ve learned for this Pride season. No matter how wonderful you may be, there will always be people who don’t care for you. And that’s ok because it’s okay to be different and to be yourself if you’re proud of who you are. I hope that with the passing days you’ve come to feel liberated and empowered, because you’ve survived the ultimate trial by fire, coupled with intense public shaming, and you’ve survived. I can only speak for myself, so I’ll say I look forward to whatever comes next and I’ll be waiting to knit you a comfy sweater if the need arises.

Much love,
Brian

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