Republished with permission from John Pavlovitz
The Conservative response to Taylor Swift’s relationship with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce reminds us what grievance culture does to those who find their home in it: they eventually become violently allergic to joy.
From the first broadcast cutaway to the superstar singer sitting in a luxury box at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium, the MAGA cult have been in the fevered histrionics befitting a pair of wanted serial killers, not two of the most successful professionals in their respective fields who’ve had the audacity to fall in love. (Yeah, love certainly does trigger some folks, it seems, doesn’t it?)
In the middle of the swirling storm of their complaining and breaking her albums and burning his jerseys and regurgitating nonsensical conspiracy theories, it can be tricky figuring out exactly what these people are actually objecting to:
Are they concerned that a pop star is somehow sullying the sanctity of an NFL they claim they to have already canceled after players took a knee six years ago?
Are they anxious Fantasy Football owners worried that Kelce will be distracted by his girlfriend’s presence at his games and tank their seasons?
Do they believe the invisible Leftist Svengalis are orchestrating a sprawling and coordinated campaign to pollute the Super Bowl with “wokeness” (whatever the hell that is)?
Actually, it’s much simpler than that: in order to embrace the MAGA movement you cannot allow anyone to enjoy being alive.
That is simply a dealbreaker.
Affection, intimacy, belonging. These cannot not be tolerated.
There’s no other reason to explain millions of people watching a group of strangers jubilantly “swag surfacing” in a football stadium and thinking: I need to be offended by this.
This is how Trumpism has so infected its disciples: filling them with contempt for everyone who they don’t immediately identify or find affinity with. If the color of their skin or their nation of origin or their gender identity don’t fall within a very precise and rigid definition, they must be met with animosity. We have to object to them. This is why we’ve ended up with a proven sexual predator and several-times indicted mobster once again as the GOP frontrunner.
The identifying of adversaries and threats is the entire engine of MAGA Conservative politics and religion and it now defines those who comprise its rank-and-file voters and its perennial pew-sitters. It’s sad and infuriating and it also defies any measurable logic.
Taylor Swift is a once-in-a-generation industry artist and mogul who has obliterated touring and recording sales records while inspiring a generation of young women. But she opposes Trump, so this invalidates her.
Travis Kelce is an All-Pro, Super Bowl-winning tight end who just broke a playoff reception record. He’s pro-vaccine though, so off with his head!
And if these two adults find companionship in one another and want to publicly express that connection? That’s tantamount to inciting a wild-eyed mob to violently storm our Capitol in order to overturn a free and fair election, kidnap members of Congress and install yourself as a lifetime dictator. (Actually, it’s apparently much worse than all that.)
Ultimately, what we’re seeing as the Right complains, boycotts, and works themselves into inconsolable hysterics watching two people they’ve never met experiencing joy and love, and doing nothing but spectacularly succeeding in the capitalist world they so claim to adore—is what happens when misery finds its company.
This is why the MAGA culture needs to be defeated at the ballot box and as an ethos.
We cannot allow our nation to be steered and defined and lead by people who cannot see and respect and celebrate others experiencing the simple joys of this life and who want to prevent them from it: whether they are singers or athletes or migrant families or transgender teenagers or young black men.
If you’re passionately insulted by someone else being in love or supporting their partner or succeeding in their work or reveling in the moment, take a look in the mirror and repeat after me:
It’s me. Hi. I’m the problem, it’s me…
John Pavlovitz is a writer, pastor, and activist from Wake Forest, North Carolina. A 25-year veteran in the trenches of local church ministry, John is committed to equality, diversity, and justice—both inside and outside faith communities. When not actively working for a more compassionate planet, John enjoys spending time with his family, exercising, cooking, and having time in nature. He is the author of A Bigger Table, Hope and Other Superpowers, Low, and Stuff That Needs to Be Said.