Peer pressure is a powerful tool employed to influence and control the behavior of others. It used to be the case that it was truly only effective amongst children, those not yet strong enough in character and resolve to resist the condemnation of others. In recent times, however, in our culture of political correctness, adults and corporations can regularly be seen caving to the demands of their peers for conformance.
Celebrity and activist Kim Kardashian West faced just such peer pressure last week when she announced her plans to visit the White House and celebrate the “First Step Act” with its key designers President Trump, his daughter Ivanka, and her husband Jared Kushner. Instead of conforming to prevailing Hollywood winds and avoiding the president, Kim, who has made criminal justice equality and prison reform her flag-in-soil issues, made the trip and made strong statements in support of the new program.
It was roughly a year ago that TMZ broke the story that Jay-Z had pressured fellow rapper Meek Mill, an outspoken supporter of criminal justice reform, to cancel a planned visit to Washington to participate in a conference the president had called to discuss the issue. Mill was given a chance to turn words into action and get involved in actually solving a problem. Peer pressure caused him to back away.
In praising the president’s freshly enacted legislation which gives an opportunity to people who have served their time for their criminal infraction, Kardashian committed Hollywood heresy by saying, “It is really such an honor to be here today,” and by calling the president’s new program “magic.”
Kardashian also went further when she likely infuriated late-night show hosts by using social media to praise Ivanka Trump:
"Thank you @IvankaTrump for helping me to start this amazing journey of fighting for people who truly deserve a second chance!"
Ivanka and Jared have been the subject of so much Hollywood hatred that you know Kim risked some serious Los Angeles heat by making such a positive public statement.
Courage is considered one of the four Cardinal Virtues of Western Civilization. It, along with wisdom, moderation, and justice, was identified going back to Plato as being essential to the ideal person. Aristotle said that courage was the mean between rashness and cowardice and pointed out that a person cannot live a good life if they went around being afraid all the time.
Politicians, not just celebrities, have been bowing to the fear created by peer pressure. During President Trump’s exploration of the prison reform issue, many Democratic politicians who harped on the need for such reform for years refused to participate because of the president’s involvement. They feared reprisal for standing alongside President Trump.
Where is the bellicose House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in all of this? Why isn’t the lady who has spoken out so often of injustice in the federal prison system not standing right next to the president talking about what is likely going to be the only piece of meaningful legislation passed prior to the 2020 election? She’s hiding. She’s afraid.
There can be no question that Pelosi supports the measure, indeed, she issued a terse, but positive statement back in December when the House passed the bill. But, stand next to the president and work together on Second Step legislation? Not happening.
The Speaker lacks courage. Like so many other politicians, celebrities, and everyday Americans she finds it easier to pander than she does to make a difficult stand, face criticism, and do what is right. She is a follower cast in the role of a leader.
This lack of courage is not some sort of liberal disease to which conservatives find themselves immune. In going to the White House and standing next to the president, Kim showed more courage than many Republicans have over the past three years. From Paul Ryan to Justin Amash, too many Republicans have been unwilling publicly to show support for the president, even though in the privacy of a smoke-filled room while gripping a cognac they whisper that they agree with what he is doing.
Courage hasn’t completely disappeared from the American political landscape. Activist Van Jones was a strong public advocate of the First Step Act despite his political and general lack of agreement with the president. It takes courage and strength to enter discussion and forge agreements with people whom you might otherwise find disagreeable. Cicero knew this 2,000 years ago. Nothing has changed.
Kim Kardashian West shows courage; Nancy Pelosi does not. Adam Levine shows courage playing at the Super Bowl; numerous other performers do not. Until American adult influencers and political leaders learn how to withstand peer pressure, our liberty is at stake. Why can’t adults resist the very thing they all teach their children to resist?