"Yes, I am the most overrated, over-decorated and currently, I am the most over-berated actress ... of my generation," she said to laughs.Leaving aside the particular political questions -- including whether or not her opponents are properly described as "brownshirts" -- her remarks about honor are themselves interesting. What compels her to speak is honors, she says: in other words, just because so many people have said nice things about her or presented her with awards admiring her work as an actress, her voice in politics is important and needed in the public debate.
She noted that she wished she could simply stay home "and load the dishwasher" rather than take a podium to speak out - but that "the weight of all these honors" she's received in her career compelled her to speak out.
"It's terrifying to put the target on your forehead," she said. "And it sets you up for all sorts of attacks and armies of brownshirts and bots and worse, and the only way you can do it is if you feel you have to. You have to! You don't have an option. You have to."
At first it seems as if this might be a sensible thing to say. After all, one is honored for excellence; she has received many honors; therefore, she must in some sense be excellent. Politics should in theory benefit if it draws excellence. Certainly Aristotle and Plato both argue that political roles are best filled by those with excellence. Our English word "virtue" is from the Latin, but the Greek word is arete, which really does mean "excellence."
Thus, it seems as if a woman of proven excellence really ought to play an outsized role in politics -- just as she says, the honors she has received prove that she has a greater capacity than most, and that implies a duty to exercise that capacity for the common good. Politics needs people like her.
Well... maybe that's not quite right.
The problem is that there are two different things going on, and Streep is conflating them. As an actress, she is highly honored (and has therefore outsized duties, presumably). As a citizen, however, she is properly the equal of any other citizen. It is wrong to claim that she has an outsized role to play in a sphere in which she is properly only the equal of all other American citizens, not their superior.
Her celebrity gives her a louder voice, so to speak, but she is reading her warrant the wrong way. Rather than her honors as an actress making it imperative that she speak publicly, they ought to disincline her to do so -- and this is true for all such celebrities, regardless of their political views. Knowing that the attention they will receive will drown out others to whom they ought only to be equal, they should be circumspect about their political views.
Certainly that does not mean that celebrities should not participate in politics, which they have an equal entitlement to do. They should just take care not to use the honors they have received in the fields of arts, or sports, to 'talk over' their fellow citizens. That is what honor really requires here.