SAN DIEGO — Who would have thought that we would get to the point where Ellen DeGeneres would be free to marry someone of the same sex — but not free to sit and watch a football game with someone who has different political beliefs?
We all know that the NFL can be rough. But it turns out the bruises can extend to those in the stands.
Apparently, liberalism has its limits. Those on the left who always have a sermon handy about the virtue of tolerance should practice what they preach. They're often more close-minded than the people whose minds they're trying to pry open. And because they're convinced they're right, and they feel morally superior to everyone else, they don't listen to criticism.
All of which brings me to a sad controversy about football and friendship. DeGeneres and her wife, Portia de Rossi, were in North Texas on a recent Sunday to watch the Dallas Cowboys play the Green Bay Packers, thanks to an invitation from the daughter of Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones. They were in the luxurious owner's suite, sitting next to another famous couple — former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush.
Someone took a photo of DeGeneres and the former president. The image went viral. And here's the worst part. In the photo, you could see Ellen and George — gasp! — laughing. There's more. As DeGeneres later revealed, the two of them are actually friends.
The nerve of these people, relaxing and having fun at a sporting event while the rest of America is at each other's throats.
It probably won't surprise you to learn that some folks rose up in anger to condemn this unlikely friendship. That's how it is with some people. They see some act of civility and kindness, and they have to try to discredit or ruin it.
This time, the uprising occurred on the left. Bush haters who also happen to be fans of DeGeneres had an especially hard time seeing someone they respect enjoying the company of a person they revile.
Many took to Twitter to air their grievances, and then quickly resorted to name-calling. To them, Bush is a liar, a war criminal and a bigot who opposes same-sex marriage. And those are just his good points.
A few days after the game, on her show, the host said she understood why some people were caught off guard.
"People were upset," she said. "They thought, why is a gay Hollywood liberal sitting next to a conservative Republican president?"
But then, in a classy move, DeGeneres didn't try to deny the friendship. Instead, she made clear that she doesn't let others choose her friends for her.
Bravo. None of us should let mob rule dictate our relationships. That's our business, and no one else's.
Then DeGeneres doubled down. She explained that she isn't just friends with people who she agrees with politically, and she insisted that being kind means being kind to everyone and not just people who think like we do.
"We're all different, and I think we've forgotten that that's OK that we're all different," she said. "Just because I don't agree with someone on everything doesn't mean I'm not going to be friends with them."
Fortunately, the reaction to the joint appearance wasn't all negative. There was also got a smattering of positive reviews from people who said seeing the photo of DeGeneres and Bush together renewed their faith in humanity.
That should have been the final scene, except that a few Hollywood celebrities were determined to script a different ending.
Actor Mark Ruffalo tweeted: "Sorry, until George W. Bush is brought to justice for the crimes of the Iraq War, (including American-lead torture, Iraqi deaths & displacement, and the deep scars — emotional & otherwise — inflicted on our military that served his folly), we can't even begin to talk about kindness."
Some people need to stop talking. Every former president has detractors. But they shouldn't be shunned by polite society.
I would say the same thing to those immigration advocates who think Bill Clinton and Barack Obama decimated the immigrant community in this country by ramping up deportations.
We've had enough division, acrimony, insult, harassment and violence in this country over the last few decades to take us into the next century. A single photo, and what it says about the power of friendship, was a refreshing break from all that noise. For that, we should be grateful.
Ruben Navarrette can be reached at email@example.com.