ENTERTAINMENT/SOCIAL — Even Beyoncé Can’t Save You From The Real World

On Wednesday afternoon, singer-songwriter and all-around pop icon Beyoncé announced that she was pregnant with twins, shaking up headlines everywhere, much to the relief of the beleaguered American public. In a professional photo posted to her Instagram account, the singer announced that her family — husband and rap mogul Jay Z, and 5-year-old daughter Blue Ivy — “[would] be growing by two,” and thanked her fans for all of their well wishes. Despite the welcome break from what has so far been a tsunami of troubling political and foreign policy news, however, some rightly noted that Beyoncé’s happy baby announcement didn’t diminish in any capacity what was going on in the world — in fact, it seemed to highlight the stark contrast between the filtered reprieves celebrity and entertainment often serve the public and the darker realities that surround them.

“We would like to share our love and happiness,” the singer wrote in the caption of her Instagram post, which featured a photo of herself clad in a plum and sky-blue lingerie set and light green, sheer veil, holding her growing bump. “We have been blessed two times over.” She signed the caption, “The Carters.”

Across social media, fans and the public responded enthusiastically. Major news networks pushed breaking updates on the news, and even the Associated Press and Reuters — known for their straightforward reporting and unfussy headlines — spared a few moments to break the report.

It made sense, of course: Beyoncé is nothing if not a force of nature all her own. When she dropped her most recent album, Lemonade, complete with a visual companion aired on HBO, the metaphoric crowd went wild. Critics lauded the imagery, the refreshingly aggressive nature of the political and social commentary within, and the brutally honest nature of the underlying story arc (a woman betrayed by a cheating husband, with whom she reconciles in the end). The Hollywood Reporter called Lemonade a “Revolutionary Work of Black Feminism” — which it undoubtedly was — and Rolling Stone, the industry go-to in terms of music reviews, graced the album with a gleaming 5-star rating. Quoting the track “6-Inch,” the magazine noted that with her album drop and stunning companion videos, Beyoncé had “murdered everybody and the world was her witness.”

A Beyoncé baby announcement, then, was guaranteed to sweep headlines — which, naturally, it did.

Then, there were the other headlines. “Army Corps ordered to approve final step to finish Dakota Access Pipeline.” “U.N. Leader Says Trump Order ‘Violates Our Basic Principles’.” “Green-Card Holder Dies a Day After Being Prevented From Returning Home by Trump’s Order, Report Says.” “At least 12 Ukrainian soldiers killed in disputed east.”

Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the central square of Kiev, the capital city of Ukraine, filled with smoke, March 2014 (Photo by Street W[o]rk)
Over at Foreign Policy, Human Rights Watch’s Letta Tayler wrote of the Kurdish government’s horrific instances of alleged torture among young boys accused of working for the Islamic State. Tayler retold the story of a 14-year-old boy, “Ali,” who had been beaten and burned repeatedly with cigarettes by interrogators at a prison camp, in an attempt to get him to confess to working with Islamic State militants.

“At first I did not confess. Not until the last round of beating. Then I confessed straight away,” he told Tayler. Tayler recounted that “Ali” had maintained his innocence and that it “was only the torture … that forced his confession.”

“[T]hey told me, ‘You have to confess,'” the boy said.

Back in the United States, a wave of executive orders out of President Donald Trump’s office culminated with the most brutal so far: a temporary ban on immigrants and refugees from seven majority-Muslim countries, and perhaps an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees altogether. In Nairobi, Kenya, 137 Somalian refugees — plucked from a group of over 15,000 fleeing the bloody war and unrest in their home country — were told over the weekend that they would not be boarding their planned flights to the United States, as a result.

“I just got American clothing because I heard the country is very cold,” one refugee told USA Today reporters. “I got a big jacket in the market and told the vendor I would send money for it when I got a job in America.”

Protesters flood Hartsfield-Jackson airport following President Trump’s disputed travel ban, January 2017 (Photo by Tani.P)

In Washington, D.C. and halfway across the world in the northern Iraq town of Sinjar, The New Yorker reported, a young couple, about to celebrate two years of marriage, raced against the clock to beat Trump’s order. Khalas and Nada, who are both Yazidi — an ethno-religious group that pre-dates Islam and has been under attack by ISIS militants for years — were unsure whether they would be together on their anniversary.

“[Nada] wants to get on the plane, but we don’t know what will happen if she gets here,” Khalas, who was granted a special refugee visa for his work as an interpreter with the U.S. Army, told The New Yorker‘s Kirk W. Johnson this week. “Will she have to go back?”

In the meantime, on Capitol Hill, the dissonance between Democrats uneasy with Trump’s new policies and Republicans eager to push through more aggressive action had grown to a clamor. Senate hearings remained tense as questions about Trump’s policies and whether prospective nominees would follow along became the centerpiece. On Twitter, many Democrats lashed out at what they perceived as relative silence from their right-leaning colleagues on the refugee ban. The firing of former acting Attorney General Sally Yates earlier in the week, over her unwillingness to enforce the ban due to concerns about constitutionality, seemed to be the tipping point.

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It’s a lot to unpack. Certainly, social media felt that weight. Beyoncé breaking the din with a happy announcement about her pregnancy seemed to temporarily relieve the public of its constant struggle not to get crushed under that daily burden of depressing statistics, new and concerning legislation in the House, gruesome bickering in the Senate, and the impact of Trump’s orders on the rest of the world.

To say Beyoncé herself chose to drop her baby news at this exact moment out of ignorance over real issues, though, would be irresponsible; Of all the megastars today, she’s proven more often than most to be in-tune with the struggles society faces — Lemonade, with its references to the cruelty inflicted on young black men and women by people in position of power; the disrespect felt by many black women; and inclusivity in feminist conversations, is absolute evidence of that fact.

What the news does do is force the viewer, the follower, or the fan to enjoy the brief respite while reviewing the current state of affairs. For as much as Beyoncé’s pregnancy news does to brighten the overall news cycle, it also serves to contrast the darker conversations we need to have, simultaneously. If Beyoncé is bringing two new bundles of joy into the world, it’s hard to believe that, as a mother, she wouldn’t be equally conscious of that fact.

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Image: Thanassis 79/Flickr

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