On a sunny and brisk November evening last fall, I went to Kanye West’s second Sunday service concert. I’m not remotely religious, but my wonderful friend Grace had bought tickets and invited me along. The intrigue was too great for me to refuse.
The outlandish celebrity had intermittently interacted with my periphery for years now. “Stronger” and “Flashing Lights” were arguably the songs that pulled me out of the hypnotism of top 40 pop in middle school and into the gritty, pulsing world of hip hop. I shamefully followed the tabloid gossip surrounding his burgeoning relationship with Kim Kardashian in the early years of high school. I was shell-shocked along with the rest of the country a couple years later when he grotesquely claimed that “slavery was a choice,” and was further discomfited by the numerous news vans surrounding the hospital where I worked and volunteered for hours every week in college when he was admitted for psychiatric supervision.
His was a difficult case for a lot of us. There is no arguing that he’s a musical genius, but his increasingly frequent, public discriminatory statements bled revulsion and guilt into his work, making it impossible to consume his music or fashion without sullying your support for human rights with hypocrisy.
Nonetheless, I went to the concert. I was consumed with guilt for supporting this man with my presence when I didn’t even remotely support him with my morals. I felt like an imposter among the crowd of religious enthusiasts, Kanye fans, or both, since I was none of the above. Ultimately, Kanye’s performance that night—a biblical retelling of the story of Nebuchadnezzar—left many disengaged as his lofty words were difficult to follow in an audience of thousands, nestled into the amphitheater of the Hollywood Bowl stadium.
After the concert, Grace and I sat on a cold picnic bench looking up at the dark night sky while we waited for our Lyft to arrive. In that moment, I felt even more empty and disengaged from this problematic, tumultuous celebrity. I’m not sure what it was that night that had completely disillusioned me. It wasn’t the performance—I couldn’t understand a word of it but it was still a beautiful sight to hold. But something that night made me realize that Kanye West was just another man spewing hate into the world. He was a father, and a son, and a husband, and he spewed hate into the world, as did a lot of other fathers and sons and husbands. But he, unlike others, had a global audience and a hideous amount of money. In that moment, I realized that fame is a disgusting beast that harms both the celebrity and the fan.
When he declared his intent to run for president earlier this month, I was incensed. Truly how much pain and verbal violence could this country suffer in succession? But after seeing his Twitter tirades this past week, I was reminded of my bleak sadness at the end of his concert, was once again filled with that melancholy sentiment.
I don’t know what parts of his behavior are attributable to his bipolar disorder and what parts are done in full cognizance, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. Kanye West is suffering a mental disorder that he should cope with in peace instead of underneath a national microscope. And he is unfit to be president, not only because he still has to heal and because he has hurt and discredited hundreds of thousands of Americans, but because the last four years have taught us plenty about what happens when eccentric, wealthy celebrities decide they have a place in the White House. Please do not vote for Kanye if he is on your state’s ballot and do not write his name in. This is as much for his sake, as it is for yours, and, most importantly, for that of our country.