A long but interesting read.

Countering a Wave of Hate
>
> By Tim Robbins
> April 17, 2003
>
> Transcript of the speech given by actor Tim Robbins to the National
> Press Club in Washington, D.C., on April 15, 2003.
>
>
> I had originally been asked here to talk about the war and our current
> political situation but I have instead chosen to hijack this
opportunity
> and talk about baseball and show business. Just kidding. Sort of.
>
>
> I can't tell you how moved I have been at the overwhelming support I
> have received from newspapers throughout the country these past few
> days. I hold no illusions that all of these journalists agree with me
on
> my views against the war. While the journalist's outrage at the
> cancellation of our appearance in Cooperstown is not about my views;
it
> is about my right to express these views. I am extremely grateful that
> there are those of you out there still with a fierce belief in
> constitutionally guaranteed rights. We need you the press, now more
than
> ever. This is a crucial moment for all of us.
>
>
> For all the ugliness and tragedy of 9-11 there was a brief period
> afterwards where I held a great hope. In the midst of the tears and
> shocked faces of New Yorkers, in the midst of the lethal air we
breathed
> as we worked at Ground Zero, in the midst of my children's terror at
> being so close to this crime against humanity, in the midst of all of
> this I held onto a glimmer of hope in the naive assumption that
> something good could come out of all this. I imagined our leaders
> seizing upon this moment of unity in America, this moment when no one
> wanted to talk about Democrat vs. Republican, white vs. black or any
of
> the other ridiculous divisions that dominate our public discourse.
>
>
> I imagined our leaders going on television, telling the citizens that
> although we all want to be at Ground Zero we can't. But there is work
> that is needed to be done all over America. Our help is needed at
> community centers, to tutor children, to teach them to read, our work
is
> needed at old age homes to visit the lonely and infirmed, in gutted
> neighborhoods to rebuild housing and clean up parks, and convert
> abandoned lots into baseball fields.
>
>
> I imagined leadership that would take this incredible energy, this
> generosity of spirit, and create a new unity in America born out of
the
> chaos and tragedy of 9-11. A new unity that would send a message to
> terrorists everywhere: If you attack us we will become stronger,
> cleaner, better educated, more unified. You will strengthen our
> commitment to justice and democracy by your inhumane attacks on us.
Like
> a phoenix out of the fire we will be re-born.
>
>
> And then came the speech. "You are either with us or against us" And
the
>
>
> bombing began. And the old paradigm was restored as our leader
> encouraged us to show our patriotism by shopping and by volunteering
to
> join groups that would turn in their neighbor for any suspicious
> behavior.
>
>
> In the 19 months since 9-11 we have seen our democracy compromised by
>
> fear and hatred. Basic inalienable rights, due process, the sanctity
of
> the home have been quickly compromised in a climate of fear. A unified
> American public has grown bitterly divided and a world population that
> had profound sympathy and support for us has grown contemptuous and
> distrustful, viewing us as we once viewed the Soviet Union, as a rogue
> state.
>
>
> This past weekend Susan and I and the three kids went to Florida for a
> family
>
> re-union of sorts. Amidst the alcohol and the dancing and the
> sugar-rushing children there was, of course talk of the war. The most
> frightening thing about the weekend was the amount of times we were
> thanked for speaking out against the war because that individual
> speaking thought it unsafe to do so in their own community in their
own
> life. "Keep talking. I haven't been able to open my mouth."
>
>
> A relative tells me that a history teacher tells his 11-year-old son,
my
>
>
> nephew, that Susan Sarandon is endangering the troops by her
opposition
> to the
>
> war. Another teacher in a different school asks our niece if we were
> coming to the school play. "They're not welcome here," said the molder
> of young minds.
>
>
> Another relative tells me of a school board decision to cancel a
civics
> event that was proposing to have a moment of silence for those who
have
> died in the war because the students were including dead Iraqi
civilians
> in their silent prayer. A teacher in another nephew's school is fired
> for wearing a t-shirt with a peace sign on it. And a friend of the
> family tells of listening to the radio down south as the talk radio
host
> calls for the murder of a prominent anti-war activist.
>
>
> Death threats have appeared on other prominent peaceniks doorsteps for
> their views against the war. Realtives of ours have received
threatening
> e-mails and phone calls. My 13-year-old boy, who has done nothing to
> anybody, has been embarrassed and humiliated by a sadistic creep who
> writes, or rather, scratches, his column with his fingers in the dirt.
>
>
> Susan and I have been listed as traitors, as supporters of Saddam, and
> various other epithets by the Aussie gossip rags masquerading as
> newspapers and by their "fair and balanced" electronic media cousins,
> 19th Century Fox. Apologies to Gore Vidal. Two weeks ago, the United
Way
> cancelled Susan's appearance at a conference on women's leadership and
> both of us last week were told that both we and the 1st Amendment were
> not welcome at the Baseball Hall of Fame.
>
>
> A famous rock and roller called me last week to thank me for speaking
> out against the war only to go on to tell me that he could not speak
> himself because he fears repercussions from Clear Channel. "They
promote
> our concert appearances," he said. "They own most of the stations that
> play our music. I can't come out against this war." And here in
> Washington, [veteran White House correspondent] Helen Thomas finds
> herself banished to the back of the room and uncalled on after asking
> Ari Fleisher whether our showing prisoners of war at Guantanamo Bay on
> television violated the Geneva Convention.
>
>
> A chill wind is blowing in this nation. A message is being sent
through
> the White House and its allies in talk radio and Clear Channel and
> Cooperstown. "If you oppose this administration there can and will be
> ramifications." Every day the airwaves are filled with warnings,
veiled
> and unveiled threats, spewed invective and hatred directed at any
voice
> of dissent. And the public, like so many relatives and friends that I
> saw this weekend, sit in mute opposition and in fear.
>
>
> I'm sick of hearing about Hollywood being against the war. Hollywood's
> heavy hitters, the real power brokers and cover of the magazine stars
> have been largely silent on this issue. But Hollywood, the concept,
has
> always been a popular target.
>
>
> I remember when the Columbine high school shootings happened,
President
> Clinton criticized Hollywood for contributing to this terrible
tragedy.
> This as we were dropping bombs over Kosovo. Could the violent actions
of
> our leaders contribute somewhat to the violent fantasies our teenagers
> are having? Or is it all just Hollywood and rock and roll?
>
>
> I remember reading at the time that one of the shooters had tried to
> enlist to fight the real war a week before he acted out his war in
real
> life at Columbine. I talked about this in the press at the time and
> curiously no one accused me of being unpatriotic for criticizing
> Clinton. In fact, the same talk-radio patriots that call us traitors
> today engaged in daily personal attacks on their president during the
> war in Kosovo.
>
>
> Today, prominent politicians who have decried violence in movies, (the
> blame-Hollywooders if you will), recently voted to give our current
> president the power to unleash real violence in our current war. They
> want us to stop the fictional violence but are OK with the real kind.
> And these same people that tolerate the real violence of war don't
want
> to see the result of it on the nightly news. Unlike the rest of the
> world, our news coverage of this war remains sanitized, without a
> glimpse of the blood and gore inflicted upon our soldiers or the women
> and children in Iraq. Violence as a concept, an abstraction.
>
>
> It's very strange. As we applaud the hard-edged realism of the opening
> battle scene of Saving Private Ryan, we cringe at the thought of
seeing
> the same on the nightly news. We are told it would be pornographic. We
> want no part of reality in real life. We demand that war be
> painstakingly realized on the screen but that war remain imagined and
> conceptualized in real life.
>
>
> And in the midst of all this madness, where is the political
opposition?
> Where have all the Democrats gone? Long time passing, long time ago?
> With apologies to Robert Byrd, I have to say it is pretty embarrassing
> to live in a country where a five-foot-one comedian has more guts than
> most politicians. We need leaders, not pragmatists that cower before
the
> spin zones of former entertainment journalists. We need leaders who
> understand the Constitution - Congressmen who don't, in a moment of
> fear, abdicate their most important power, the right to declare war,
to
> the executive branch. And please, can we stop the Congressional
> sing-a-longs?
>
>
> In this time when a citizenry applauds the liberation of a country as
it
> lives in fear of its own freedom, when an administration official
> releases an attack ad questioning the patriotism of a legless Vietnam
> veteran running for Congress, when people all over the country fear
> reprisal if they use their right to free speech, it is time to get
> angry. It is time to get fierce. It doesn't take much to shift the
tide.
> My 11-year-old nephew, mentioned earlier, a shy kid who never talks in
> class, stood up to his history teacher who was questioning Susan's
> patriotism.
>
>
> "That's my aunt you're talking about. Stop it!" and the stunned
teacher
> backtracked and began stammering compliments in embarrassment.
>
>
> Sports writers across the country reacted with such overwhelming fury
at
> the Hall of Fame that the president of the Hall admitted he made a
> mistake and Major League Baseball disavowed any connection to the
> actions of the Hall's president. A bully can be stopped. So can a mob.
> It takes one person with the courage and a resolute voice. The
> journalists in this country can battle back at those who would
re-write
> our Constitution in the PATRIOT Act II or Patriot, the sequel, as we
> would call it in Hollywood. We are counting on you to star in that
> movie.
>
>
> Journalists can insist that they not be used as publicists by this
> administration. The next White House correspondent to be called on by
> Ari Fleischer should defer their question to the back of the room to
the
> banished journalist de jour. Any instance of intimidation to free
speech
> should be battled against. Any acquiescence to intimidation at this
> point will only lead to more intimidation. You have, whether you like
it
> or not, an awesome responsibility and an awesome power. The fate of
> discourse, the health of this republic is in your hands, whether you
> write on the left or the right.
>
>
> This is your time and the destiny you have chosen. We lay the
> continuance of our democracy on your desks and count on your pens to
be
> mightier. Millions are watching and waiting in mute frustration and
> hope. Hoping for someone to defend the spirit and letter of our
> Constitution and to defy the intimidation that is visited upon us
daily
> in the name of national security and warped notions of patriotism.
>
>
> Our ability to disagree, and our inherent right to question our
leaders
> and criticize their actions define who we are. To allow those rights
to
> be taken away out of fear, to punish people for their beliefs, to
limit
> access in the news media to differing opinions is to acknowledge our
> democracy's defeat.
>
>
> These are challenging times. There is a wave of hate that seeks to
> divide us, right and left, pro-war and anti-war. In the name of my
> 11-year-old nephew and all the other unreported victims of this
hostile
> and unproductive environment of fear, let us try to find our common
> ground. Let us celebrate this grand and glorious experiment that has
> survived for 227 years. To do so we must honor and fight vigilantly
for
> the things that unite us. Like freedom, the first amendment and, yes,
> baseball.