Another <expletive> For Peace?!?

John A. Quayle blueoval at SGI.NET
Wed Apr 16 09:28:36 MDT 2003


Text of Tim Robbins speech
Transcript of actor's address to National Press Club

Posted: April 16, 2003
6:33 a.m. Eastern

Editor's note: The following is the text of the luncheon speech given by 
actor Tim Robbins to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on April 
15, 2003.

© 2003

TIM ROBBINS: Thank you. And thanks for the invitation. 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. (Laughter.) 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 in these past few days. I 
hold no illusions that all of these journalists agree with me on my views 
against the war. While the journalists' 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 of the ugliness and tragedy of 9-11, there was a brief period 
afterward 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 this, I held on 
to a glimmer of hope in the naive assumption that something good could come 
out of it.

I imagined our leaders seizing upon this moment of unity in America, this 
moment when no one wanted to talk about Democrat versus Republican, white 
versus 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 to 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, and 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 reborn.

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 reunion of sorts. Amidst the alcohol and the dancing, sugar-rushing 
children, there was, of course, talk of the war. And 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, 
they said; 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 are 
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 anti-war 
activists' doorsteps for their views. Relatives of ours have received 
threatening e-mails and phone calls. And my 13-year-old boy, who has done 
nothing to anybody, has recently been embarrassed and humiliated by a 
sadistic creep who writes -- or, rather, scratches his column with his 
fingernails in 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. (Laughter.) Apologies to Gore Vidal. (Applause.)

Two weeks ago, the United Way canceled Susan's appearance at a conference 
on women's leadership. And both of us last week were told that both we and 
the First Amendment were not welcome at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

A famous middle-aged 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, Helen Thomas finds herself banished to the back of 
the room and uncalled on after asking Ari Fleischer whether our showing 
prisoners of war at Guantanamo Bay on television violated the Geneva 

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 air waves 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 fear.

I am sick of hearing about Hollywood being against this 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 of our teenagers? 
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 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 okay 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. 
(Applause.) 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. (Applause.) We need leaders, not pragmatists 
that cower before the spin zones of former entertainment journalists. We 
need leaders who can understand the Constitution, congressman 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 please stop the 
congressional sing-a- longs? (Laughter.)

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. And 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 backtracks and 
began stammering compliments in embarrassment.

Sportswriters 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, and 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 rewrite 
our Constitution in 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. (Applause.) 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 du jour. (Applause.) And any instance of 
intimidation to free speech should be battled against. Any acquiescence or 
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 
as a nation. 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. (Applause.)

Related story:

<>Tim Robbins: U.S. 
viewed as Soviet Union
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