~AbanDoned X-preSsionz | Exploring Hypertext Journaling~ by Carla
Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Celebs. and Politics

I have been checking out the celebrity   Bush-whacking carried out by Hollywood stars, the latest being "I Am Sam" star, Sean Penn who recently unleashed An Open letter to the President of the United States of America to warn Bush against war.

"Many of your actions to date" writes Penn, "and those proposed seem to violate every defining principle of this country over which you preside: intolerance of debate (“with us or against us”), marginalization of your critics, the promoting of fear through unsubstantiated rhetoric, manipulation of a quick comfort media, and the position of your administration’s deconstruction of civil liberties all contradict the very core of the patriotism you claim. You lead, it seems, through a blood-lined sense of entitlement. Take a close look at your most vehement media supporters. See the fear in their eyes as their loud voices of support ring out with that historically disastrous undercurrent of rage and panic masked as “straight tough talk”.

How far have we come from understanding what it is to kill one man, one woman, or one child, much less the “collateral damage” of many hundreds of thousands. Your use of the words, “this is a new kind of war” is often accompanied by an odd smile. It concerns me that what you are asking of us is to abandon all previous lessons of history in favor of following you blindly into the future. It worries me because with all your best intentions, an enormous economic surplus has been squandered. Your administration has virtually dismissed the most fundamental environmental concerns and therefore, by implication, on gets the message that, as you seem to be willing to sacrifice the children of the world, would you also be willing to sacrifice ours. I know this cannot be your aim so, I beg you Mr. President, listen to Gershwin, read chapters of Stegner, of Saroyan, the speeches of Martin Luther King. Remind yourself of America. Remember the Iraqi children, our children, and your own."

Penn continues: "There can be no justification for the actions of Al Qaeda. Ever. Nor acceptance of the criminal viciousness of the tyrant, Saddam Hussein. Yet, that bombing is answered by bombing, mutilation by mutilation, killing by killing, is a pattern that only a great country like our can stop. However, principles cannot be recklessly or greedily abandoned in the guise of preserving them."

The day before Sean Penn's letter appeared in the papers, Woody Harrelson's own warning surfaced in The Guardian : "I'm an American tired of lies. And with our government, it's mostly lies...This is a racist and imperialist war. The warmongers who stole the White House (you call them "hawks", but I would never disparage such a fine bird) have hijacked a nation's grief and turned it into a perpetual war on any non-white country they choose to describe as terrorist." Barbara Streisand has also been busy on the political front quoting (or rather, misquoting Shakespeare and Julius Caesar) saying in a speech back in September which she gave at a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Hollywood: "So, in the words William Shakespeare, 'Beware the leader who
bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into patriotic fervor...patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind.'"

Many however, believe that Hollywood stars should keep their mouths out of politics and just stick to the business of acting/entertaining--notwithstanding popular radio celebrity Howard Stern, who earlier this year called Sean Penn an "idiot" because Penn had compared Stern and Fox News' Bill O'Reilly to Osama bin Laden.

As to Streisand's quote--she thought she was quoting Shakespeare but it was found out that the quote was actually an Internet prank. Incidentally, I also came across the cartoon the version of the quote which is attributed to Shakespeare.

But fundraising aside, can celebrities really make a political difference? As David Harsanyi posits in his essay False America Idols : "Many...believe celebrities are frivolously easy targets unworthy of our scorn. They must realize, however, that a single voice of a celebrity reaches more common Americans than a busload of think tank intellectuals. The influence of that voice is debatable. The necessity to oppose it is not."

He continues:"Apparently, something extraordinary happens when one becomes a celebrity. With all the attention, money and adoration, the narcissistic pop idol is too easily convinced that intelligence is a by-product of fame. Shooting faxes off to congressman as if they were political advisors, penning opinion pieces for major newspapers, the celeb believes that convictions formed in Beverly Hills compounds are more consequential and relevant than that of the ordinary American."

Freedom writer Peter Lemiska also asks: "How are entertainers like Sean Penn, Barbara Streisand, and Woody Harrelson equipped to educate the American people on U.S. foreign policy? Is their self-proclaimed insight derived from formal education, practical experience, or perhaps from the wonderful world of entertainment?"

My own opinion is that people in general, whether celebrities or ordinary citizens, have a right to speak on, argue and debate political issues. How much of their opinions the ordinary citizen should take to heart is another thing. As Pat Sajak (back in April) said in his thought-provoking speech The Disconnect Between Hollywood and America: "Here in this quiet, peaceful corner of Michigan, you might not have a sense of your importance in the world. I come from a community that has the opposite problem. Because it is so big and so powerful, so great and so well-known, it has an exaggerated view of its significance. That community is Hollywood. Not Hollywood, the town...I mean Hollywood, the Entertainment Mecca.... I happen to have a job that allows me a great deal of flexibility, and that gives me the luxury of living a real life in addition to my fake one.... You see, one of the dangers of my business is that it has the potential to fill you with a distorted view of life and of your importance in it...You see, they are — for the most part — clueless. Clueless about this country and its people. Clueless about you. And they are afraid."

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