The Courage of Their Convictions

Walter Lippmann walterlx at
Tue Mar 25 07:33:11 MST 2003

(This excellent commentary also
contains the full texts of all of the
anti-war statements made at the
Academy Awards ceremony. No
pro-war statements were made.
If you watched the event on TV,
now take the time to read and
contemplate the many remarks.

(Officials tried to prevent any kind
of reflection of the reality going on
outside the Kodak Theater, but it
didn't work. The fact that Micheal
Moore's movie won for the best
documentary was particularly
heartening. See if if you haven't!)

Published on Monday, March 24, 2003 by

The Courage of Their Convictions
by Steven Shults

      It's been at least ten years since I've watched The
Oscars, probably more like fifteen. The whole spectacle
makes about as much sense to me as taking an apple, an
orange, a banana, a pear and a peach and voting one "best

      This year, however, I decided to watch again. I wanted
to see who made the choice to display an emblem of peace on
their multi-hundred dollar attire, and who had the courage
to donate some of their time at the podium to the peace

      Overall what I saw was very encouraging. I saw a total
of thirty people with silver dove pins or peace symbols on
their lapels and gowns shown on camera either while in their
seats or at the 'podium.' Eight people used their time at
the podium to speak for peace, against war or at least to
acknowledge that people are suffering because of war. No
statements were made in specific support of the invasion of
Iraq, though caring and respect was shown for the welfare of
the men and women ordered into the hell of combat.

      It may seem a small thing to wear a pin or speak your
mind, but in a town where "it's not what you know, it's who
you know" taking such a simple action can also be putting
your livelihood the line. Perhaps more treacherous is the
possibility that one may no longer be 'allowed' to practice
one's art. Any artist can tell you that risking the loss of
the ability to practice your craft is risking utter
heartbreak. For many artists, losing the ability to make art
takes with it the will to live. Any artist with even a
cursory knowledge of American history knows about the
Hollywood 'blacklist' of McCarthyism and knows that a
recurrence of such a witch hunt is more likely now than at
any time since.

      Neoconservative McCarthyism has already raised it's
head a few times in Hollywood recently. Sean Penn is suing a
producer who Penn says dropped him from a project after Penn
visited Iraq and wrote an open letter to Bush criticizing
the rush to war. Martin Sheen was asked to tone down his
activism and responded with an essay about the democratic
right of artists to express their opinions publicly, just as
any citizen has that right, without being accused of being
'un-American' or 'unpatriotic.' Newscasters, pundits, talk
show hosts, radio 'personalities' and members of the Bush
administration have criticized artists and celebrities who
have spoken out against this war. In some cases it's been
mild teasing, in other cases it's been vindictive and cruel,
sometimes even threatening.

      Those artists who made a statement for peace at the
Academy Awards tonight have both conviction and the courage
to back it up. Their belief that the war against Iraq is an
unjust and unnecessary war is strong enough that they are
willing to risk their ability to practice their art, their
ability to work at their chosen craft, to make a statement
against the war. This is not to attempt to equate such risks
with laying your life on the line for what you believe in as
the peace activists and soldiers who are in Iraq tonight are
doing. However the courage to take such risks is no less
deserved of respect and praise.

      Here are the words of those spoke out for peace,
against war and it's effects, or against the current
political climate, while on stage:

      Chris Cooper:
      "And in light of all the troubles in this world,
I wish us all peace." (loud applause)

      Gael Garcia Bernal:
      "The necessity for peace in the world is not a dream.
It is a reality, and we are not alone. If Frida was alive,
she would be on our side, against war." (whoops, cheers and
loud applause)

      Michael Moore:
      "I've invited my fellow documentary nominees on the
stage. They're here in solidarity with me because we like
nonfiction. We like nonfiction and we live in fictitious
times. We live in a time where we have fictitious election
results that elect a fictitious president. We live in a time
where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious
reasons. Whether it's the fictition of duct tape or
fictition of Orange Alerts, we are against this war, Mr.
Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush, shame on you. Any time you've
got the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, your time is
up." (raucous mixture of booing, cheers and applause
starting at midpoint and continuing until exit music)

      Adrian Brody:
      "It fills me with great joy, but I am also filled with
a lot of sadness tonight because I'm accepting an award at
such a strange time. My experiences of making this film made
me very aware of the sadness and dehumanization of people in
times of war and the repercussions of war. Whether you
believe in God or Allah, may he watch over you and let's
pray for a peaceful and swift resolution." (loud applause)
"I have a friend from Queens who's a soldier in Kuwait right
now, Tommy Szarabinski, and I hope you and your boys make it
back real soon and God bless you guys, I love you." (more
applause and standing ovation)

      Barbra Streisand:
      "I'm very proud to live in a country that guarantees
every citizen, including artists, the right to sing and to
say what we believe." (loud applause)

      Nicole Kidman:
      "Why do you come to the Academy Awards when the world
is in such turmoil? Because art is important" (cheers and
applause) "Because art is important and because you believe
in what you do and you want to honor that. At the same time
you say there's a lot of problems in the world and since
9/11 there's been a lot of pain in terms of families losing
people, and now there's a war with families losing people,
and God bless them." (loud applause and cheers)

      Frank Pierson (academy president):
      "To our men and women overseas, godspeed and let's get
you home soon. And to the Iraqi people, I say, let's have
peace soon and let you live without war." (loud applause)

      Pedro Almodovar:
      "I would like to dedicate this award to all the people
that are raising their voices in favor of peace, respect of
human rights, democracy and international legality" (cheers
and loud applause)

      Of these statements, Adrian Brody's was by far the
most eloquent, the most moving and the most powerful. It was
made even more so by the fact that the orchestra had begun
to play to signal that his time was up, but he admonished
them to stop playing so he could speak his peace (literally
and figuratively.) The enthusiastic appreciation of the
standing ovation which followed made his words yet more
powerful as the vast majority of his peers in attendance
added their support of his sentiments by their ovation.

      Michael Moore's acceptance speech will get far more
media attention than Brody's however. In perfect Michael
Moore style, he expressed raw indignation and ire in with no
holds barred. Those who booed seemed to do so with
premeditation, as if they had already decided to boo him
before he opened his mouth. This caused Moore to have to
yell to be heard above them, adding a harshness to the
moment. Though I'm quite fond of Michael Moore's movies,
books and politics, my first reaction was that he had gone
too far and that others who followed him later in the
evening would be less inclined to speak out because of it.
The tension in the air was quite palpable for several
minutes after Moore left the stage. Then again there are
times and situations which perhaps require that we go a bit
'too far' and this is surely one of those times.

      Showing their awareness of these times, the following
artists (and a few producers) were seen on camera at the
75th Academy Awards wearing either a silver dove or a peace
symbol and/or flashed a peace sign while on camera: (in
relative order of appearance) Amy Madigan, Josh Brolin,
Harvey Weinstein, Chris Cooper, Rob Marshall, Don Carmody,
Sir Ben Kingsley, Adrian Brody, Sylvia Plachy, Richard Gere,
Brendan Fraser, Salma Hayek, Beatrice De Alba, Michael
Douglas, Daniel Day Lewis, Julie Taymor, Martin Scorsese,
David Lee, Michael Moore, Michael Donovan, Colin Farrell,
Bono, Gina Davis, Susan Sarandon, Pedro Aldomovar, Scott
Rudin, Stephen Daldry, Joel Grey, Angelica Huston and Meryl

      Two lapels had small pins the shape or form of which I
could not identify, those of Peter O'Toole and Kirk Douglas.
Douglas had a strip of blue ribbon visible under his lapel
pin as well. Frank Pierson was wearing either a button with
the Oscar statue on it, or a yellow ribbon on a black
background, it was difficult to see which.

      The evening saw only three lapel items which could be
construed as pro-war. The wearers may not have intended
those symbols to be a statement of support for the war, but
the neoconservatives have done a thorough enough job of
co-opting those symbols that most of us tend to read them as
pro-war. Specifically I'm referring to Texan Matthew
McConaughey's red, white and blue boutonniere, Jon Voight's
American flag lapel pin, and Chad Lowe's yellow ribbon. Of
these, Jon Voight's is likely the only one which could be
interpreted as something other than a pro-war sentiment,
unless Chad Lowe is a big Tony Orlando & Dawn fan or too
young to remember 'Desert Storm.' Any doubt about the
meaning of McConaughey's red, white and blue boutonniere was
forcefully removed after Adrian Brody's eloquent and moving
words about the dehumanization of people in times of war and
the resultant standing ovation. As Brody was leaving the
stage and Dustin Hoffman was doing the intro to his
presentation, we were shown a close-up of McConaughey as he
sat fuming and clenching his jaws with the tension of trying
to restrain a very visible anger.

      Begrudgingly I must admit to having more respect for
those who chose to express their pro-war views with their
lapel-wear than I have for those who are against this war
but chose to make no statement at all. Earlier this week
Artists United to Win Without War circulated a press release
which announced Dustin Hoffman, Julianne Moore and Ben
Affleck, among others, had agreed to wear pins showing a
blue peace sign on a green background specially designed for
the event. Kathy Bates was named with others reported to
have agreed to wear the Dove of Peace pins provided by
Global Vision for Peace. But these artists chose not to
follow through. Apparently these four lacked the courage of
their convictions. Perhaps the fear of Neoconservative
yellow-ribbon McCarthyism backlash was too much for them. Or
perhaps they simply forgot that silence equals complicity.

      Steven Shults is a stage actor, activist and co-editor


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