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A Lesson in History

Wednesday, April 16th, 2003 · 12 Comments

Anna Quindlen has an excellent commentary in the April 21, 2003 issue of Newsweek: The Sounds of Silence. Whether you support the war in Iraq or not, I challenge you to provide a valid argument that justifies some of the disgusting behavior we’ve recently witnessed.

Americans are afraid to speak out against the war (save few courageous individuals like Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Michael Moore). This has got to stop. Our country’s foundation is built upon free speech and the right to criticize our leaders. Yet the Bush administration has succeeded in taking a country that was united (and even had the support of a world that sympathized with us) by the horror of 9/11 and divided us. And anyone who speaks out is chastized for being un-American or not supporting the troops. Our Constitutional rights are being put on the line in the name of this unending and ambiguous “War on Terror” that was put into full effect following the perfect excuse that 9/11 provided the Bush administration to charge ahead with its Project for the New American Century, which preaches some pretty scary rhetoric.

Quindlen puts it far more eloquently:

    A lesson in American history: each time the United States becomes imperial, it betrays the very keystone upon which its greatness rests.

    If, in the shadow of the unilateralist power niche the United States will occupy in the foreseeable future, its citizens are pressured by their government, their communities and their neighbors to speak with one cautious voice, we will have saved Iraq and damned ourselves. In a democratic society, the only treason is silence.

Another excellent and moving commentary is Tim Robbins’ April 15, 2003 speech to the National Press Club. Here are a couple snippets from it:

    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.

    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.

So speak out. Do not be afraid. Do not be intimidated. Damn the silence.

Tags: war

12 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jose Luis // Apr 16, 2003 at 12:20 pm

    Very simply, the hall of fame is a PRIVATE not-for-profit educational institution and as such it has the right to pick and choose its associations.
    Highly doubtful that an institution so closely linked to the American public psyche is going a group of rhetoric spouting left-wing extremists at their forum.

  • 2 Jose Luis // Apr 16, 2003 at 12:22 pm


    i type too fast 🙂

  • 3 Jose Luis // Apr 16, 2003 at 12:23 pm

    going to have, I meant

  • 4 gabe // Apr 16, 2003 at 1:00 pm

    you believe that susan sarandon and tim robbins are “left-wing extremists” for voicing their opinions about the war? for exercising their rights as american citizens to speak freely? what about that is extreme?

    by contrast, you don’t think an administration that has planned to attack iraq since 1998 is extreme? yet sarandon and robbins are? huh?

    next, let’s go with the assumption that a private, not-for-profit educational institution — which describes nearly every private college in america — has the right to pick and choose its associations. doncha think that’s a dangerous attitude? for a college — where the youth and future leaders go to learn and become functioning members of society — to pick and choose its associations — its student body, its campus speakers — and discriminate against anyone who might disagree? that’s a rather ignorant view of the world. how can you expect to expand your perception and understanding of the world around you if you’re not willing to at least consider viewpoints that are different from your own? why would you shut those out? we’re back to the whole crossgates mall “peace on earth” let’s arrest his ass because it’s private property scenario.

    and with that, i’ll leave you with these quotes (both available on my quotes page, of course):

    “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
    – F. Scott Fitzgerald

    “Americans are not a particular people from a particular place. They are the embodiment of the human spirit of freedom. Everyone who holds to that spirit, everywhere, is an American.”
    – Peter Ferrara
    September 2001

  • 5 Jose Luis // Apr 16, 2003 at 1:33 pm

    My comments are not pro or anti war but rather for the right of individuals and private institutions to regulate their associations. If I had a mall therefore MY private property I have the RIGHT to not let you in if I don’t like your haircut even if thats your own way of “self-expression” period.

    Colleges are not allowed to pick and choose their associations because they receive federal funding therefore they are subject to rules and regulations.

    About the three stooges Moore, Sarandon and Robins, I don’t believe they’re extremists because of their anti-war views but rather for the way they present and defend their arguments.

    quoting a coment that I feel it relates to the issue at hand in this article Where the Peace Movement Went Wrong

    “The problem is in part with the notion of a “peace” or “anti-war” movement, which presumes agreement on the position that recourse to war is unjustified under any imaginable set of circumstances. That is not a serious position, it will never command any significant allegiance in American politics, and frankly I doubt that all of the members of the so-called peace movement actually believe it. A left foreign policy needs to do the hard work of explaining what criteria need to be met before resorting to war, and why those criteria are the right ones.

    A case in point is Michael Moore’s pointless slap at the NATO airstrikes on Kosovo in Bowling For Columbine, a film I otherwise liked. The NATO intervention in Kosovo stopped a genocide, period, end of discussion. America has no hidden imperialist agenda in the Balkans. If you’re not an across-the-board pacifist and you think NATO shouldn’t have acted in Kosovo, it seems to me that you’re obliged to offer a pretty compelling explanation why. Moore doesn’t”

    I am very open to hear other views to possibly change my own, but I need to be convinced with something more than baseless paranoia.

  • 6 gabe // Apr 16, 2003 at 3:34 pm

    sarandon, robbins, and moore are also private institutions. who’s to say they can’t express their own views? but that’s not even so much the point. robbins was not using the baseball hall of fame to express any political stance. his appearance was cancelled due to views he HAS expressed (past tense).

    and what business does the baseball hall of fame have in promoting its own political agenda? don’t you think it’s ridiculous to censor an event showcasing a film that is pure entertainment — having NOTHING to do with the war or politics — simply because of who happens to star in it? it’s not like robbins and sarandon were going to use the hall of fame as a forum for speaking out against the war anyway. THAT’S the point. did you read the ridiculous statement issued by Dale Petrovskey? remember, petrovskey — not robbins — is the one who turned this into political warfare in the first place, saying:

    “We believe your very public criticism of President Bush at this important–and sensitive–time in our nation’s history helps undermine the US position, which ultimately could put our troops in even more danger.”

    as robbins replied: “I am sorry that you have chosen to use baseball and your position at the Hall of Fame to make a political statement.”

    (both letters:

    and don’t ya think the hall of fame is a bit hypocritical? they have no problem honoring a wife beater. (

    baseless paranoia about what? that the bush administration has been planning to attack iraq since 1998 and september 11 provided just that excuse? that’s not paranoia, my friend. that’s fact.

    here are more facts:
    – halliburton (cheney’s former company) is profiting from this war
    – it’s already cost american taxpayers more than $1,000 EACH to support this war (
    – no weapons of mass destruction have been found in iraq (wasn’t that the justification for going to war in the first place?)

    what paranoia?

  • 7 Jose Luis // Apr 16, 2003 at 4:16 pm

    We are discussing two different things, you seem to be defending the right of the three stooges to have and voice whatever opinion they have. I agree 100 percent.

    I am defending the right of a private person or institution associate or disassociate at will.

    They have a right to voice their opinions, I have the right to not run the risk of have the opinions voiced at my PRIVATE institution.

    Re: baseless paranoia about what?

    My comments where geared towards the radicalism of such actors expressing and defending their arguments with what in my view are baseless paranoia and conspiracy theories. It appears ironic to me that the better arguments against the war are from quintessential conservative figures such as Pat Buchannan and Dick Armey

  • 8 Dave Reed // Apr 16, 2003 at 9:50 pm

    Dear god. Where do I start? 🙂

    Puckett: The Hall’s treatment of him is different from the stars of “Bull Durham” in that:

    1. they never asked Kirby to speak for anything (besides his own Hall induction; and
    2. his Hall induction was for his playing career, which is all they support.

    Private entity’s right of associations: As a private, non-profit preservation entity of baseball history, the Hall of Fame has every right to choose with whom they associate. Does it matter if Tim Robbins was never going to turn it into a political forum? No. His previous comments will be associated with him regardless of where he is, and any reporter will make some sort of note about Robbins’ political stance in their report. That would be the same for Pete Rose and his alleged gambling, and anything about “Shoeless Joe” Jackson will contain a note about the allegations of him participating in throwing the World Series.

    If anything, the Baseball Hall of Fame should be preventing viewpoints from either side and stay neutral. They are still a business, and anything that would put them in a position to be viewed negatively will be detrimental to their business.

    As for college speakers: Gabe, you should know that, for some universities, having someone speak who is pro-war would certainly be against the viewpoints of the uni’s students. That would still challenge students and prepare them for the world.

    As far as I know, universities have to approve any speakers for any event associated with it. That may not include club events, though I’m not certain about that.

    I’d have to agree with Jose concerning the rationality of the anti-war segment of the population. It does seem that very few people in that realm are capable of making a reasonable case for being against the war. That’s not to say that one doesn’t exist, but a stance for “I’m against war in any and all cases” is simply too emotion-based and unrealistic.

    I think Tim Robbins exemplifies the lack of rationality with this comment in his letter to the Hall of Fame:

    “I had been unaware that baseball was a Republican sport.”

    That had absolutely nothing to do with anything Petrovsky wrote. Petrovsky states that the HoF believes that the President is a person who “is constitutionally bound to make decisions he believes are in the best interests of the American people.” The HoF’s support of Bush is based on that. Robbins is merely inserting his own bias into the equation.

    And why was Tim so upset about his rights of Free Speech allegedly being infringed? Petrovsky never said that he couldn’t say anything, just that the HoF does not want to be associated with his position. If anything, Tim’s emotional response gives plenty of reasons to be concerned about how he’d be at the “Bull Durham” celebration.

    That’s not to say that Petrovsky’s position isn’t all that great, either. I do not know what Robbins has said against the Bush Administration, so I can’t say whether what he said really would have jeopardized U.S. troops. At first glance, his comment to that effect seems to reach too far; I doubt Tim Robbins knows enough to have any sort of effect on U.S. troops’ safety.

    Whew! On a last note, one thing that’s great about your blog (for me) is that it makes me think about politics. That’s something I don’t do normally, since I hate politics itself.

  • 9 gabe // Apr 17, 2003 at 9:01 am

    hey dave- thanks for adding to this heated debate. i just have to reply to a few of the things you said:


  • 10 Dave Reed // Apr 17, 2003 at 10:43 pm

    Hmmm. Well, let’s go about this in this manner:

    – I misunderstood what Tim Robbins had to do with the celebration of “Bull Durham”. Given that, it does seem rather silly for the HoF to cancel such a celebration.
         A 15th Anniversary seems like an odd time to celebrate something like that anyway. Still, the HoF has every right to do as they wish for what they support. Right now is just a bad time politically, and they’re wise to avoid it.

    – Puckett. The Hall supports his playing career and nothing more. The Hall has nothing to do with Tim Robbins since he’s just an actor. The only remote thing they have to do with him is for the fact that he was in “Bull Durham”. They support the story and characters, not the people who star in it.

    – Rational cases against war: Remember that I didn’t say that nobody could make a rational case against it, but that most fail to do so.

    Of the points you make, I agree with:

    – the cost: although, from what I understand, budget deficits are projected sums rather than actual figures, it’s still ludicrous to spend money willy-nilly when we really need to focus on things here at home.

    The ones I’m neutral about:

    – Oil: as I see it, the big oil companies would benefit greatly in any case. If we didn’t invade, the oil companies can regulate the oil as desired and gradually charge more, citing “decreased oil flows” or by taking advantage of any slowing of oil flowing from Iraq, etc. to us.

    – Death: it’s a fact of war and unavoidable. Does it suck? Of course. Death is never a good thing, but one cannot do a thing about it except do their best to minimize things. Human error still is a factor and will contribute to it.

    The lack of WMD concerns me as well, but, seriously, Saddam would not just leave those kinds of things sitting around in the middle of a playground or something. He would be an idiot to not hide those to make it horribly difficult and time-consuming to find them.

    Even if the U.S. forces find them, there’ll still be some doubt as to the legitimacy of the ownership of said chemicals and such. But, that depends on how much a person wants to rely on conspiracy.

    I’m certainly not happy with war in Iraq, but I know there isn’t a thing I can do about it. I can only hope that the leaders have truly made the right decision, and I’ll be looking, waiting to see if they screw up.

    I saw the Doonesbury to which you refer. I’ve assumed that “Pox Americus” was purposely phrased and not a typo (since that phrase was, to me, a reference to “Pax Romanus”). That leads to a question: who was the Roman helmet supposed to represent?

  • 11 Dave Reed // Apr 17, 2003 at 10:44 pm

    Nuts. Gabe? Any way you can implement a way for a user to edit his/her own posts? 🙂

  • 12 gabe // Apr 18, 2003 at 11:56 am

    check out this article that jen just forwarded to me: