Tuesday, April 25, 2006


"A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be the constant companion of your walk."
Thomas Jefferson

By Avi Davis

“This is my right, a right given by God

To live a free life, to live in Freedom

We’re talkin' about Freedom

Talkin' bout Freedom

I will fight, for the right

To live in Freedom"

Freedom (Paul McCartney)

So sang the former Beatle in October, 2001 before a packed audience at Madison Square Garden in New York City. That McCartney should sing so forcefully about a current event, something he is otherwise loathe to do, should have surprised no one.

At the time, the ruins of the World Trade Center were still smoldering within a few miles of the concert venue and the senses of the entire American citizenry were keenly attuned to a fundamental change in the nature of warfare.

But McCartney, not known as a particularly deep thinker, had this time actually plumbed a profound sensibility within the West’s consciousness: that it was not the United States but civilization itself that had come under assault on September 11.

Sweeping across the spectrum of political thought, politicians, artists, entertainers, celebrities – almost the entire cultural elite, became obsessed with the view that an enemy had been identified and that our way of life, taken so long for granted, might actually require vigorous defense.

Sadly, it only lasted a few months. That forthright conviction very soon dissipated among the glitterati, to be replaced by a solipsistic sense of guilt. The phantom figures stalking behind the World Trade Center attack were replaced by the specter of an American government intent on destroying civil liberties; the war on terror transformed into an imperialistic adventure based on manufactured information and the greed of American capitalists; the imprecations of Osama Bin Laden were obscured by the exaggerated hubris of George W. Bush.

For all the urgent talk about American security and the terrorist threat to our urban centers, the deeper suspicions among our celebrities center today on the intentions of American leaders themselves.

Cynicism, negativity, defeatism and rejection of any notion of patriotism typifies their commentary when referring to their own country.

Their jaded attitudes echo across the land as a clarion call to arms – not against the leaders of a death cult who are sworn to the eradication of the very liberties they seemingly cherish - but against American corporations, evangelical Christians, conservative thinkers and the President of the United States.

A sample of the comments from some of these cultural icons, taken over the past five years, should be enough to testify to the kind of political posturing that panders to the far left and passes today as radical chic:

Harry Belafonte: “ I not only think that they [U.S. leaders] are misguided, but I think they know exactly what they are doing and I think that they are men who are possessed of evil.

"Sandra Bernhard: "The infrastructure of America and the world is caving in, and George Bush is a figurehead of that.

"George Clooney: I believe he(Bush) thinks this is a war that can be won, but there is no such thing anymore. We can't beat anyone anymore.

"Sheryl Crow: “I think war is based in greed and there are huge karmic retributions that will follow. I think war is never the answer to solving any problems. The best way to solve problems is to not have enemies.

"Janeane Garofalo: “This will potentially be one of the worst chapters in American history that will go on for twenty or thirty years, until democracy, in some fashion, is re-established.

”Larry Hagman: "[Bush is a] sad figure: not too well educated, who doesn't get out of America much. He's leading the country towards fascism.

"Jessica Lange: “I hate Bush; I despise him and his entire administration, everything he represents and everything he has tried to do, not only internationally, which is horrific, but domestically as well.”

Rosie O’Donnell: “You know [President Bush] invaded a sovereign nation [Iraq] in defiance of the U.N. He is basically a war criminal! He should be tried in the Hague!

Gwyneth Paltrow: "I think George Bush is such an embarrassment to America in the way that he doesn't take the rest of the world into consideration. And it all seems to be for him and his friends to keep getting richer at the expense of a nation, at the expense of the environment. It's like a full scale assault on the environment.

Sean Penn: “We now have a president who thinks in terms of good and evil, and that comes from watching too many Hollywood movies.”

Tim Robbins: “ In this time when a citizenry applauds the liberation of a country as it lives in fear of its own freedom. Let us find a way to resist fundamentalism that leads to violence--fundamentalism of all kinds, in al Qaeda and within our own government. What is our fundamentalism? Cloaked in patriotism and our doctrine of spreading democracy throughout the world, our fundamentalism is business, the unfettered spread of our economic interests throughout the globe.”

Julia Roberts: "He's embarrassing. He's not my president. He will never be my president."

Susan Sarandon: "In the name of fear and fighting terror we are giving the reigns of power to oil men more interested in a financial bottom line than a moral bottom line. Oil men ready to expand their influence with new contracts on the soil our bombers have plowed…”

Martin Sheen: "Every time I cross the Canadian border I feel like I've left the land of lunatics. You are not armed and dangerous. You do not shoot each other. I always feel a bit more human when I come here."

Patti Smith: “The world right now is being run by a**holes like George Bush and pharmaceutical companies, these greedy people who don’t care about the environment, who don’t really understand the poor, who don’t understand other cultures.”

Oliver Stone: "Bin Laden was completely protected by the oil companies in this country who told [President] Bush not to go after him because it would piss off the Saudis."

Robin Williams: "We have a president for whom English is a second language. He's like 'We have to get rid of dictators,' but he's pretty much one himself.

Gore Vidal: We're not a democracy, and we have absolutely nothing to give the world in the way of political ideas or political arrangements. God knows, the mention of justice is like a clove of garlic to Count Dracula."

These words offer a window into a mindset that has regressed into its own form of group think. Insulated from the real world these doyens of political correctness slough off the absence of freedom in so much of the Muslim world.

They seem generally unconcerned about the ubiquity of female circumcision, honor killings, wife beatings, the murder of homosexuals or the rising militancy of disaffected Muslim youth in Europe.

They have little sympathy for the casualties of fundamentalist Islam – a fact given testimony by the enthusiastic Hollywood reception which greeted the release of the Palestinian film Paradise Now. There has been no suggestion of an international performance, such as the recently staged Live 8, by any major entertainment figure, to protest the genocidal slaughter of blacks in the Sudan.

Their self absorbed pieties are instead reserved for a home grown evil that they find much easier to both identify and castigate.Treason? Perhaps not. But it is unquestionable that they have given a measure of aid and comfort to the enemy.

With a global audience listening, their pontifications have contributed to the notion that not only has the United States abdicated its role as a purveyor of justice, but is also morally bankrupt.

This jaundiced point of view has in turn been readily exploited by Muslim dictators and even many European leaders, anxious to see the United States’ influence on world affairs weakened.

Moreover, as becomes clear from a reading of celebrity speeches and statements, there has emerged a disturbing moral asymmetry in their statements about right and wrong, good and evil.

Actions, even ones as shocking as suicide bombing, are to be comprehended and analyzed rather than condemned. “ There is no right or wrong on this issue,” said actor George Clooney about his recently released movie Syriana which deals with terrorism and, in part, corrupt US policies in the Middle East.

“ There is only understanding.” Yet no matter what they believe, the United States is a country at war against terrorism and an uncompromising jihadist culture. That war is principally taking place in Iraq where the world awaits an outcome.

A defeat, so it is widely recognized across the American political mainstream, could indeed mean the end of many of the kind of liberties we currently enjoy, even without further 9/11s.

In this desperate undertaking there should be little doubt that our celebrities have weakened and tarnished the image of the United States and jeopardized our own struggle for freedom.

During Passover we (had) several days to ponder the meaning of this freedom. Jewish slaves, convinced of their destiny as a free people, placed absolute faith in both Divine power and their leaders as they marched from Egypt into the desert.

The freedom they sought, as our rabbis have noted, was not simply national liberation but a form of personal emancipation as well - to expurgate the slave mentality in order to embrace an ethical structure establishing moral imperatives.

That personal struggle continues within each of us today. It is the struggle to repudiate our own slavery to materialism and egotism, to differentiate between right and wrong and thereby establish a path to righteousness.

Blurring the distinctions between right and wrong, as so many celebrities are wont to do, and to disregard the very real threats to life as represented by a nihilistic terrorist cult, plunges us into a gray zone where our own responses to that threat are frozen by the need to understand our enemies’ grievances or by fear of offending their sensitivities.

There can be no greater prescription for personal or national disaster.In the midst of the 1960s the music of the Beatles swept us away on a chorus of optimism, broadcasting a message of peace and love as an antidote to the turbulence of the time.

But the “peace and love” of yesterday has mutated into a ghastly moral relativism today. It is absurd to suggest that we should offer love or peace to enemies bent on our annihilation

– particularly those who have absolutely no interest in dialogue, tolerance or understanding.

McCartney might well have hit the right chords with his song, indicating a measure of political maturity. It is just too bad that none of his influential contemporaries have seen fit to follow that example with songs, movies or books that remind us that every liberty we value is imperiled – not by George Bush, Halliburton or Pat Robertson- but by the seething enmity of foes who will risk everything to ensure our destruction.

Avi Davis is a freelance journalist based in Los Angeles.