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Charlton Heston supports the Ground Zero mosque

Published Friday, August 20, 2010 @ 7:55 AM EDT
Aug 20 2010

In principle, at least:

"Tragedy has been and will always be with us. Somewhere right now, evil people are planning to do evil things. All of us will do everything meaningful, everything we can do to prevent it. But each horrible act can't become an ax for opportunists to cleave the very Bill of Rights that binds us. America must stop this predictable pattern of reaction. When an isolated, terrible event occurs, our phones ring, demanding that the NRA explain the inexplicable. Why us? Because their story needs a villain... That is not our role in American society, and we will not be forced to play it. If you disagree, that's your right. I respect that. But we will not relinquish it, or be silenced about it, or be told 'Do not come here, your are unwelcome in your own land.' "-Charlton Heston

"Thank you, Charlton Heston. Of course, he was speaking out after another tragedy, when people on the left had demanded that the NRA, out of respect to the recent victims of Columbine, not hold their scheduled NRA convention in Denver, near the site of the tragedy. And by the way, I'm sure that I would have been one of those people: painting too narrow a picture, connecting irresponsibly the actions of two psychotics to an entire group of reasonable people expressing their Constitutional rights... the point is, I was wrong and Heston was right. And if you replace NRA with Muslim community and second amendment with first amendment, he's still right."-Jon Stewart, on The Daily Show, which is, inexplicably, still the best source of unbiased news and cogent commentary on cable.


The Daily Show clip above reminds me of what I wrote when Heston died two years ago.

Charlton Heston initially made his mark portraying Moses and Ben Hur. Most recently, he's remembered for his tenure as NRA president and the comment about prying his rifle from his cold, dead hands.

That's unfortunate.

Heston was a man who did not wear his beliefs like seasonal sportswear. He did not parrot the official party line or mindlessly repeat the neocon talking points du jour. His famous sound bite overshadows his true legacy: a conservative whose dedication to dignity, manners and reasoned discourse should be adopted by those of all ideological leanings.

Whenever I heard him speak at length- not the snippets pulled out of context for cable news, but in full conversations with qualified interviewers- he accomplished something that very few conservatives have been able to do. He made me think about my position, review the logic that he used to arrive at his different viewpoint and- in some cases- reconsider my stance. He rarely, if ever, actually changed my mind. But in eloquently stating the opposing view, he made me respect it and seek potential areas of compromise.

He didn't accomplish this with ad hominem attacks, alliterative or rhyming jingoism, macho bluster, or any of the other quasi-intellectual blunt instruments typically employed in what passes as discourse these days. And no one would have been better at it. Who else but Heston, True Lies director James Cameron noted, could play someone "who can plausibly intimidate Arnold Schwarzenegger?"

Read and listen to Heston's famous Winning The Cultural War address to the Harvard Law School Forum. While you may not agree with everything he says, you must agree it is a quintessential example of what free speech and political discourse should be in this country."

I don't know whether he would have backed the Tea Party movement given the suspect nature of its "grassroots" support. But I suspect the group would gain a lot more credibility if it followed Heston's advice:

"Well, the answer's been here all along. I learned it 36 years ago, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., standing with Dr. Martin Luther King and two hundred thousand people.

"You simply disobey. Peaceably, yes. Respectfully, of course. Nonviolently, absolutely. But when told how to think or what to say or how to behave, we don't. We disobey the social protocol that stifles and stigmatizes personal freedom."

Heston was a gentleman and an American. We've lost a great guy.

"Political correctness is just tyranny with manners. I wish for you the courage to be unpopular. Popularity is history's pocket change. Courage is history's true currency."
-Charlton Heston

Categories: Church and State, Daily Show, First Amendment, Hypocrisy, Jon Stewart, Video


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