Danny Glover, actor, activist, and board member of the Positive Futures Network, has been coming under a hailstorm of attacks based on an incident following a speech he gave at Princeton on November 15.
This is not just about Danny. It's about all of us. As Danny noted in his speech "When we fear, we clamp down on those who do not think like us or who do not look like us." We see that happening everywhere, as our leaders look for total support for their military agenda and view dissent as unpatriotic.
As we enter this McCarthyesque period, I think we are all called upon to be more courageous, more articulate in our views, and more supportive of one another.
HERE'S WHAT HAPPENED TO DANNY
On November 15, at the invitation of the local Amnesty International chapter, Danny gave a speech about the death penalty to a packed auditorium at Princeton University. Danny is well known for his opposition to the death penalty. He pointed out that 98 death row inmates have recently been released after new evidence demonstrated their innocence. He also noted the racial bias in the system in which 43 percent of 741 executed prisoners were African Americans. His speech was received enthusiastically by a sympathetic audience.
After the close of the speech, when many had already left the auditorium, a young man questioned Danny in such racist language that the remaining audience booed the questioner. Danny signaled for quiet, saying we need to listen to all. The questioner accused Danny of "playing the victim" and suggested he go back and fix his own communities rather than blame racism. Another questioner wanted to know if Danny would extend his opposition to the death penalty to Osama bin Laden. Danny affirmed his opposition to the death penalty, period. The provocative exchange continued, with Danny noting that America has been a key purveyor of violence in this world. Danny also voiced his objections to the military tribunals that President Bush has created.
These comments have elicited a hailstorm of outrage. For two weeks The Trentonian newspaper ran angry comments suggesting that if Danny didn't love this country he should leave it -- and worse. Ollie North broadcast the story across the country on his Radio America show, provoking hundreds of hate-filled calls to Danny's agency in Los Angeles. Ollie urged his audience to boycott The Royal Tenenbaums -- a movie released in late December in which Danny stars along with Gwyneth Paltrow, Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Ben Stiller, Bill Murray, and others.
In Modesto, California, the controversy caused the City to pull out of its plan to sponsor Danny as the featured speaker for the celebration of Martin Luther King Day. Fortunately, the local planning committee for the event has maintained their invitation and Danny plans to speak. According to the Modesto Bee, "John Lucas, president of the Modesto Peace Life Center, one of the sponsors, noted that King himself was controversial and criticized the Vietnam War. Lucas does not think Glover's views are much different from those King might have had if he were alive today. 'The interesting thing I find is that Martin Luther King wouldn't be invited to his own event,'" he said.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Those who would stifle dissent are quick to express their opinions and target anyone who takes a larger view of patriotism. We too must be ready to respond quickly in our vigilant defense of real democracy.
**MODESTO: Show support for Danny -- and for free speech -- in Modesto. If you know anyone around that area, urge them to attend! Danny will speak on Saturday, January 19 at 7:00 p.m. at the Christ Unity Baptist Church at 1320 L St. in Modesto (Call the Peace Life Center for further information: 209/529-5750).
Fax the City of Modesto at 209/571-5586 or write them at P.O. Box 642, Modesto CA 94341 saying you support free speech and disagree with their decision to pull their backing for Danny's appearance at the MLK Day activities.
**THE MOVIE: Here's an easy one. See the Royal Tenenbaums -- don't let Ollie North's call for a boycott depress the box office.
**MLK Day. Let's celebrate Martin Luther King Day with an extra measure of clarity about his courage in consistently urging this nation to live up to its ideals of democracy, freedom, and peace.
**SUPPORT EACH OTHER. Let's look for every opportunity to support one another. What happened to Danny is happening to many others. This is a time for courage and mutual support.
FranFran Kortenis Executive Director of the Positive Futures Network.
Danny Glover's speech given at Princeton, The Death Penalty in This Great Nation of Ours
An Interview with Danny Glover from YES! Issue #17
Michele Chihara has two articles and the on that also cover this issue.