CHOICE AND SYSTEM FOR THE PLANET
A Holistic Common Sense Structure for
Liberation of All
without War Through the New Foundation for the New World Vision
"Let's Not Talk Falsely Now The Hour is Getting Late"
Democracy (in any form) is not Democracy without
Truth And Accountability.
The question to ask is, so where does Democracy Exist?
Sean Penn received The 2006 Christopher Reeve First Amendment Award from The Creative Coalition on December 18, 2006, in New York City, where he delivered the following speech.
Published on Tuesday, December 19, 2006 by the Huffington Post
On Receiving the 2006 Christopher Reeve First Amendment Award
The Christopher Reeve First Amendment Award. For the purposes of tonight and my own personal enjoyment, I'm going to yield to the notion that I deserve this. And in the spirit of that, tell you that I am very honored to receive it. And for this I thank the Creative Coalition and my friend Charlie Rose. It does seem appropriate to take this opportunity to exercise the right that honors us all - freedom of speech.
The original title for the Louis XVI comedy called "Start The Revolution Without Me" was one of my favorites. That original title was "Louis, There's a Crowd Downstairs." But I'll come back to that...
Words may be our most
civil weapons of change, when they connect to actions of sacrifice, or
good will, but they have no grace or power without bold clarity. So, if
you'll bear with me, borrowing a line from Bob Dylan, "Let us not talk
falsely now - the hour is getting late."
Non-stop U.S. war in Iraq
Attacks on civil liberties under the banner of war on terror
You and I, U.S. taxpayers, spend 1 1/2 billion dollars on an Iraq-war-'focused' military everyday, while social needs cry out.
And, levy building.
We depend largely for
information on these issues from media industries, driven by the bottom
line to such an extent that the public interest becomes uninteresting.
And should we speak truth, we stand against government efforts to intimidate or legislate in the service of censorship. Whether under the guise of a Patriot Act or any other benevolent-sounding rationale for the age-old game of shutting down dissent by discouraging independent thinking and preventing progressive social change.
The most effective
forms of de facto censorship are pre-emptive. Systemically, we are
encouraged to keep our heads down, out of the line of fire - to avoid
the danger, god forbid, that someone in the White House, on Capitol
Hill, or a media blow-hard might take a shot at us.
But, as a practical matter, most of the limits on creative expression and other forms of free speech come from self-censorship, where the mechanism of corporate clout offers carrots and brandishes sticks. We avoid a conflict before the conflict materializes. We reach for the carrots and stay out of range of sticks.
Decades ago, Fred
Friendly called it a "positive veto" - corporations putting big money
behind shows that they want to establish and perpetuate. Whether in
journalism or drama, creative efforts that don't gain a financial
"positive veto" are dismissible, then dismissed. We may not call that
"censorship." But whatever we call it, the effects of a "positive veto"
system are severe. They impose practical limits on efforts to bring the
most important realities to public attention sooner rather than later...
We're beginning to see
more revealing images of this war. But it's later now, isn't it? What we
have to pay attention to are the results of these "practical limits."
One, is that wars become much easier to launch than to halt.
I've got a feeling
about how we can begin to change this process and I want to pass it by
you. Children grow up in our country -- many by the way, under
conditions of extreme poverty -- and are told from a very early age "You
will be accountable!" "With freedom, comes responsibility!" And so the
lecture goes...Democratic and Republican alike. Lie-cheat-steal, and
there will be consequences! Theft will be punished. Actions that cause
the deaths of others will be severely punished. The message, from
leaders in Washington, news media, mom, dad, and church is clear.
Criminals MUST be held accountable.
Now, there's been a lot
of talk lately on Capitol Hill about how impeachment should be "off the
table." We're told that it's time to look ahead - not back...
Can you imagine how far
that argument would go for the defense at an arraignment on charges of
grand larceny, or large-scale distribution of methamphetamines? How
about the arranging of a contract killing on a pregnant mother?
"Indictment should be off the table." Or "Let's look forward, not
backward." Or "We can't afford another failed defendant."
Our country has a legal
system, not of men and women, but of laws. Why then are we so willing to
put inconvenient provisions of the U.S. constitution and federal law
"off the table?" Our greatest concern right now should be what to put ON
the table. Unless we're going to have one set of laws for the powerful
and another set for those who can't afford fancy lawyers, then truth
matters to everyone. And accountability is a matter of human and legal
principle. If we're going to continue wagging our fingers at the
disadvantaged transgressors, then I suggest we be consistent. If truth
and accountability can be stretched into sham concepts, we may as well
open the gates of all our jails and prisons, where, by the way, there
are more people behind bars than any other country in the world. One in
every 32 American adults is behind bars, on probation, or on parole as
we stand here tonight.
Which is to say that,
globally, the United States is number one at demanding accountability
and backing up that demand with imprisonment. But, when it comes to our
president, vice president, secretary of state, former secretary of
defense...this insistence on accountability vanishes. All of a sudden,
what's past is prologue. And we're just "forward-looking." But some
people can't just look forward. Men and women stationed in Iraq at this
moment, under orders of a Commander-in-Chief so sufficiently practiced
in the art of deception, that he got vast numbers of American
journalists and the most esteemed media outlets of this country,
including The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, and PBS to
eagerly serve his agenda-building for war. And the process also induced
vast numbers of artists and performers (probably even some in this room
tonight) to keep quiet and facilitate the push for an invasion in Iraq.
I'm sure many people
who I met in Baghdad, both in my trips prior to and during the
occupation, now similarly cannot just look forward. With lives so
entirely shattered by a violence of occupation - an ongoing U.S. war
effort and the civil war that it has catalyzed. All on the back of a
crumbled infrastructure, following eleven years of devastating U.N.
And, where is the
accountability on behalf of the American dead and wounded, their
families, their friends, and the people of the United States who have
seen their country become a world pariah. These events have been enabled
by people named Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld, and Rice, as they
continue to perpetuate a massive fraud on American democracy and
On January 11, 2003, I
made an appearance on Larry King's show following my first trip to Iraq.
I suggested that every American mother and father sit down with a scrap
of paper and pencil and scribble the following words:
Dear Mr. and Mrs.
So-and-so -- We regret to inform you that your son or daughter
so-and-so, was killed in action in Iraq. I then asked that those mothers and fathers complete that
letter in whatever way might comfort them should they receive it. When
one considers what a bewildered continuation of those words a parent
might attempt to write today, it seems inconceivable that this country
could've ever bought into this war. Who were those mothers and fathers
believing in?! We know it's not the administration alone, but a culture
at large, cloaking itself in self-righteousness, religion, and
adolescent hero-dreaming machismo. Would they have believed Rush
Limbaugh if they'd known he was high as a kite on OxyContin? Would they
have believed the factually impaired Bill O'Reilly if they knew he was
massaging his rectum with a loofah while telephonically harassing a
staffer? Hannity, had they known he was simply a whore to the cause of
his pimps - Murdoch and Ailes? Or the little bow-tie putz, if they knew
all he was seeking was a good laugh from Jon Stewart? Maybe our
countrymen and women were listening to Ted Haggert while he was whiffing
meth and boning a muscle-headed gigolo? Or Mark Foley seeking junior
weenis? Joe Lieberman, sitting Shiva? And Toby Keith, singing about how
big his boots are?
"Oh, there goes
Sean...he had to go and name-call. They say he can't help himself." Or,
did I name-call? Maybe I just quickly summed up 7 or 8 little truths.
Oh, no, you're right - I name-called. I said, "putz". I take it back.
Or, do I? Did I say "whore?" Pimp? These are questions. But, the real
and great questions of conscience and accountability would not loom so
ominously -- unanswered or evaded at such tremendous cost -- without our
day-to-day failure to insist on genuine accountability. Of course we'd
prefer some easy ways to get there. But no easy ways exist. Not a new
Congress. Not Barack Obama. And, not John McCain. His courage in North
Vietnamese prison makes him a heroic man. His voting record in Congress
makes him a damaging public servant. We have gotta stand the fuck up and
show the world how powerful are the people in a democracy. That's how we
regain our position of example, rather than pariah, to the world at
large. And that is how we can begin to put up our chins and allow pride
and unification to raise our own quality of life and security.
They tell us we lost
3,000 Americans on 9/11. Is that enough? We're about to match it. We're
within weeks, if not less, of killing 3,000 Americans in Iraq. I ask
Speaker Pelosi, can we put impeachment on the table then? Without former
FEMA chief Mike Brown being held accountable, post Katrina (scapegoat
though he may have been) we'd have had the same chaos and neglect when
Rita hit Houston. Think about it. And, the same people who trumpet
deterrence as a justification for punishment when we speak of "crime and
punishment," will boast their positive thinking when dismissing the
deterrent qualities of an impeachment proceeding.
What is impeachment?
It's not a Democratic versus Republican event. Not if used responsibly.
If the House of Representatives votes to impeach this president, is he
thrown out of office? No, he is not thrown out of office. That is not
what impeachment is. Impeachment is the opportunity to proceed with
accountability and give our elected senators, democratic and republican,
the power to pursue a thorough investigation. The power to put the truth
on the table. Mothers and fathers are losing their kids to horrifying
deaths in this war every single day. Horrible deaths. Horrible maimings.
Were crimes committed in enlisting the support of our country in this
decision to go to war? For the moment we're living the most spineless of
scenarios; where the hawks abused impeachment eight years ago, now, the
rest of us politely refuse to use it today. Let's give the
whistle-blowers cover, let's get the subpoenas out there, and then, one
by one, put this administration under oath. And then, if the crimes of
"Treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors" are proven, do
as Article 2, Section 4 of the United States Constitution provides, and
remove "the President, Vice President and...civil officers of the United
States" from office. If the Justice Department then sees fit to bunk
them up with Jeff Skilling, so be it.
So...look, if we
attempt to impeach for lying about a blowjob, yet accept these almost
certain abuses without challenge, we become a cum-stain on the flag we
wave. You know, I was listening to Frank Rich this morning, speaking on
a book tour. He said he thought impeachment proceedings would amount to
a "decadent" sidetrack, while our soldiers were still being killed. I
admire Frank Rich. And of course he would be right if impeachment is all
we do. But we're Americans. We can do two things at the same time. Yes,
let's move forward and swiftly get out of this war in Iraq AND impeach
Christopher Reeve promised to get out of that chair. Well, I don't know about you, but it feels like he's up now and I wouldn't be standing here if it weren't on his shoulders. Let it be for something.
Georgie, there's a
Thank you and good night.
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