As I was being interviewed recently at my Texas ranch by Geraldo Rivera, I thought back over my four decades in acting and how the pool of conservative "tough guys" seems to be drying up in Hollywood. Or are liberal waters just getting too hot for conservatives?
Then I recalled that the Washington Post recently reported, "A group of politically conservative and centrist Hollywood figures [up to 600 at once] organized by actor Gary Sinise and others has been meeting quietly in restaurants and private homes, forming a loose-knit network of entertainers who share common beliefs like supporting U.S. Troops and traditional American values." But the article also noted that the secret is out on these clandestine meetings, as conservatives are progressively becoming more and more emboldened.
If there is any minority in the coastal states that is being discriminated against and actively suppressed, it is conservatives, and worst of all are religious conservatives – and everyone knows it. There's a social backlash going on in this country, and some of that pendulum swing is understandable. But it has been very sad for me over the decades to watch places like Tinsel Town turn so biased toward liberalism and the Democrat vote – so much so that a conservative or Republican movement has to go underground. In the end, it is no different than the tribal factions we see half way around the world. It wasn't always this way.
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In a so-called age of tolerance, it amazes me just how intolerant some are of those who stand for traditional values. For example, if I stand against California's memorializing of the Harvey Milk Day or stand for their constitutional amendment of Proposition 8 to safeguard heterosexual purity in marriage (which I do and encourage Gov. Schwarzenegger and all Californians to do), I'm considered by many as intolerant and a bigot. But if another actor takes just the opposite positions on those measures, he or she is considered compassionate and a liberator. Or, when a liberal candidate like Hillary Clinton runs for president, she's considered a victor for civil rights and women's suffrage. But when a conservative candidate like Sarah Palin runs for vice president, she's considered a radical right extremist who could usurp the Capitol by toting rifles at her side.
This is America, and we should respect the fact that we will have strong diverse opinions. We must allow one another the freedom of speech to air such opines – and not suppress them through peer pressure of any type, like when we were kids. I have many acting friends and many friends in politics – some of those I vehemently disagree with, and that is my American right, as it is theirs. We must agree to disagree agreeably, without blogging or denigrating someone's life and character before the nation and rest of the world. We must do better at keeping the focus on the fact that we are Americans first, not just conservatives and liberals.
If we are going to move our country forward, if it is going to survive and flourish for the next generation, then we have to drop the partisan rigor and pick up a unified patriotism. Not a patriotism like the last eight years, or even the last 18 years, but like that unified spirit and passion shown by early Americans. What was important to them, what they fought for, was not the left or the right, but being American and being free. We've got to get back to that form of patriotism – one that is based within the Constitution not congressional corruption, one that elects a man for his character, not his charisma. These are type of citizens and leaders who don't go deeper into debt to bail out debt. These are the type of citizens and leaders who will say enough is enough. Like Ron Paul, who, after drawing similarities between the $700 billion dollar bailout and the Great Depression, said, "The only thing we learn from history, I am afraid, is that we do not learn from history." (Getting to the heart of America's founders – their patriotism and answers to our problems – is also at the heart of why I wrote my latest New York Times best-seller, "Black Belt Patriotism.")
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I admire those in the recent past who were able to represent a respectful conservatism in a liberal-leaning, show-business industry: men like Charlton Heston, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart and Ronald Reagan. And I'm grateful for others today who have also stood for conservative values, incredible actors like Jim Caviezel, Mel Gibson and Jon Voight. Jon has recently stepped up to the plate for thousands of others who can't because they'd be cast aside by casting directors if their conservatism was even made known. Jon is taking the brunt end for them from critics who have no tolerance for actors on the right. These are the type of men who will go against the grain of the Hollywood status quo. These are the type of men who get the fact that entertainment isn't about playing party politics. These are the type of men who demonstrate what my hero and the stalwart conservative John Wayne once said, "Courage is being scared to death, and saddling up anyway."
Despite Tinsel Town's liberal leanings, there is a lot of good that conservatives are doing in the film industry – not only for American entertainment, but for activism too. That is why I recommend movies like the three released this week, Sherwood Pictures' "Fireproof," David Zucker's "American Carol" and the millennial social cry to expose and stop the global and even American slave trade, "Call + Respond."
Underground or above ground, we're all "created equal … endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." On Main Street or Wall Street, in the movie business or the political arena, maybe there's much more overlap in life than we think – maybe we've got a lot more in common than we really know. We're Americans.
(Post note from Chuck: My wife, Gena, and I send our heartfelt condolences to the family and close friends of Paul Newman. Newman was absolutely one of Hollywood's finest, not only as an actor, but as a gentlemen and humanitarian as well. Another legendary actor who inspired us all has ridden off into the sunset, but he will never be forgotten.)