Jewish World Review March 4, 2003 / 30 Adar I, 5763

Lewis A. Fein

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Hollywood's quiet heroes | In Hollywood, among the rich and willingly ignorant (among the politically blind and personally offensive), is one group of conscience: the actors and actresses for whom the American flag and soldier's cloth still mean something; the real-life symbols of liberty and sacrifice that no director can replicate and no costume designer imitate. For it is among these individuals - amidst these inheritors of Bob Hope's devotion, Clark Gable's compassion and Jimmy Stewart's martial obligations - that freedom's spirit marches onward. And it is upon these medals, honorably earned and proudly bestowed, that a new group of men and women stand before the grand opening's light -- the decent many, brightened by accolades and enlivened with truth; by the understanding that each round of applause is also an encore for democracy and every curtain-call a reception for freedom.

But, within celebrity's restricted communities - among the manicured lawns and properly paved roadways, alongside signs of designer protest ("No War") - where conservatism does not even have a service entrance, there exists another township of honor: neighborhoods of outrage, apartments and trailers, attics and cabins that house talent's patriots; the men too often discriminated against, and the young women too intimidated to sufficiently protest, the undoing of freedom by stars with names like Streisand, Sarandon and Sheen. Indeed, the only bulwark against demented comments and liberal attacks is the roar of Hollywood's quiet heroes, "Enough!"

Yet, if any doubt remains about the type of government these celebrities support, or should additional concerns exist about the professional behavior these individuals endorse, there is but one final question to ask: Is the professional life of any Hollywood diva - from the cruel treatment of indentured assistants to the airbrushed flattery of personal imagery - a good symbol of freedom, dissent and humility? In other words, would President Streisand or Prime Minister Sarandon tolerate an ounce of protest among the anonymous or different, among the brave and defiant? The answer to this question is as obvious as it is unnecessary, summarized by words even the most hardened actor regularly hears -- "Not a chance, kid."

There is also, thankfully, Hollywood's patriotic countermovement. These men and women - these grand actors and graceful actresses - now shoulder the conscience of an important industry, a moral responsibility bequeathed through pain and tempered by principle: the recognition that evil is real and repression genuine, even if murderers named Castro, Stalin and Saddam support the arts. For there is no such thing as artistic expression within nightmare's reality, where the sculptor's only medium is the dictator's likeness or the writer's sole expression is the military general's speeches.

Alas, most celebrities will never learn such obvious lessons. They will never absorb history's theme, because to acknowledge tyranny's brutality - to imbibe freedom's mantra about liberty or death, to inhale the survivor's breath for peaceful life - also requires complete abandonment of deeply held and fervently stated beliefs. In short, reality reveals Hollywood's lie about a Cuban utopia, a Soviet paradise or even an Iraqi oasis.

Hollywood's decent many need not fear petty reprisals or corporate retaliation. For there already exists a precedent that shall comfort the reluctant and embolden the true: a man of political conviction, disgusted by totalitarian actions and energized by freedom's plea; an actor threatened with physical disfigurement and condemned through organized innuendo, all because he supports democracy's success. His name? Ronald Wilson Reagan.

JWR contributor Lewis A. Fein is a writer and Internet entrepreneur in Los Angeles.Comment by clicking here.


© 2003, Lewis A. Fein