Jewish World Review Sept. 28, 2001 / 11 Tishrei, 5762
A plea to the pop culture elite to speak out
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- AT this moment, the leaders of pop culture-the rock singers, the TV stars, the movie celebrities-have a chance to reform the American mind in almost a single stroke.
For the first time in the memory of anyone under the age of 50, Americans are united in passion for country. Moral clarity has entered the minds of many who did not believe in such a thing, and those who needed evidence now see in the events of September 11 that good and bad are animate things; that America is on the right side of that battle; and that the American system is the most tolerant and open one in the world.
The attack on our nation has been rightly perceived as an attempt to undermine our commitment to tolerance, economic opportunity, and the free exchange of ideas. We know this because those who celebrate the attack have long opposed us for our "decadent" ways. They are extremists who are willing to fight and die in order to build an oppressive regime of historic proportions. They systematically silence women; they execute homosexuals; they summarily ban popular entertainment such as television and music; and they censor not just books but ideas and entire intellectual disciplines. They are bloodthirsty cultural luddites who oppose the broad exercise of free will itself.
If you are one of those who thinks America is a hotbed of intolerance, you should see how the governments of our enemies react to the wrong haircut.
After decades of prominent Americans stretching policy disagreements into bashing the very concept of the U.S. itself, it is now time for these individuals to temper their anger with their newly acquired wisdom, that the U.S. is valuable precisely because it permits dissent in the first place. Our political arguments are over degrees, but today we are reminded that our enemies are opposed to argument itself.
The leaders of popular culture and the arbiters of what is hip must shoulder the responsibility of restoring that grand old attitude into the popular conscience, and especially into that of our rising generations. Why? Because they are the only ones who can do it.
The truth of the goodness of America ought to become a permanent fashion. Just as Vietnam and Watergate established cynicism as the American brand, so the tragedies of September 11 can realign our national mindset.
What if, on the upcoming U2 tour, Bono made an impassioned, nightly plea for America on behalf of her rightness, diversity, and openness?
What if Barbra Streisand gave a press conference in which she said that America may have her faults, but that she embodies a system that is the greatest hope for anyone, anywhere in the world?
What if the writers of "The West Wing" made an episode that was not simply a ringing endorsement of this or that policy, but of America herself as the strongest and greatest bastion of encouraged dissent in the midst of cooperation?
The youthful and economically insulated bashers heard most often-the movie stars, the singers, the TV personalities-seem to have not truly understood (until now, at least) the importance of the system within which they have so handsomely profited, and which they have so casually disparaged.
Bashing has been a long-trendy fashion. But as of September 11, the fashion has changed.
I call on the culturally powerful in America to speak out for the value of the American system. I call on them to explicitly reject those who would tear it down. I don't ask them to embrace conservative politics, or to walk away from their cherished beliefs, be they liberal or moderate or whatever-because personal politics has little to do with the responsibility to support the system itself.
I ask them simply to stop using their influential forums to focus exclusively on what they don't like about the country, and to start making it clear that they ultimately support this great and unique country herself.
The window of opportunity for this change won't last long, and I'm not sure we can take advantage of this great moment of agreement without the enthusiastic support of these powerful individuals. But if they were to get on board…. Oh,
JWR contributor Michael Long is a a director of the White House Writers Group. Comment by clicking here.
09/20/01: Encouragement from the Heartland, by mail