Sunday, April 06, 2008
October 4, 1924 – April 5, 2008
Civil Rights Documents Web Published By ACRR
Charlton Heston's Keynote Address at the Free Congress Foundation's 20th Anniversary Gala
December 20, 1997
What an honor it is to address the Free Congress Foundation. At a glance
"Free" reads as a verb rather than an adjective. "Free Congress." Not a bad
directive for Mr. Clinton. Anyway...
I like it when the party of Lincoln honors our free heritage. This nation
has been blessed by the minds and mettle of many good people, and indeed Abe
was among the best. A man of great moral character, a trait often lacking
among our leaders. This is disturbing, but not without remedy. One good
election can correct such ills.
Above all, I hope those of us gathered here tonight have more in common with
Mr. Lincoln than just party affiliation. Better that we grasp a common
vision than simply wear the cloak. Even our President pretends to be a
conservative when it suits him. We must be more than that.
I know... it's not easy. Imagine being point man for the National Rifle
Association, preserving the right to keep and bear arms. I ran for office, I
was elected, and now I serve... as a moving target for pundits who've called
me everything from "ridiculous" and "duped" to a "brain-injured, senile and
crazy old man."
Maybe that comes with the territory. But as I have stood in the crosshairs
of those who aim at Second Amendment freedom, I have realized that guns are
not the only issue, and I am not the only target. It is much, much bigger
than that - which is what I want to talk to you about today.
I have come to realize that a cultural war is raging across our
land...storming our values, assaulting our freedoms, killing our
self-confidence in who we are and what we believe.
How many of you own a gun? A show of hands maybe? How many own two or more
Thank you. I wonder - how many of you own guns but chose not to raise your
hand? How many of you considered revealing your conviction about a
constitutional right, but then thought better of it?
Then you are a victim of the cultural war. You are a casualty of the
cultural warfare being waged against traditional American freedom of beliefs
and ideas. Now maybe you don't care one way or the other about owning a gun.
But I could've asked for a show of hands of Pentecostal Christians, or
pro-lifers, or right-to-workers, or Promise Keepers, or school voucher-ers,
and the result would be the same. What if the same question were asked at
your PTA meeting? Would you raise your hand if Dan Rather were in the back
of the room with a film crew?
See? You have been assaulted and robbed of the courage of your convictions.
Your pride in who you are and what you believe, has been ridiculed,
ransacked and plundered. It may be a war without bullets or bloodshed, but
with just as much liberty lost. You and your country are less free.
And you are not inconsequential people! You in this room, whom many would
say are among the most powerful people on earth, you are shamed into
silence! Because you choose to own guns - affirmed by no less than the Bill
of Rights. But you embrace a view at odds with the cultural warlords. If
that is the outcome of cultural war, and you are victims, I can only ask the
gravely obvious question: What'll become of the right itself? Or other
rights not deemed acceptable by the thought police? What other truth in your
heart will you disavow with your hand?
I remember when European Jews feared to admit their faith. The Nazis forced
them to wear yellow stars as identity badges. It worked. So - what color
star will the pin on gun owners' chests? How will the self-styled elite tag
us? There may not be a Gestapo officer on every street corner, but the
influence on our culture is just as pervasive.
Now, I am not really here to talk about the Second Amendment of the NRA, but
the gun issue clearly brings into focus the warfare that's going on.
Rank-and-file Americans wake up every morning, increasingly bewildered and
confused at why their views make them lesser citizens. After enough
breakfast-table TV hyping tattooed sex-slaves on the next Rikki Lake, enough
gun-glutted movies and tabloid shows, enough revisionist history books and
prime-time ridicule of religion, enough of the TV anchor who cocks her head,
clucks her tongue and sighs about guns causing crime and finally the message
gets through: Heaven help the God-fearing, law-abiding, Caucasian, middle
class, Protestant, or-even worse- admitted heterosexual, gun-owning or-even
worse-NRA-card-carrying, average working stiff, or-even worse-male working
stiff, because not only don't you count, you're a downright obstacle to
social progress. Your tax dollars may be just as delightfully green as you
hand them over, but your voice deserves a lower decibel level, your opinion
is less enlightened, your media access is insignificant. And frankly,
mister, you need to wake up, wise up and learn a little something about your
new America... and until you do, would you mind shutting up?
That's why you didn't raise your hand. That's how cultural war works. And
you are losing.
That's what happens when a generation of media, educators, entertainers and
politicians, led by a willing president, decide the America they were born
into isn't good enough any more. So they contrive to change it through the
cultural warfare of class distinction. Ask the Romans if powerful nations
have ever fallen as a result of cultural division. There are ruins around
the world that were once the smug centers of small-minded, arrogant elitism.
It appears that rather than evaporate in the flash of a split atom, we may
succumb to a divided culture.
Although my years are long, I was not on hand to help pen the Bill of
Rights. And popular assumptions aside, the same goes for the Ten
Commandments. Yet as an American and as a man who believes in God's almighty
presence, I treasure both.
The Constitution was handed down to guide us by a bunch of wise old dead
white guys who invented our country. Now some flinch when I say that. Why?
It's true... they were white guys. So were most of the guys that died in
Lincoln's name opposing slavery in the 1860s. So why should I be ashamed of
white guys? Why is "Hispanic pride" or "black pride" a good thing, while
"white pride" conjures shaved heads and white hoods? Why was the Million Man
March on Washington celebrated as progress, while the Promise Keepers March
on Washington was greeted with suspicion and ridicule? I'll tell you why:
Now, Chuck Heston can get away with saying I'm proud of those wise old dead
white guys because Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan know I fought in their
cultural war. I was one of the first white soldiers in the civil rights
movement, long before it was fashionable. In 1963 I marched on Washington
with Dr. Martin Luther King to uphold the Bill of Rights. As vice-president
of the NRA I am doing the same thing.
But you don't see many other Hollywood luminaries speaking out on this, do
you? It's not because there aren't any. It's because they can't afford the
heat. They dare not speak up for fear of CNN or the IRS or SAG or ATF or NBC
or even W-J-C. It saps the strength of our country when the personal price
is simply too high to stand up for what you believe in. Today, speaking with
the courage of your conviction can be so costly, the price of principle can
be so high, that legislators won't lead and citizens can't follow, and so
there is no army to fight back. That's cultural warfare.
For instance: It's plain that our Constitution guarantees law-abiding
citizens the right to own a firearm. But if I stand up and say so, why is
the media assault on me such a slashing, sinister brand of derision filled
Because Bill Clinton's cultural warriors want a penitent cleansing of
firearms, as if millions of lawful gun owners should genuflect in shame and
seek absolution by surrendering their guns. That's what is now literally
underway in England and Australia. Lines of submissive citizens, threatened
with imprisonment, are bitterly surrendering family heirlooms, guns that won
their freedom, to the blast furnace. If that fact does not unsettle you,
then you are already anesthetized, a ready victim of the cultural war.
You know that I stand first in line in defense for free speech. But those
who speak against the perverted and profane should be given as much due as
those who profit by it. You also know I welcome cultural diversity. But
those who choose to live on the fringe should not tear apart the seams that
secure the fabric of our society.
I've earned a fine and rewarding living in the motion picture industry, yet
increasingly I find myself embarrassed by the dearth of conscience that
drives the world's most influential art form. And I am an example of what a
lonely undertaking it can be.
Nobody opposed the obscene rapper Ice-T until I stood at Time-Warner's
stockholders meeting and was ridiculed by its president for wanting to take
the floor to read Ice-T's lyrics. Since I held several hundred shares of
stock he had no choice. Though the media were barred, I read those lyrics to
a stunned audience of average American people... shocked at lyrics that
advocating killing cops, sexually abusing women, and raping the nieces of
our Vice-President. The good guys won that time: Time-Warner fired Ice-T.
The gay and lesbian movement is another good example. Many homosexuals are
hugely talented artists and executives... also dear friends. I don't despise
their lifestyle, though I don't share it. As long as gay and lesbian
Americans are as productive, law-abiding and private as the rest of us, I
think America owes them absolute tolerance. It's the right thing to do.
On the other hand, I find my blood pressure rising when Clinton's cultural
shock troops participate in gay-rights fundraisers but boycott gun-rights
fundraisers... and then claim it's time to place homosexual men in tents
with Boy Scouts, and suggest that sperm donor babies born into lesbian
relationships are somehow better served and more loved.
Such demands have nothing to do with equality. They're about the currency of
cultural war - money and votes - and the Clinton camp will let anyone in the
tent if there's a donkey on the hat, a check in the mail or some yen in the
Mainstream America is counting on you to draw your sword and fight for them.
These people have precious little time and resources to battle misguided
Cinderella attitudes, the fringe propaganda of the homosexual coalition, the
feminists who preach that it is a divine duty for women to hate men, blacks
who raise a militant fist with one hand while they seek preference with the
other, and all the New-Age apologists for juvenile crime, who see roving
gangs as a means of youthful expression, sex as a means of adolescent
merchandizing, violence as a form of entertainment for impressionable minds,
and gun bans as a means to Lord-knows-what. We have reached that point in
time when our national social policy originates on Oprah. I say it's time to
pull the plug.
Americans should not have to go to war every morning for their values. They
already go to war for their families. They fight to hold down a job, raise
responsible kids, make their payments, keep gas in the car, put food on the
table and clothes on their backs, and still save a little to live their
final days in dignity. They prefer the America they built - where you could
pray without feeling naïve, love without being kinky, sing without
profanity, be white without feeling guilty, own a gun without shame, and
raise your hand without apology. They are the critical masses who find
themselves under siege and long for you to get some guts, stand on principle
and lead them to victory in this cultural war.
Now if this all sounds a little Mosaic, the punchline of my sermon is as
elementary as the Golden Rule: In a cultural war, triumph belongs to those
who arm themselves with pride in who they are and then do the right thing.
Not the most expedient thing, not what'll sell, not the politically correct
thing, but the right thing.
And you know what? Everybody already knows what the right thing is. You and
I and President Clinton, even Ice-T, we all know. It's easy. You say wait a
minute, you take a long look in the mirror, then into the eyes of your kids
or grandkids, and you'll know what's right.
Don't run for cover when the cultural cannons roar. Remember who you are and
what you believe, and then raise you hand, stand up, and speak out. Don't be
shamed or startled into lockstep conformity by seemingly powerful people.
The maintenance of a free nation is a long, slow, steady process. And it's
in your hands.
Yes, we can have rules and still have rebels - that's democracy. But as
leaders you must do as Lincoln would do, confronted with the stench of
cultural war: Do what's right. As Mr. Lincoln said, "With firmness in the
right, as God gives us to see the right, let us finish the work we are in...
and then we shall save our country."
Defeat the criminals and their apologists, oust the biased and bigoted,
endure the undisciplined and unprincipled, but disavow the self-appointed
social engineers whose relentless arrogance fuels this vicious war against
so much we hold so dear. Do not yield, do not divide, do not call truce. Be
fair, but fight back.
It's the same blueprint our founding fathers left to guide us. Our enemies
see it as the senile prattle of an archaic society. I still honor it as the
United States Constitution, and that timeless document we call the Bill of
Freedom is our fortune and honor is our saving grace.