Sunday, April 06, 2008

"I will misbehave"

Not very many people will remember that Charlton Heston picketed a segregated theater premiering his own movie; or that he accompanied Martin Luther King Jr on the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington. All at a time when no one in Hollywood was willing to speak out against racism. It's more likely that he'll be remembered as the six foot three inch tall actor, who played Moses and Ben Hur, and later became the president and spokesman for the National Rifle Association advocating the right to keep and bear arms; or recall that he opposed affirmative action. But Heston the marcher and Heston the NRA president come closer together if one recalls that in the actor's mind at least, racial segregation helped the cause of Communism. The fight for freedom took many forms, but underneath its varied guises it was always the same thing.

Part of the problem with Charlton Heston wasn't that he was inconsistent, but that he was too consistent. And the common mistake, even of the Old Bolsheviks, was to suppose that following a set of principles was better following fashion. Those who wonder whether Heston had wandered off should ask themselves whether Martin Luther King, had he lived, might also have remarked to the nation's First Black President that ''America doesn't trust you with our 21-year-old daughters, and we sure, Lord, don't trust you with our guns.'' After all, King was a Republican and nobody remembers that either.

In one of his less remembered films, the Omega Man, Heston portrays the last modern man on earth. The movie is set in a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles infested by mutants called "The Family", who have "reverted to a luddite lifestyle, employing medieval imagery and technology—complete with long black robes, torches, bows and arrows, and catapults." The Family is determined to end the last symbol of science on earth, as portrayed by Heston, and incidentally, subdue the final holdout against the Collective.

And yet it was the Family that divorced itself from the stream of mankind and Heston's character that maintained its link. History seems to suggest that in order to achieve the greatest universality a man must appear to be alone, just as in order to attain the greatest provincialism, membership in a mob is necessary. Maybe we live as individuals so that our only final kinship is with all humanity and not simply with a family, tribe or sect.

In 1999, in remarks before a Harvard Law School forum Heston warned against the bondage of the crowd and appealed to his audience to reclaim their humanity and its heritage of individuality. 

You are the best and the brightest. You, here in the fertile cradle of American academia, here in the castle of learning on the Charles River, you are the cream. But I submit that you, and your counterparts across the land, are the most socially conformed and politically silenced generation since Concord Bridge. And as long as you validate that ... and abide it ... you are - by your grandfathers' standards - cowards. ...

Disobedience is in our DNA. We feel innate kinship with that Disobedient spirit that tossed tea into Boston Harbor, that sent Thoreau to jail, that refused to sit in the back of the bus, that protested a war in VietNam. In that same spirit, I am asking you to disavow cultural correctness with massive disobedience of rogue authority, social directives and onerous law that weaken personal freedom. ...

So that this nation may long endure, I urge you to follow in the hallowed footsteps of the great disobediences of history that freed exiles, founded religions, defeated tyrants, and yes, in the hands of an aroused rabble in arms and a few great men, by God's grace, built this country.

If Dr. King were here, I think he would agree. Thank you.

But Dr. King wasn't there. And Heston is no longer here. And the idea that the only real rebel is an individual or that a man might march with Dr. King and yet advocate the right to defend himself is so outrageously quaint that one wonders how many today find it completely inconceivable. But that almost proves the point.




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30 Comments:

Blogger Doug said...

When Michael Steele hosted the Hewitt show, he asserted that King's father, previously a Republican, became a Democrat after an incident in which MLK was in jail, his father sought the aid of Republicans, and was ignored.

At this point, I have more faith in Steele's veracity than Hillary or Barry,
(how's THAT for a left-handed compliment!)
so it will be interesting to see if other sources tell a different tale.

4/06/2008 02:03:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Martin Luther King audio

The writeup here refers to audio after King was killed, but there was also chilling audio of MLK's speech the night before he was murdered.
---
Also the 3 Candidates for President:
Hillary's being the most pathetic, almost crying, the only assertion that had the ring of truth being her tale of throwing her book bag across her room.
Fits a pattern, to include lamps, and no doubt Irons and every other projectile ever used in a Disney Cartoon.

4/06/2008 02:13:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Leno on Hillary's retelling of the first time she laid eyes on Bubba,
him reminding her of a
"handsome bearded Viking,"
or some such.

Leno thinks that's great, because she reminds HIM of Iceland!

4/06/2008 02:20:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

MLK's Christian faith informed him of the value of the individual.
Obama's "Christian" faith is informed by Marx.

4/06/2008 02:26:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

According to his autobiography "In the Arena," Heston recognized the right of freedom of speech exercised by others.
In a 1997 speech, he deplored a culture war he said was being conducted by a generation of media, educators, entertainers, and politicians against:

"...the God fearing, law-abiding, Caucasian, middle- class Protestant-or even worse, evangelical Christian, Midwestern or Southern- or even worse, rural, apparently straight-or even worse, admitted heterosexuals, gun-owing-or even worse, NRA-card-carrying, average working stiff-or even worse, male working stiff-because, not only don’t you count, you are a down-right obstacle to social progress.

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 from your new-America and until you do, would you mind shutting up?"
[11]

4/06/2008 02:40:00 AM  
Blogger Habu said...

And I thought the thread was about Charlton Heston and his stand for the civil rights of our African Americans.

The first five post don't even mention his name or work in that area.

Enough of elevating MLK above the lying adulterer, plagiarizer he was at his core. He plagiarized his PhD dissertation, but the university upon finding out refused to withdraw his Doctorate. His adultery is well documented.

Yes MLK ,a great leader. Heston, just another dead white guy.

4/06/2008 04:06:00 AM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

"Disobedience is in our DNA!" that to my mind is a great line, and well describes the very hyperactive and masculine behaviors that are being curbed in young men. For Shame.

But what Charlton Heston got, what MLK got, was the concept that Malcolm X mulled missed and so agonizingly in the last chapter of his autobiography. I remember reading "X" and trying to change the print to read what Malcolm came so close to realizing, what Martin and Men like Mr. Heston had figured out.

What MLK and Charlton Heston understood about disobedience as early as 1963 is a thing that the SDS twisted and contorted. They weren't even close. Ideas that those the two stood for are contorted by the most righteous recent Rev's and preached in an unrecognizable dull deference not to due process but to what is felt to be ones due by abuse.

In place of respect for the equal rights of the individual, in place of respect for human beings, we have become equally intellectually impoverished as a nation, and disproportionately
enslaved to politically correct ideas.

Yet we are richer for Mr Heston and Dr. King having been with us.

More Guns, fewer lawyers

4/06/2008 04:12:00 AM  
Blogger Nomenklatura said...

This is such a beautiful, well-informed and timely appreciation that I'm sorry to have to suggest a comparison with the Heston obituary in the New York Times. Read it though to see just how low that paper has fallen. Their attempt to portray Heston as a 'jut-jawed' idiot represents an effort to erase his memory. The paper which prides itself on being written by and for intellectuals does not even dare to refer to his ideas.

4/06/2008 05:29:00 AM  
Blogger Habu said...

Nomenklatura

The NYT has become a publishing joke. Their zenith was obviously Walter J Duranty's coverage of Stalin's harvest of sorrow in the Ukraine.

4/06/2008 06:05:00 AM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

From the Wikis:

In 1995, Heston denied a claim by Ben-Hur screenwriter Gore Vidal that there is a gay subtext to the film. Vidal says he wrote the script with such an implication, but never mentioned the subtext to Heston [though he did so to Stephen Boyd, who played Ben-Hur's friend Messala].)

Gee, I can't wait for the remake, "Benji and Messy have a falling out."

I'm listening to the Score from "The Big Country." The movie (which I haven't seen in years so I could have this wrong) embodied the struggle between "the Jacksonians" and "the Academics" that Michael Barone sees dominating the current Democratic Primary.

The Academics were the ones making the movie (I think William Wyler qualifies on that score) and, try as they might, they couldn't figure out the Jacksonians that the movie was about. They blew through a half dozen screen writers trying. But they came close enough to keep the suspense up. You can watch it all the way to the end thinking the Movie Makers might yet succeed.

I always thought Heston was not that great an actor. But he worked with DeMille in "The Greatest Show on Earth" and DeMille cast him as Moses. After that he worked for Wyler in a "step down role" (Gregory Peck was the leading man) in The Big Country. But then Wyler cast him as Ben Hur. I wonder if he had a work ethic that attracted those guys. If you're betting the studio on a movie, you may want a guy who'll be there and know his lines rather than a more talented and perhaps less reliable individual. Eighty percent of starring in an epic is looking the part and showing up.

4/06/2008 07:13:00 AM  
Blogger Habu said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/06/2008 07:15:00 AM  
Blogger Habu said...

Decade's later and with African American leadership a la Rev Wright and his apologist Barack Obama we are far eloign from MLK's agressive Ghadism of violent non violence.

The discussion has never left the public or private domain in my 60+ years, yet we are to now "start a new dialog" That is Orwellian.
Apparently it doesn't take a village it takes trillions of taxpayers dollars handed out to village idiots, a la Jackson , Sharpton.et. al. If measured by success in a business environment, subsidized African American achievement and profiling them so they may leapfrog hurtles others must overcome alone, the entire federal remedy, the Great Society, has been a fraud of wealth redistribution and loss of national productive output.
MLK wasn't a cure he was a fraudulent poseur who cheated ,lied ,plagiarized, and was the 1950'-60' version of BO.
Charlton Heston ,as has been pointed out, was the consummate professional. He turned out every day knowing his lines, not shaking down the studios for greater money. He knew his lines and now death, a necessary end ,has come when it was due.

4/06/2008 07:23:00 AM  
Blogger Habu said...

Decade's later and with African American leadership a la Rev Wright and his apologist Barack Obama we are far eloign from MLK's agressive Ghadism of violent non violence.

The discussion has never left the public or private domain in my 60+ years, yet we are to now "start a new dialog" That is Orwellian.
Apparently it doesn't take a village it takes trillions of taxpayers dollars handed out to village idiots, a la Jackson , Sharpton.et. al. If measured by success in a business environment, subsidized African American achievement and profiling them so they may leapfrog hurtles others must overcome alone, the entire federal remedy, the Great Society, has been a fraud of wealth redistribution and loss of national productive output.
MLK wasn't a cure he was a fraudulent poseur who cheated ,lied ,plagiarized, and was the 1950'-60' version of BO.
Charlton Heston ,as has been pointed out, was the consummate professional. He turned out every day knowing his lines, not shaking down the studios for greater money. He knew his lines and now death, a necessary end ,has come when it was due.

4/06/2008 07:23:00 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

In that speech, a few paragraphs before, Heston speaks of a guy named Martin Gross and his book The End of Sanity.
I read this speech online that year--as a liberal--and I decided to pick up Gross' book. I thought it was outrageous, but one reference (to some guy named T. Sowell) was so outrageous that I picked up Sowell's Quest For Cosmic Justice.
I have not looked back.
Thanks, Chuck, for that speech.

4/06/2008 08:20:00 AM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

I read Heston's biography some years ago. I don't know if he actually wrote it or it was ghosted, but it was extremely readable.

He came across as funny, humble, concerned about doing the right thing, and very very committed to his marriage.

He took a LOT of hits as President of the NRA, but again, I always perceived him as being gracious under pressure and didn't seem to lose his temper about all the name-calling flung in his direction.

There's a story I've heard in Los Angeles, that during the Watts riots, Hollywood people who were anti-gun were calling Heston asking to borrow one of his guns to protect themselves until things calmed down. According ot the story, Heston didn't laugh in their faces.

LGF is reporting that Huffington Post has closed down comments regarding Heston so that their progressives can't vent their hatred for the world to see ... again.

4/06/2008 08:54:00 AM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

Here is theMichael Barone article ("Democratic tribes at war") I referenced above.

And here is THE BIG COUNTRY movie trailer. Gregory Peck plays the Academic. He's too proud to fight (though he will when pushed) but humble enough to cut the defense budget. This movie comes after Chuck played Mo and before Benji.

Looking for the gay subtext: I can see Carol Baker giving up on Gregory Peck and going for Jean Simmons. But I don't think she's Jean's type. Scorned by both sexes, she takes an overdose of laudanum.

As for the men, I just don't see Gregory Peck hooking up with Burl Ives.

4/06/2008 09:20:00 AM  
Blogger bobal said...

What sappy movies we've had about the west, for the most part. Would that it were so dramatic. The west was won by a bunch of dour wheat farmers moving in their hundreds of thousands into mostly vacant land. Ending by force majeure the remnants of the old ways. The biggest battle out this way was the Battle of White Bird Canyon, a minor dust up, General Howard commanding.

Heston was a good guy. Nice man. Drove a mean chariot, and acted a passable Moses. I'd have voted for him.

Days of Heaven was a pretty good movie. Dances with Wolves was too, it even overcame Kevin Costner.

4/06/2008 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Nice Feint, al-Bob Al, when you know damn well the heavy lifting was done by operatives working through proxy Muslim "Wheat Farmers" working under various covers.
I could name names...

4/06/2008 12:38:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

King Senior, who died of a heart attack on November 11, 1984, at age 84, lived through this:

Family History
Mrs. Alberta King was shot and killed by a deranged black man at Ebenezer on June 30, 1974.
Her first son Martin was assassinated in 1968 and her second son Albert, who had also been a pastor at Ebenezer, drowned in a swimming pool the following year.

4/06/2008 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Wretchard tribalism and individual-universalism have always been with us.

The former is generally stronger, has been the habitual way of thinking for mankind for most of it's history, and dominates now as it has always done the thoughts and habits of men.

Malcolm X could no more reject tribalism than he could sprout wings and fly away.

4/06/2008 02:03:00 PM  
Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said...

"Rank-and-file Americans wake up every morning, increasingly bewildered and confused at why their views make them lesser citizens. The message gets through; Heaven help the God fearing, law-abiding, Caucasian, middle- class Protestant-or even worse, evangelical Christian, Midwestern or Southern- or even worse, rural, apparently straight-or even worse, admitted heterosexuals, gun-owing-or even worse, NRA-card-carrying, average working stiff-or even worse, male working stiff-because, not only don’t you count, you are a down-right obstacle to social progress. 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 from your new-America and until you do, would you mind shutting up?" -- 1997

4/06/2008 02:46:00 PM  
Blogger Celia Hayes said...

Well... getting back to the original point - Mr. C. Heston. He was a thoughtful and considerate gentleman, devoted in a flinty and not-to-be-deterred-by-prevailing-fashion-sort-of-way to certain abiding principles.
In the late 1980s, I was working at EBS-Zaragoza, and we had a chance (the only chance, as it turned out!) to do a TV interview with him, as he was then in Zaragoza, filming the commentary for a series on popular operas. He did the interview, and was so kind and responsive, a consummate professional to my crew of baby airmen, that I have remembered it ever since. (I wrote about it this morning here http://www.ncobrief.com/index.php/archives/big-screen-and-operatic/)
A true gentleman: in the words of the old saying "above peer and without reproach". How many Hollywood celebs could that be said of, now and in the recent past?

That I even ask the question says volumes...

4/06/2008 03:58:00 PM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

Mr. Heston was married to a woman from the Land of Two Rivers! Say dat T'Rivers!

4/06/2008 09:34:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

It is becoming evident that the Civil Rights Movement itself was segregated, for it attracted people who were very different from one another. It included those who marched in conformity to their community’s desires and aspirations, and those who marched in defiance of their own community’s standards. Some people equate the civil rights struggle with the dream enunciated by Martin Luther King, while other people equate the struggle with the community that was supposed to benefit from the civil rights struggle. People marched for diametrically opposed reasons and this colors later recollections of what the movement was supposed to be about.

We may have a “Martin Luther King Day”, but its meaning is being appropriated by the advocates of “Black Power”. Can it truly be regarded as a holiday for all Americans? To quote James Cone’s introduction to Black Theology and Black Power, “Black Power means black people taking the dominant role in determining the black-white relationship in American society.” In other words, “Black Power” advocates appear ready to enforce non-black conformity to “black” cultural norms. And now Americans are being told that a Black Prometheus has arrived to bring the fire of black cultural superiority to white people and wipe away that moral burden of slavery.

Any would-be Prometheus must know that not everybody is interested in a gift from the heavens. Just as the people of Soweto were less than grateful for mandatory education in the Afrikaans language, there may be some people who are less than interested in whatever gift a modern-day Prometheus may have to offer.

What if Prometheus stole the fire of the gods and no mortal was interested?

4/06/2008 09:47:00 PM  
Blogger Ardsgaine said...

hdgreene wrote:
"I always thought Heston was not that great an actor."

Well, you were wrong. Heston filled up the roles that were larger than life, the kind that today's actors can't do, because they can't even imagine what goes on in the mind of someone like Ben Hur--or even Steve Leech.

As someone who worships Man rather than God, I will miss Charlton Heston. Even though he was on the other side of the chasm that divides me from theists, he was closer to me than the nihilists who can find nothing exalted in this world.

4/06/2008 11:10:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"the kind that today's actors can't do"

Even Tom Cruise?
;-)

4/07/2008 01:46:00 PM  
Blogger IrishCicero said...

I loved this because it describes the pre-1968 America.

Middle class Americans in many parts of the world were truly cool. For all they had to "fix", Hippies made things worse.

One man's humble opinion.

4/07/2008 05:31:00 PM  
Blogger Wadeusaf said...

Habu,

While I appreciate the concern of promoting certain actions and activities deemed immoral, I cannot but wonder where in todays society, such treatment should begin, or end.

It was not us that elevated Dr. King. Flaws and all, he was selected, and agreed to be the spokesman of the Civil Rights Movement, and accept all the pros and cons that accompanied that elevation. That was a brave decision worthy, IMO, of our respect.

In his elevation, perhaps in a way no other person in that era could have influenced, an opportunity was created for thinking Americans dedicated to certain propositions to step forward and perhaps to share the same fate that Dr. King's dedication damned him to face.

That Charlton Heston was one of the first to accept the challenge and heed the call, indicates to me that he too supported that elevation and recognized the dedication it required.

For all that Charlton Heston is portrayed as a "far right wing nut job" due to his NRA affiliation, he was a realist, especially when it came to his ideals.

4/07/2008 10:41:00 PM  
Blogger MWilliams said...

A Heston anecdote - back in the mid 60's I was an 11 year old living in Marysville, California. A call went out for fair haired people who could pass for English peasants in a movie "The Warlord". It was being filmed in the nearby Sutter Buttes.
My mother, brother and I were selected. We were briefly in a scene where poor villagers walked with heads held down submissively.

I recall standing in for the young blond boy actor during rehearsal.
And what I remember of Heston was how he efficiently blew his nose by pressing closed the opposite nostril and blowing.

I remember being more impressed with Richard Boone as Heston's sidekick.

I still have my social security card from this first time employment, one number away from my brother.

4/08/2008 09:10:00 PM  
Blogger Robbie Hingston said...

Wow. Here's to Charleton Heston. Regarding King's political affiliation, I have Conrad Black's biography of Richard Nixon which says that after King was arrested at a sit-in in a department store during the JFK-Nixon presidential race Robert Kennedy called the judge and secured his release. Nixon said of the issue

"I think Dr. King is getting a bum rap, but despite my strong feelings... it would be completely improper for me... to call the judge."

Black writes that King had voted Republican in '56 and King Sr. had already endorsed Nixon but after this he reversed and said he would deliver JFK "a suitcase of votes." And blacks voted 80% Democrat compared to 60% in '56.

Black thinks this was priggish of Nixon and masterly of Kennedy. I can't say I agree - although in this particular context one could raise the arguement that the execution of the law may have been affected by political passions and that it was therefore just to apply political pressure in the opposite direction. Or even that a law so unjust deserves no respect.

That's a thought to handle with care however.

4/18/2008 07:39:00 PM  

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