Winning The Cultural War
          Charlton Heston
          February 16, 1999

       Harvard Law School Forum
       February 16, 1999

       I remember my son when he was five, explaining to his
       kindergarten class what his father did for a living. 'My
       Daddy,' he said, 'pretends to be people.' There have been
       quite a few of them. Prophets from the Old and New
       Testaments, a couple of Christian saints, generals of various
       nationalities and different centuries, several kings, three
       American presidents, a French cardinal and two geniuses,
       including Michelangelo.

       If you want the ceiling re-painted I'll do my best. There
       always seem to be a lot of different fellows up here. I'm
       never sure which one of them gets to talk. Right now, I guess
       I'm the guy.

       As I pondered our visit tonight it struck me: if my Creator
       gave me the gift to connect you with the hearts and minds of
       those great men, then I want to use that same gift now to
       re-connect you with your own sense of liberty … your own
       freedom of thought ... your own compass for what is right.

       Dedicating the memorial at Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln said
       of America, 'We are now engaged in a great Civil War, testing
       whether this nation or any nation so conceived and so
       dedicated can long endure.'

       Those words are true again. I believe that we are again
       engaged in a great civil war, a cultural war that's about to
       hijack your birthright to think and say what resides in your
       heart. I fear you no longer trust the pulsing lifeblood of
       liberty inside you ... the stuff that made this country rise
       from wilderness into the miracle that it is.

       Let me back up. About a year ago I became president of the
       National Rifle Association, which protects the right to keep
       and bear arms. I ran for office, I was elected, and now I
       serve ... I serve as a moving target for the media who've
       called me everything from 'ridiculous' and 'duped' to a
       'brain-injured, senile, crazy old man'. I know ... I'm pretty
       old ... but I sure thank the Lord ain't senile.

       As I have stood in the crosshairs of those who target Second
       Amendment freedoms, I've realized that firearms are not the
       only issue. No, it's much, much bigger than that. I've come
       to understand that a cultural war is raging across our land,
       in which, with Orwellian fervor, certain acceptable thoughts
       and speech are mandated.

       For example, I marched for civil rights with Dr. King in 1963
       -†long before Hollywood found it fashionable. But when I
       told an audience last year that white pride is just as valid
       as black pride or red pride or anyone else's pride, they
       called me a racist.

       I've worked with brilliantly talented homosexuals all my
       life. But when I told an audience that gay rights should
       extend no further than your rights or my rights, I was called
       a homophobe.

       I served in World War II against the Axis powers. But during
       a speech, when I drew an analogy between singling out
       innocent Jews and singling out innocent gun owners, I was
       called an anti-Semite.

       Everyone I know knows I would never raise a closed fist
       against my country. But when I asked an audience to oppose
       this cultural persecution, I was compared to Timothy McVeigh.

       From Time magazine to friends and colleagues, they're
       essentially saying, 'Chuck, how dare you speak your mind. You
       are using language not authorized for public consumption!'

       But I am not afraid. If Americans believed in political
       correctness, we'd still be King George's boys-subjects bound
       to the British crown.

       In his book, 'The End of Sanity,' Martin Gross writes that
       'blatantly irrational behavior is rapidly being established
       as the norm in almost every area of human endeavor. There
       seem to be new customs, new rules, new anti-intellectual
       theories regularly foisted on us from every direction.
       Underneath, the nation is roiling. Americans know something,
       without a name is undermining the nation, turning the mind
       mushy when it comes to separating truth from falsehood and
       right from wrong. And they don't like it.'

       Let me read a few examples. At Antioch college in Ohio, young
       men seeking intimacy with a coed must get verbal permission
       at each step of the process from kissing to petting to final
       copulation ... all clearly spelled out in a printed college

       In New Jersey, despite the death of several patients
       nationwide who had been infected by dentists who had
       concealed their AIDS -- the state commissioner announced that
       health providers who are HIV-positive need not ... need not
       ... tell their patients that they are infected.

       At William and Mary, students tried to change the name of the
       school team 'The Tribe' because it was supposedly insulting
       to local Indians, only to learn that authentic Virginia
       chiefs truly like the name.

       In San Francisco, city fathers passed an ordinance protecting
       the rights of transvestites to cross-dress on the job, and
       for transsexuals to have separate toilet facilities while
       undergoing sex change surgery.

       In New York City, kids who don't speak a word of Spanish have
       been placed in bilingual classes to learn their three R's in
       Spanish solely because their last names sound Hispanic.

       At the University of Pennsylvania, in a state where thousands
       died at Gettysburg opposing slavery, the president of that
       college officially set up segregated dormitory space for
       black students.

       Yeah, I know ... that's out of bounds now. Dr. King said
       'Negroes.' Jimmy Baldwin and most of us on the March said
       'black.' But it's a no-no now.

       For me, hyphenated identities are awkward ... particularly
       'Native-American.' I'm a Native American, for God's sake. I
       also happen to be a blood-initiated brother of the Miniconjou
       Sioux. On my wife's side, my grandson is a thirteenth
       generation Native American ... with a capital letter on

       Finally, just last month ... David Howard, head of the
       Washington D.C. Office of Public Advocate, used the word
       'niggardly' while talking to colleagues about budgetary
       matters. Of course, 'niggardly' means stingy or scanty. But
       within days Howard was forced to publicly apologize and

       As columnist Tony Snow wrote: 'David Howard got fired because
       some people in public employ were morons who (a) didn't know
       the meaning of niggardly,' (b) didn't know how to use a
       dictionary to discover the meaning, and (c) actually demanded
       that he apologize for their ignorance.'

       What does all of this mean? It means that telling us what to
       think has evolved into telling us what to say, so telling us
       what to do can't be far behind. Before you claim to be a
       champion of free thought, tell me: Why did political
       correctness originate on America's campuses? And why do you
       continue to tolerate it? Why do you, who're supposed to
       debate ideas, surrender to their suppression?

       Let's be honest. Who here thinks your professors can say what
       they really believe? It scares me to death, and should scare
       you too, that the superstition of political correctness rules
       the halls of reason.

       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. Here's another
       example. Right now at more than one major university, Second
       Amendment scholars and researchers are being told to shut up
       about their findings or they'll lose their jobs. Why? Because
       their research findings would undermine big-city mayor's
       pending lawsuits that seek to extort hundreds of millions of
       dollars from firearm manufacturers.

       I don't care what you think about guns. But if you are not
       shocked at that, I am shocked at you. Who will guard the raw
       material of unfettered ideas, if not you? Who will defend the
       core value of academia, if you supposed soldiers of free
       thought and expression lay down your arms and plead, 'Don't
       shoot me.'

       If you talk about race, it does not make you a racist. If you
       see distinctions between the genders, it does not make you a
       sexist. If you think critically about a denomination, it does
       not make you anti-religion. If you accept but don't celebrate
       homosexuality, it does not make you a homophobe.

       Don't let America's universities continue to serve as
       incubators for this rampant epidemic of new McCarthyism. But
       what can you do? How can anyone prevail against such
       pervasive social subjugation?

       The answer's been here all along. I learned it 36 years ago,
       on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.,
       standing with Dr. Martin Luther King and two hundred thousand

       You simply ... disobey. Peaceably, yes. Respectfully, of
       course. Nonviolently, absolutely. But when told how to think
       or what to say or how to behave, we don't. We disobey social
       protocol that stifles and stigmatizes personal freedom.

       I learned the awesome power of disobedience from Dr. King ...
       who learned it from Gandhi, and Thoreau, and Jesus, and every
       other great man who led those in the right against those with
       the might.

       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 Viet Nam.

       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

       But be careful ... it hurts. Disobedience demands that you
       put yourself at risk. Dr. King stood on lots of balconies.
       You must be willing to be humiliated ... to endure the
       modern-day equivalent of the police dogs at Montgomery and
       the water Cannons at Selma. You must be willing to experience
       discomfort. I'm not Complaining, but my own decades of social
       activism have taken their toll on me. Let me tell you a

       A few years back I heard about a rapper named Ice-T who was
       selling a CD called 'Cop Killer' celebrating ambushing and
       murdering police officers. It was being marketed by none
       other than Time/Warner, the biggest entertainment
       conglomerate in the world. Police across the country were
       outraged. Rightfully so-at least one had been murdered. But
       Time/Warner was stonewalling because the CD was a cash cow
       for them, and the media were tiptoeing around it because the
       rapper was black. I heard Time/Warner had a stockholders
       meeting scheduled in Beverly Hills. I owned some shares at
       the time, so I decided to attend.

       What I did there was against the advice of my family and
       colleagues. I asked for the floor. To a hushed room of a
       thousand average American stockholders, I simply read the
       full lyrics of 'Cop Killer'-every vicious, vulgar,
       instructional word.


       It got worse, a lot worse. I won't read the rest of it to
       you. But trust me, the room was a sea of shocked, frozen,
       blanched faces. The Time/Warner executives squirmed in their
       chairs and stared at their shoes. They hated me for that.
       Then I delivered another volley of sick lyric brimming with
       racist filth, where Ice-T fantasizes about sodomizing two
       12-year old nieces Of Al and Tipper Gore. SHE PUSHED HER BUTT
       AGAINST MY ....'

       Well, I won't do to you here what I did to them. Let's just
       say I left the room in echoing silence. When I read the
       lyrics to the waiting press corps, one of them said 'We can't
       print that.' 'I know,' I replied, 'but Time/Warner ís selling

       Two months later, Time/Warner terminated Ice-T's contract.
       I'll never be offered another film by Warners, or get a good
       review from Time magazine. But disobedience means you must be
       willing to act, not just talk.

       When a mugger sues his elderly victim for defending herself
       ... jam the switchboard of the district attorney's office.
       When your university is pressured to lower standards until
       80% of the students graduate with honors ... choke the halls
       of the board of regents. When an 8-year-old boy pecks a
       girl's cheek on the playground and gets hauled into court for
       sexual harassment ... march on that school and block its
       doorways. When someone you elected is seduced by political
       power and betrays you ... petition them, oust them, banish
       them. When Time magazine's cover portrays millennium nuts as
       deranged, crazy Christians holding a cross as it did last
       month ... boycott their magazine and the products it

       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.

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