Matt's Blog
...religion, politics, and other things you should never discuss at bars (but probably do anyways).
Wednesday, December 03, 2003

I first heard Martin Sheen recite this poem by Rabindranath Tagore in his introduction of Gov. Howard Dean at Union Station in Los Angeles. He earlier spoke the words at a rally for Appalachia in Athens County, Ohio.

"My Country Awake"
By Rabindranath Tagore

Where the mind is without fear and the head held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by Thee into ever-widening thought and action;
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

I have great respect for Martin Sheen. It amazes me that people will stand up and criticize actors from taking stances on controversial and political positions, and then they'll support Arnold Schwarzenegger for governor of the largest state. Don't get me wrong, I think there are a lot of people in Hollywood commenting on things they really have no knowledge on - of course, we also see this in congress. Sean Penn going to Iraq? I thought that was dumb. Putting up Margaret Cho against Jerry Falwell to debate gay marriage? She was a raving lunatic who made Falwell look like the rational one, and that's no easy accomplishment.

Sheen is different. He doesn't just embrace a cause, he embraces a philosophy. Some in Hollywood work for AIDS funding, others are against fur. Some actor/activists believe in protecting the wetlands, others are against all forms of war. Sheen doesn't narrowly align himself with just one cause - he embraces social justice in a wide array of topics. And he doesn't just use his celebrity to testify once before congress and MC a benefit concert. He puts his time, money, and personal freedom where his mouth is. Mark Pattison writes:
In the past 20 years, he has been on the front line of a lot of obscure and seemingly quixotic causes. For example, in August, he helped finance a trip to Washington for three young children who survived a 1997 massacre of 45 indigenous peasants at a church in Chiapas, Mexico; he also covered their medical expenses. Last November, he got arrested at Fort Benning, Ga., along with hundreds of other people, at the latest in an annual series of protests seeking to close down the controversial School of the Americas, which opponents say has taught torture methods to Latin American military officers. He was there again last month. He's also been a staunch supporter of the United Farm Workers union, getting arrested in a 1997 protest at a strawberry field in Watsonville, Calif.

In an interview with Sheen in the Progressive, he puts some light on his activism. There are two parts in particular I like; however, the whole interview is worth reading:
Question: Why are you so active in social justice and peace issues?

Martin Sheen: I do it because I can't seem to live with myself if I do not. I don't know any other way to be. It isn't something you can explain; it is just something that you do; it is something that you are.

Q: Do you despair, or do you have hope?

Sheen: ...

If all of the issues that I have worked on were depending on some measure of success, it would be a total failure. I don't anticipate success. We're not asked to be successful, we are only asked to be faithful. I couldn't even tell you what success is.

God writes a lot of comedy...
the trouble is,
he's stuck with so
many bad actors
who don't know how
to play funny.

-Garrison Keillor


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