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Fighting a Civil War for Civil Rights: Public Figures with Guts

by Crystal Webb

I am not a rock star (though I wish I was!). I am not a movie star; indeed, I have very little power and prestige in these conventional senses. I am simply a college student, hoping for a break in the entertainment industry. I am not a politician; I have never campaigned for a candidate; I have never been a part of a student government. But Ralph Nader said that "in a democracy, the highest position is citizen", and I am one of those.

As a citizen of the United States, I have actively opposed my country's aggressions in Iraq and, as the issues have been introduced to me, aggressions and occupations worldwide. Simple research in both mainstream and independent media circuits have opened my eyes to injustices and wholesale betrayal by my government, long hidden from the public. New heroes, men and women such as Gore Vidal, Ramsey Clark and Helen Thomas, have risen in my eyes, inspiring me to march against the Bush administration's policies. (Yes, I know that these folks are hardly 'new', but you must understand that, as one experiencing an awakening in political consciousness, they are largely new to me.) Alongside these freedom fighters, I have been proud to see some of the icons that have inspired me for years stepping up to the plate.

In an increasingly hostile climate, one where an artist's career can be ground into the dirt in a matter of a week if they dare cross Clear Channel (or any of the other bloated corporate cash cows) it takes more than guts to stand up. With that in mind, I would like to thank the individuals who have risked their livelihood and safety by either standing against Bush's War and alarming policies, upholding First Amendment rights, or simply seeking to help the innocent victims. Despite what many talking heads suggest, these men and women are extremely brave and much of the American public recognizes and appreciates that fact. Like many others, I still listen to the Dixie Chicks. In fact, if my family didn't already own all of their albums (and tickets to an upcoming concert) you can bet that I would make it a point to buy them all. I've got my copy of "Stupid White Men" in hand and am anxiously awaiting the DVD release of "Bowling for Columbine". Though many would claim otherwise, it is not a crime to oppose or question the administration, nor is it a crime to enjoy the work of those who do.

Whether or not I agree with an artist or individual, they have the Constitutional right to speak their mind. Moreover, they have the obligation to speak out if they feel that their government is in the wrong. Case in point: though I sharply disagree with his politics, I still love Toby Keith's music. I haven't placed his albums under the front tires of my car; the masses who participated in the Dixie Chick demolition derbies, like those who threw albums onto the Beatle bonfires nearly forty years before, should seek to learn tolerance for opposing viewpoints. After all, isn't it our diversity, not only of race but of religion and ideas themselves, what constitutes America's potential for greatness? When that freedom, those fundamental rights, are compromised doesn't that draw our country ever closer to the dictatorships that we admonish? When a corporation can pull the strings of a puppet administration and turn the country's guns (both figuratively and literally) upon its critics, doesn't that edge us closer to the fascist regime that was toppled in Hitler's Germany?

Some may dismiss me as melodramatic, a modern-day soothsayer mumbling America's "Ides of March", but I urge all citizens, not only of the US but of the world, to contemplate my arguments.

In closing, I would like to thank the more prominent members of the resistance: Thank you, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon. Thank you, Martin Sheen. Thank you, Eddie Vedder, Bruce Springsteen, and Natalie Maine (and the other Chicks). Thank you, Hunter S. Thompson, Michael Moore, Gore Vidal, Ralph Nader, NOFX and System of a Down. And thank you to one of my true heroes: Sir Paul McCartney, for orchestrating the upcoming project to benefit the victims of the War and to ban cluster bombs. Thank you to Avril Lavigne, Cat Stevens, and everyone else who has signed on to this cause.

These are the patriots, my friends. They have risked much in efforts to preserve our freedoms and everything that is worth saving in this world. We should thank them all.