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The Culture War – Charlton Heston

The Culture War

The Culture War

The Culture War

We are often inclined to think that the problems we face today, are very modern problems. We believe that within the last decade, something rapidly started to change. Perhaps that is true, perhaps things really did start to accelerate recently. Yet, many problems are not that new. They have been rising for years. The culture war is not a new invention.

Almost two decades ago, the then president of the National Rifle Association in the United States, Charles Heston gave a speech. His speech is about the culture war that the United States was facing. A war that has since spread across the European continent.

What is fascinating is that this speech is two decades old, yet appears so relevant even today. Perhaps even more so. We have included the entire speech below, with comments added by us in between the quotes. If you’d rather listen to the speech, you can find it on YouTube here.

The first paragraphs quoted make up the introduction. Feel free to skip this part as it becomes far more interesting later on. The text below contains the entire speech in the quoted areas. All text outside of the quotes areas has been added by us.

Thank you very much, both for that warm response to the introduction and the introduction.

You know, very often people with public faces are introduced with the simple phrase, “Now, ladies and gentlemen, a man who needs no introduction.” Believe me, you could always use a good introduction. No, no, no, you laugh, you laugh, but it’s true. I have a story that proves it, true story — didn’t happen to me, happened to a friend of mine: Kirk Douglas. This was when Ben Hur was in release, more or less all over.

And Kirk said he was walking on a street near his home in Beverly Hills one evening after dinner when he was approached very politely by a stranger who said, “Excuse me, sir, I don’t like interfering in the private lives of public people but I cannot let pass this opportunity to tell you what a deeply moving and enormously creative performance you gave in Ben Hur.” And Kirk said, “Well thanks very much but that wasn’t me; that was another fellow.” And the man stood back amazed. He said, “Well if you aren’t Burt Lancaster, who the hell are you?”

So, I’m glad we’ve made it clear right at the outset that I’m not Burt Lancaster.

I remember when my son was five, explaining to his kindergarten class what his father did for a living. “My daddy,” he said, “pretends to be people.”

That’s not bad, actually. That’s about it. There have been quite a few of them. Prophets from the Old and the New Testaments, 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’d like me to work on this ceiling, I’ll be glad to my best. No, it’s just that there are always seems to be a lot of different fellows up here and I’m never entirely certain which one of them gets to talk. Right now, I guess I’m the guy.

That sums up the introduction. Prepare to read the real contents of the speech.

A Great Civil War

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 I mentioned, 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 that 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 lives in your heart. I’m sure 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.

The idea of a culture war was already alive twenty years ago. It became overshadowed by the war on terror, but without a doubt the idea of a cultural war has returned.


Let me back up a little. About a year or two ago, I became president of the National Rifle Association, which protects the right to keep and bear arms of American citizens. 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 Lord ain’t senile.

It seems the name-calling has since devolved and become far more offensive than merely ridiculous. Just recently, Robert DeNiro received a standing ovation for his eloquent speech that said ”Fuck Trump”. That was not the title of the speech, it was the content.

Name Calling

As I’ve stood in the crosshairs of those who target Second Amendment freedoms, I’ve realized that firearms are — 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 accepted thoughts and speech are mandated.

For example, I marched for civil rights with Dr. King in 1963 — and long before Hollywood found it acceptable, I may say. 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.

Nothing has changed there. This Institute will be called racist, merely for saying Charles Heston did not deserve to be called racist. Saying white pride is valid, instead of deplorable, will immediately earn you the title of fascist.

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

Can you see the trend? If someone says something you disagree with, simply stick a label on them and you won’t need to debate them. After all, why would anyone debate with a homophobe?

Shutting Down the Debate

I served in World War II against the Axis powers. But during a speech, when I drew an analogy between singling out the 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’m talking about, I was compared to Timothy McVeigh.

From Time magazine to friends and colleagues, they’re essentially saying, “Chuck, how dare you speak your mind like that. 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 twisted on us — foisted on us from every direction. Underneath, the nation is roiling. Americans know something without a name is undermining the country, 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 you a few examples. At Antioch College in Ohio, young men speaking and seeking intimacy with a coed must get verbal permission at each step of the process, from kissing to petting to final, at last, copulation — all clearly spelled out in a printed college directive.

Shockingly, it seems the #metoo rage had a predecessor. We find it hard to believe that many people would have followed these rules. Yet, we don’t believe that all these young men are therefore rapists.

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

If the perpetrator belongs to a minority group, the victim can suffer without justice being served.

The Tribe and Transsexuals

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 really like the name, “The Tribe.”

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.

Were you aware sex change surgery was already a common topic of debate twenty years ago? Little appears to have changed since then, apart from it becoming an issue for the presidential elections.

Hyphenated Americans

In New York City, kids who didn’t speak a word of Spanish had been placed in bilingual classes to learn their three R’s in Spanish solely because their own 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’s a twelfth generation native-American, with a capital letter on “American.”

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

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) don’t know how to use a dictionary to discover the meaning, and (c) actually demanded that he apologize for their ignorance.

Now, what does all of this mean? Among other things, 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 — to tolerate it? Why do you, who’re supposed to debate ideas, surrender to their suppression?

Let — Let’s be honest. Who here in this room thinks your professors can say what they really believe? (Uh-huh. There’s a few….) Well, that scares me to death, and it should scare you too, that the superstition of political correctness rules the halls of reason.

How  can there be a functioning democracy if people are afraid of the consequences with regards to sharing their opinion?

Political Silence

You are the best and the brightest. You, here in this 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.

Let us repeat that: 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. But why? Because their research findings would undermine big-city mayors’ pending lawsuits that seek to extort hundreds of millions of dollars from firearm manufacturers.

This really puts into doubt the reliability of scientific findings. What if research producing conflicting results on controversial topics is simply banned before it even gets published?

Freedom of Ideas

Now, 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? Democracy is dialogue. Who will defend the core values of academia, if you, the supposed soldiers of free thought and expression lay down your arms and plead, “Don’t shoot me.”

More surprising than the apathy, might be the amount of people nowadays that would support this. The people that would support blocking research on topics they don’t want to discuss, the people blocking findings that they disagree with before they can be published. The people, ultimately, that approve the abolition of free speech and a free society.

Free Speech, Don’t be a Coward

If you talk about race, it does not make you a racist. If you see distinctions between the genders, it does not make you sexist. If you think critically about a denomination, it does — 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. That’s what it is: New McCarthyism. But, what can you do? How can anyone prevail against such pervasive social subjugation?

Well, 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 people.

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 the 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’ m asking you to disavow cultural correctness with massive disobedience of rogue authority, social directives, and onerous laws that weaken personal freedom.

There seems to be a strong connection here to where he says not to be a coward. The people have the power, in the war of culture you will win if you play by your own rules and not fall for the opponents mirage.

Taking Action – Ice T

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. Now, I’m not complaining, but my own decades of social activism have left their mark on me. Let me tell you a story.

A few years ago, I heard about a — a rapper named Ice-T who was selling a CD called “Cop Killer,” celebrating the ambushing and of murdering police officers. It was being marketed by none other than Time/Warner, the biggest entertainment conglomerate in the country — in the world. Police across the country were outraged. And rightfully so. At least one of them had been murdered. But Time/Warner was stonewalling because the — the CD was a cash cow for them, and the media were tiptoeing around because the rapper was black. I heard Time/Warner had a stockholders meeting scheduled in Beverly Hills, and I owned some shares of Time/Warner at the time, so I decided to attend the meeting.

What I did was against the advice of my family and my 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:

I got my 12-Gauge sawed-off. I got my headlights turned off. I’m about to bust some shots off. I’m about to dust some cops off.

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

She pushed her butt against my —

We might question how common such lines have become in modern hiphop music.

The Conclusion

No. No, I won’t do to you here what I did to them. Let’s just say I left the room in stunned silence. When I read the lyrics to the waiting press corps outside, one of them said, “We can’t print that, you know.” “I know,” I said, “but Time/Warner is still selling it.”

Two months later, Time/Warner terminated Ice-T’s contract. I’ll never be offered another film by Warner Brothers, or get a good review from Time magazine. But disobedience means you have to 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 — 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 then 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 advertises.

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.

I thank you.

We hope you enjoyed the speech he made nearly twenty years ago. We feel it is just as, or even more so, relevant today. The culture war mentioned above is without a doubt still in progress. More importantly, the solution recommended undoubtedly still works.

1 Comment

  1. Interesting speech.

    There is many I could quote but the one below I think is a good follow up to your choice… (I removed nationalities/countries – this way it can be applied to any Nation or issue)

    “Ladies and gentlemen, there are moments in the lives of nations and peoples when it is incumbent upon those known for their wisdom and clarity of vision to survey the problem, with all its complexities and vain memories, in a bold drive toward new horizon.
    Those who like us are shouldering the same responsibilities entrusted to us are the first who should have the courage to make determining decisions that are consonant with the magnitude of the circumstances. We must all rise above all forms of obsolete theories of superiority, and the most important thing is never to forget that infallibility is the prerogative of God alone.
    Any life that is lost in war is a human life, be it that of a/an … or a/an …. A wife who becomes a widow is a human being entitled to a happy family life, whether she be a/an…. or a/an….
    Innocent children who are deprived of the care and compassion of their parents are ours. They are ours, be they living on … or … land.

    For the sake of them all, for the sake of the lives of all our sons and brothers, for the sake of affording our communities the opportunity to work for the progress and happiness of man, feeling secure and with the right to a dignified life, for the generations to come, for a smile on the face of every child born in our land — for all that I have taken my decision to come to you, despite all the hazards, to deliver my address.

    Ladies and gentlemen, let us be frank with each other. Using straightforward words and a clear conception with no ambiguity, let us be frank with each other today while the entire world, both East and West, follows these unparalleled moments which could prove to be a radical turning point in the history of this part of the world if not in the history of the world as a whole.

    Let us be frank with each other, let us be frank with each other as we answer this important question:
    How can we achieve permanent peace based on justice? …..
    Before I proclaim my answer, I wish to assure you that in my clear and frank answer I am availing myself of a number of facts which no one can deny.

    The first fact is that no one can build his happiness at the expense of the misery of others.
    The second fact: never have I spoken, nor will I ever speak, with two tongues; never have I adopted, nor will I ever adopt, two policies. I never deal with anyone except in one tongue, one policy and with one face.
    The third fact: direct confrontation is the nearest and most successful method to reach a clear objective.
    The fourth fact: the call for permanent and just peace based on respect for United Nations resolutions has now become the call of the entire world. It has become the expression of the will of the international community, whether in official capitals where policies are made and decisions taken, or at the level of world public opinion, which influences policymaking and decision-taking.

    The fifth fact, and this is probably the clearest and most prominent, is that the … nation, in its drive for permanent peace based on justice, does not proceed from a position of weakness. On the contrary, it has the power and stability for a sincere will for peace.
    Here I would go back to the big question:
    How can we achieve a durable peace based on justice? In my opinion, and I declare it to the whole world, from this forum, the answer is neither difficult nor is it impossible despite long years of feuds, blood, faction, strife, hatreds and deep-rooted animosity.
    The answer is not difficult, nor is it impossible, if we sincerely and faithfully follow a straight line.
    You want to live with us, part of the world.
    In all sincerity I tell you we welcome you among us with full security and safety. This in itself is a tremendous turning point, one of the landmarks of a decisive historical change. We used to reject you. We had our reasons and our fears, yes.

    We refused to meet with you, anywhere, yes.
    We were together in international conferences and organizations and our representatives did not, and still do not, exchange greetings with you. Yes. This has happened and is still happening.
    It is also true that we used to set as a precondition for any negotiations with you a mediator who would meet separately with each party.
    Yes. Through this procedure, the talks of the first and second disengagement agreements took place.

    It was a wall of the fear …. It was a wall of propaganda ….

    Together we have to admit that that wall fell and collapsed … Yet, there remains another wall. This wall constitutes a psychological barrier between us, a barrier of suspicion, a barrier of rejection; a barrier of fear, of deception, a barrier of hallucination without any action, deed or decision
    A barrier of distorted and eroded interpretation of every event and statement. It is this psychological barrier which I described in official statements as consituting 70 percent of the whole problem.

    Why don’t we stand together with the courage of men and the boldness of heroes who dedicate themselves to a sublime aim? Why don’t we stand together with the same courage and daring to erect a huge edifice of peace?

    An edifice that builds and does not destroy. An edifice that serves as a beacon for generations to come with the human message for construction, development and the dignity of man.

    Ladies and gentlemen, to tell you the truth, peace cannot be worth its name unless it is based on justice and not on the occupation of the land of others. It would not be right for you to demand for yourselves what you deny to others. With all frankness and in the spirit that has prompted me to come to you today, I tell you have to give up once and for all the dreams of conquest and give up the belief that force is the best method for dealing with the …..

    For there is no peace that could be built on the occupation of the land of others, otherwise it would not be a serious peace. Yet this is a foregone conclusion which is not open to the passion of debate if intentions are sincere or if endeavors to establish a just and durable peace for our and for generations to come are genuine.
    It is an acknowledged fact, perceived by the world community, both in the East and in the West, with support and recognition in international documents and official statements. It is of no use to anybody to turn deaf ears to its resounding voice, which is being heard day and night, or to overlook its historical reality.

    You have to face reality bravely, as I have done. There can never be any solution to a problem by evading it or turning a deaf ear to it. Peace cannot last if attempts are made to impose fantasy concepts on which the world has turned its back and announced its unanimous call for the respect of rights and facts.

    Ladies and gentlemen, peace is not a mere endorsement of written lines. Rather it is a rewriting of history. Peace is not a game of calling for peace to defend certain whims or hide certain admissions. Peace in its essence is a dire struggle against all and every ambition and whim.

    Perhaps the example taken and experienced, taken from ancient and modern history, teaches that missiles, warships and nuclear weapons cannot establish security. Instead they destroy what peace and security build.
    For the sake of our peoples and for the sake of the civilization made by man, we have to defend man everywhere against rule by the force of arms so that we may endow the rule of humanity with all the power of the values and principles that further the sublime position of mankind.

    Introduce to the entire world the image of the new man in this area so that he might set an example to the man of our age, the man of peace everywhere. Ring the bells for your sons. Tell them that those wars were the last of wars and the end of sorrows. Tell them that we are entering upon a new beginning, a new life, a life of love, prosperity, freedom and peace.

    I have chosen to come to you with an open heart and an open mind. I have chosen to give this great impetus to all international efforts exerted for peace. I have chosen to present to you, in your own home, the realities, devoid of any scheme or whim. Not to maneuver, or win a round, but for us to win together, the most dangerous of rounds embattled in modern history, the battle of permanent peace based on justice.
    It is not my battle alone. Nor is it the battle of the leadership in … alone. It is the battle of all and every citizen in all our territories, whose right it is to live in peace. It is the commitment of conscience and responsibility in the hearts of millions.”

    Peace With Justice
    Anwar el-Sadat
    November 20, 1977

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