Not Everyone's Opinion Counts

by Nikki Tranter

28 March 2003


What do I think about the war in Iraq? First of all, I think war is fundamentally wrong: the second someone dies, everyone loses. If there can be no winner, is there any point to sending troops into a country with morals and beliefs so entirely different to our own in an attempt to achieve the unachievable.

Wait a minute, does anybody really care what I think? Is anyone out there on the edge of her seat waiting for my insights into civil liberty and hate-fueled fanaticism? I doubt it. While I may have the right to say what I think, thanks to “freedom of speech,” I don’t harbor any illusion that I will be heard. Why should I? I have never served in the armed forces, I’m not involved in politics on a professional level, I don’t wear a government-issued uniform, and I don’t salute a flag. In all honesty, anything I know about the war in Iraq comes not from personal investigation or research, but from watching The Daily Show.

I know I’m not the only one forming opinions about the current state of the world based on those of people who actually take the time to become informed. And, I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with that. The very idea of “going to war” makes my brain freeze, so I’d prefer to hear Jon Stewart’s political commentary rather than see actual destruction a few stations over, on CNN. Stewart hasn’t steered me wrong yet, and I can easily participate in Monday morning water-cooler conversations without ever picking up a newspaper. It’s grand.

Stewart’s satirical vibe isn’t for everyone, though. So, to those people like me who ignore the front page to hit the comics, beware of whose opinions you steal for your own.

Consider Pearl Jam frontperson Eddie Vedder. The singer has a rather large platform to express his beliefs, not to mention an unending trail of folks who want to hear what he has to say. At a recent Melbourne show, Vedder used the concert stage to demonstrate his hatred for the current U.S. Administration. He did this not through an exchange of ideas, but by moonwalking onto the stage, wearing a rubbery mask of the President. Removing the mask, he then proceeded to attack it, violently, throughout his performance of the anti-Bush ditty, “Bushleaguer.” At song’s end, he placed the mask atop his microphone stand, shoving it between his legs to simulate oral sex. “Are we being to hard on him?” Vedder shouted. Came the crowd’s answer: “NO!”

Apparently, these enthusiastic fans missed the irony that they were approving Vedder’s pro-freedom statements (the Bush-fucking was one of many) at a show for which they paid almost $100 a ticket, and were subjected to bag searches and frisking. Where’s the freedom in that?

“Well,” said my sister, an ardent Pearl Jam disciple, “He was using his status to make a point.” Maybe she’s right. Maybe selling millions of records does give Eddie Vedder carte blanche to be an absolute jerk. But God forbid, that night, any of Eddie’s audience members managed to get past those rather large guards in front of the stage to offer up their own opinions.

Then again, at least Vedder has a position. At least he knows what he thinks about Bush’s America. The same cannot be said for Academy Award-nominated, Hawaiian-born, Australian-raised actress Nicole Kidman. Saturday’s Herald-Sun reported that she was unsure at the time of printing whether or not she would attend Sunday’s Awards ceremony in Los Angeles. Says her mouthpiece, Catherine Olim, Kidman would “wait and see,” citing her discomfort with the “glitz of the event in the current climate.”

Oh, please. War, drugs, poverty, terrorism, racism, communism, genocide, suicide, AIDS, sex, death: none of these problems facing the world on a daily basis seemed to sway Nicole in previous years, why worry now?

The same article noted that presenter Cate Blanchett (who has since pulled out) and Kidman’s fellow Best Actress nominee, Renée Zellweger, were also unsure if they would be attending. What are they waiting for? To see whether the “climate” will change in two days? Ugh. I just hope that, when Nicole’s limousine circles its way around Hollywood, on its way to the Kodak Theatre or anywhere else on Sunday, she makes sure to give a wave to the homeless guys, prepubescent drug addicts and teen whores scattered about the place.

Nicole’s not only one with big decisions to make. Halle Berry has said she is going to the biggest party of the year but will wear “something that would reflect an homage to the troops.” Let’s see, whatever will she choose? Something bloodstained perhaps?

While I admit to an inability to think completely for myself about the war in Iraq, it still makes me mad as hell to see celebrities acting as if anyone really gives a shit whether or not they wear pastels to the Academy Awards. I also cringe when men with microphones—Vedder, for example—use their positions of power to sway opinion with little (or nothing) to back up their beliefs. It’s people like me, who haven’t studied up on the Iraq situation, on whom Vedder preys, whether he means to or not. He may harbor ill will towards the American government, but he added new members to his own little dictatorship, basking in the frenzy of support given him in Melbourne as he fucked away at his Bush effigy.

I don’t mean to pick on Kidman and Vedder. This sort of mindlessness is everywhere right now. The thing is, though, Vedder proudly acting out and Kidman anguishing over something as trivial as attending an awards ceremony—they don’t make me feel bad about how little I know about the current “climate,” so much as they make me want that climate to change, in all kinds of ways.

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