Apparently, I really have been under a rock the last few weeks, because I truly had no idea that Charlton Heston died. None. I remember listening to Rush’s show on the 7-minute commute to the office and wondering why he was broadcasting Heston’s “from my cold, dead hands” speech. I figured either it was either Campaign or DC-related, and made a mental note to check it out. Of course, I didn’t.
Fortunately, I did check out Entertainment Weekly and caught up on some very important reading (the actual hard copy article in the magazine is better) and came across an article about his life, which was – of course – triggered by his death. Suddenly, it all made sense.
I haven’t been a fan of Mr. Heston’s ever, really. In fact, by the age of 10, I didn’t like him at all. Eggplant was more appealing. Reading this article made me reflect on why.
My very first memory of Charlton Heston is one of dread. Back in the days before Tivo, movies on TV without commercials, and VCRs, my mother loved her some movies. Still does. Growing up, she “strongly encouraged” me to watch nearly every classic that came on TV at least once. In those days, if you didn’t catch something when it was on, you might never see it again. Those of you over the age of 25 know what I’m talking about.
So, there I was, sitting in front of the TV on a Sunday afternoon watching The Ten Commandments while my friends were out at the playground. It was way long and seemed way contrived. More contrived than You Can’t Do That on Television (which I would have rather have been watching, if I had to be inside). And I was thinking to myself: “I hate this guy”.
My next memory is of Ben Hur. A bit better than The Ten Commandments, but still – not worth missing very important playground time. (The original is better.) Lucky for me, I don’t remember having to sit through other Heston flicks. I take that back – Planet of the Apesmade me nostalgic for The Ten Commandments.
As I grew older, I knew it wasn’t HIS fault that his movies interfered with my very important schedule. So my bitterness subsided and I soon forgot who he was, for the most part – except the telecast of The Ten Commandments each Easter. Oh, and his stint on The Colbys.
It wasn’t until the late 90s, that I really began to take notice of him again. This time, not for bogus movies, but for what I believed to be a bogus worldview. Once a staunch Democrat, this man who had once championed civil rights, was against the vietnam war, and had campaigned for Stevenson and Kennedy, had become anti-affirmative action, pro-NRA, anti-choice, staunch Republican campaigning for the likes of George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan (a fellow recovering Democrat)! Once again, I became bitter about this legendary actor – and this time it WAS his fault. And not just because he actively supported the Shrub (which is a most unforgivable act in and of itself), but because he advocated everything I felt was most evil in this world.
The speeches he made were thought provoking – out there and odd, yes, but thought-provoking none-the-less. Some of my favorites:
“Political correctness is tyranny with manners.”
“The Constitution was handed down to guide us by a bunch of wise old dead white guys who invented our country! Now some flinch when I say that. Why! Its true-they were white guys! So were most of the guys that died in Lincoln’s name opposing slavery in the 1860s. So why should I be ashamed of white guys?”
The mind reels, doesn’t it? But it’s easy to see why he had a lot of support. Who doesn’t want to support Moses? On the surface, his propaganda almost made sense. Almost. But, for those of us looking a little deeper – not so much. In fact, it was Charlton Heston who helped me solidify my “anti-gun” stance. As he became more and more vocal in the political arena and eventually lead the NRA, he spelled out for me exactly what I knew I didn’t believe in – on all fronts. And, bitterness be damned, I am forced to admit that I am in debt to Mr. Heston. There, I said it! In reflecting on my values and determining what it was I believed in and why. Listening to him made it easy. And, for those who know me and are convinced I’m being sarcastic, I mean it. In all seriousness, he helped me a great deal.
So, I salute Mr. Heston for the contributions he made to Hollywood, for the stances he took at a time when such stances ruined careers. I salute him for his devotion to his wife over a marriage that spanned at least 40 years. And, I thank him for his service defending our freedom in World War II. But, most of all, I thank him for challenging me not just about my beliefs, but the reasons behind them.