Robbins, The Brave, The Plastic Bag and The Refrigerator Magnet,
or A Letter to Tim Robbins
April 18, 2003
By Elayne Keratsis
It is 8:15am in Miami Beach on a Thursday morning. My 13
year old son deposited on the school bus and the morning stretched
ahead of me during which I had planned to read all the daily
news, pick up around the house and prepare myself for a 6pm
call as basic lower level production supervisor.
The morning hasn't gotten that far.
Instead, after finishing reading the transcript of your speech
given at the National Press Club in Washington two days ago
and I immediately went outside to my patio, light a cigarette
I was hoping to avoid, and started to cry.
I was more than just moved by your words.
Devastated and inspired is a better description. I was dvevastated
by the truth that I had been hoping to avoid, hoping things
would "get better" and "blow over" instead of becoming the
New American Mantra.
I cried due to a confusing set of "sobbing points" that have
become increasingly more prevalent to me since the tragedy
of September 11th and the frightening aftermath which has
become the new state of my country and our lives as patriotic
Patriotic Americans. Those of us who love and respect our
country and the concepts and ideals which make up our Constitution
and go to great pains to instill the same values in our children.
Patriotic Americans. Those of us who have not forgotten that
our country was created out of another government’s zest to
punish individuals for their beliefs.
Patriotic Americans. Those of us who know, not just believe,
but know in our hearts that in order to keep our country strong
and free, we MUST protect the freedoms bestowed upon us by
our forefathers - the most important being our freedom of
And it is being suffocated in this country with the clear
plastic bag you see in cheesy horror flicks - the bag, we
know, is always clear plastic so the audience can see the
abject horror on the face of the victim as he or she dies.
The clear plastic bag, in this case, is of a transparent government
that actually believes that most people will buy what they
have been peddling - the “real” reasons for the invasion of
As I was sitting on that patio, smoking that Marlboro, I
was thinking back to a few years ago, back when my son was
in first grade. He brought home a magnet he had made by himself
(or so he swore - but I know the teacher didn't allow a group
on little kids access to the laminator unsupervised!). It
was a yellow index card magnet, created after a school assembly
on conflict resolution. In black crayon, he had neatly printed
"Hands Are For Helping, Not Hurting. Don't Fight. Talk About
It. " At the bottom of the card, he had drawn a small peace
sign and a flower.
I would be willing to bet that same school project would
not be created in the same elementary school today as it was
just a few years ago. Good God! That may smack of anti-Americanism!
So that also made me cry with what can only be described as
a furiously burning heart.
There is no “talking about it.” The Baseball Hall Of Fame
event, the United Way debacle, the systematic attacks against
those who now have to be categorized as brave enough to make
their voices heard (something that should be as easy and accepted
as breathing) are the symptoms of the growth of a new and
deadly, rapidly growing disease. The outbreaks are everywhere.
In pro sports, the Baseball Hall Of Fame president cancels
the 15th anniversary celebration of the film "Bull Durham,"
stating anti-war criticism by two of the films stars. "We
believe your very public criticism of President Bush at this
important - and sensitive - time in our nation's history helps
undermine the U.S. position, which ultimately could put our
troops in even more danger."
In the meantime, Geraldo Rivera is back on Fox News apparently
no worse for the wear after squatting in the desert of Iraq
and outlining military movements in the dirt, disclosing locations
of American troops to anyone on the planet with a satellite
dish and the stamina to watch him for more than three seconds.
Things are much the same on the local level. "President Bush
says you're either with us or against us! Don't you care about
our troops out there fighting and dying?" my mother, a former
lifelong Democrat tartly says. I counter with "We can support
the troops without supporting the President." After all, Ma,
Trent Lott said exactly that on the Senate floor 1998.
“I certainly don’t have any problems with the Patriot Act”
she continues. “Unlike some people, I have nothing to hide!”
I gently remind myself and my child that I am dead bang sure
that Jews, African Americans, Catholics, Native Americans,
and just about ever other group of people once thought the
same thing...until the new boundaries of what had suddenly
become “unacceptable” to government came into play.
"If you don't love it, shut the hell up and leave it!" says
my rabid Republican neighbor, within earshot of my child.
I respond that sixty years ago Senate GOP Leader Robert Taft
declared "Criticism in a time of war is essential to the maintenance
of any kind of democratic government."
“They got us! They got us on 9-11 and now we got them!” says
the gleeful cashier in my local retail store.”
“Who is they?” I ask politely as she slams my change down
on the counter.
“THEM!” she growls.
In our corner diner hangout one of my girlfriends asks me
quietly “Would you mind taking off your peace pin?” as the
waitress brings menus. I am wearing a tiny black and silver
peace pin on my t-shirt, right next to my little American
“Why?” I ask.
She leans forward and whispers. “I’m afraid they’ll spit
in our food.”
At the upscale neighborhood club where my sister works, a
single patron - a Viet Nam veteran - is chastised for not
standing, lighter flickering toward the ceiling when Lee Greenwood’s
song “Proud To Be An American” is played.
Bewildered he says “I always stand for the National Anthem,
that ain’t the National Anthem. It’s a country and western
song.” A fight ensues, middle-aged polyester and fur fly.
At school, my son takes a small barrage of teasing when several
friends taunt him about an anti-war protest his mother attended.
I try to explain what Edward R. Murrow once said "We must
not confuse dissent with disloyalty. When the loyal opposition
dies, I think the soul of America dies with it."
What is the cure for this disease? I don’t know. I do know
that I am fortunate enough to be in a business where the benchmark
for keeping one’s job doesn’t depend on keeping your mouth
shut about what you believe...at least not yet. The only treatment
I have found, for me, is to talk about it.
And the brave are still out there. Even in this new age where
individuals seem to be graded by their previous actions as
to how much “freedom of speech” they are allowed.
Democratic presidential candidate and decorated veteran John
Kerry recently stated "The Republicans have tried to make
a practice of attacking anybody who speaks out strongly by
questioning their patriotism. I refuse to have my patriotism
or right to speak out questioned. I fought for and earned
the right to express my views in this country."
My eighty-year-old father, himself a war veteran, easily
speaks his views against the war and his dissatisfaction with
the administration when asked.
“I’m eighty years old. I’ll say what I damn well please.”
My brother in law, a 6’4” ex-marine, and a disabled Viet
Nam vet, does the same while pointing out various scars across
“See these? That’s my right. It’s all over my body. I’ll
say what I damn well please. You got a problem with that?”
As long as people keep talking, I still have hope. Especially
when those people are in the forefront of American culture
and therefore the public eye. For when and if that avenue
is closed, either by edict or by the corporations which ultimately
own the majority of the press, and only one view is allowed
across the airwaves and through the printed paper, the national
dialogue will shut down. The plastic bag will tighten, and
then, as we all know, the movie will be over.
In the meantime, I have to get the morning back on some sort
of track. I have already begun. I straightened and dusted
the refrigerator magnet and moved it to a more prominent position.
Please accept my deep and sincere thank you from all of us
American Patriots out here, across the country, for being
brave enough to allow your voice to be heard, above the disease,
across the world and through the clear plastic bag. I for
one, am very appreciative. And, thank God, once again inspired.