Actor Mike Farrell, best known for his role as Captain B.J. Hunnicutt in the popular TV-series M.A.S.H., reflects on his path from fame to progressive activism.
The following is an excerpt from Mike Farrell’s memoir, Just Call Me Mike: A Journey from Actor to Activist (Akashic: 2007).
Where do I fit in? becomes the question, and, What is my responsibility here? What does it mean to be alive in the world today? What part do I play as an American?
Like it or not, we Americans play a big part in the world, not all of it positive, as you’ll note if — unlike our current president — you read the papers. So knowing who you are and what being a citizen of the United States means is important. I’ve certainly found it to be.
It’s more than “Don’t worry, be happy,” or “Shop till you drop” and spend your way into debt. It’s more than “Go for the gold” and drink hearty and cheer the team — singing the national anthem first, if you can remember the words.
It’s much larger than that. It’s what we aspire to and yearn for and what we owe to each other. It’s about making the invisible visible, about salvaging those thought disposable, about recognizing and reassuring those who think they don’t count, or perhaps fear they don’t actually exist.
But there are some who don’t really want us to know all this, or take it too seriously. These are the folks who want to make your decisions for you; who want to put you to sleep. Today it’s friends of Karl Rove, tomorrow it will be someone else. They want power and money, and money and power, and they don’t want-regardless of what they say-you to think too much. They want you out of the way, kicking back and relaxing, dreaming about winning the lottery.
They don’t want you to think about life and love and responsibility: what I’ve come to think of as the spirit of America. They’d rather take charge, make the decisions and relieve you of all that. Because as the spirit of America awakens, as it struggles to find its way out from under the authoritarian cloud that’s now attempting to smother it, as it reasserts itself as a beacon of hope for the world, we take back the power granted us so many years ago by those who invented the American dream. And those who would deny us that right have to go back into their caves.
All fundamentalism is dangerous: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or any other. The need to believe in something that gives meaning to life is understandable, and, per the learned Rabbi Leonard Beerman, fundamentalism provides “the comfort of being so much neater than the subtleties and nuances of everything that is human … [It] brings the illusion of certainty.”
Struggling with the subtleties and nuances of life is the road to humility; the goal is becoming fully human. Religious certitude brings moral arrogance, and with it the fundamentalist Jews’ expulsion of Arabs from their land; the fundamentalist Hindu’s slaughter of Muslims; the Islamic Jihadists’ suicide attacks; the fundamentalist Christians’ bombing of clinics and assassination of family health providers. The belief that one speaks for God and can force his beliefs on another is a soul-destroying lie.
Mike Farrell is the co-founder of the
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