Monday, July 12, 2004

Remembering Brando

Gene passed on an obituary for Marlon Brando, and I have to admit that I wasn't familiar with his history of activism. An opponent of the war in Iraq, and of U.S. treatment of Native Americans, he seemed especially active during the 1960s:

In 1963, Brando marched arm in arm with James Baldwin at the March on Washington. He, along with Paul Newman, went down South with the freedom riders to desegregate inter-State bus lines. In defiance of state law, Native Americans protested the denial of treaty rights by fishing the Puyallup River on March 2, 1964. Inspired by the civil rights movement sit-ins, Brando, Episcopal clergyman John Yaryan from San Francisco, and Puyallup tribal leader Bob Satiacum caught salmon in the Puyallup without state permits. The action was called a fish-in and resulted in Brando's arrest. When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968, Brando announced that he was bowing out of the lead role of a major film and would now devote himself to the civil rights movement. Brando said "If the vacuum formed by Dr. King's death isn't filled with concern and understanding and a measure of love, then I think we all are really going to be lost.."
And Harold Meyerson had a nice closing to his eulogy in an online piece for the American Prospect:

America has a long line of artists with whom officialdom has never felt comfortable, of course -- from Theodore Dreiser to Allen Ginsberg, from vaudevillians to rappers -- but it was Brando who brought rage and rebellion, however unfocused, to the center of the culture. States don't honor rage and rebellion, and states that engender rage, as America has under George W. Bush, apparently don't honor the representation of rage, either. That Brando's death went unmarked by power is a testament not to his failings but to his success; not to his failings but to ours.

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