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Ossie Davis Protesting the Iraq War: “I Choose to Live for Brotherhood and Not For Folly”

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We play in interview with Ossie Davis as he protested the invasion of Iraq on March 22, 2003. Davis says, “The choice is to live together as brothers, or perish together as fools. I come together to say, I choose to live for brotherhood, and not for folly. I choose peace and not war. I choose life, and not death.” [includes rush transcript]

  • Ossie Davis, interviewed at protest against the Iraq war, March 22, 2003.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Ossie Davis several days after the invasion of Iraq. It was March 22, 2003, in Herald Square in New York that we met up and talked about his opposition to war.

OSSIE DAVIS: I am a citizen of this country with a democratic responsibility, you know, to speak out, even if what I say is unpopular. Now, those in our craft and profession who follow the path of celebrity, whose, you know, whose every word or every move is dictated about how it’s going to look in the ratings may have another way to respond to the calls of citizenship, but I am not concerned about that. They tell me that supporting President Bush is patriotic. Well, I would say that a deeper patriotism is required when we consider to whom we owe our patriotic response. Nobody is more concerned for the welfare of the young men and women who are fighting overseas. I want them home so much that I’m out here today saying, please, please stop. Bring them home. That, to me, is patriotism. Mr. Bush has his point of view and his right to express it, and I have mine. On this, we disagree, and it’s my patriotic right and responsibility to tell Mr. Bush, who works for me, who spends my tax dollars, that not in my name will you do this.

AMY GOODMAN: Ossie Davis, you’re wearing a cap that says USS Mason. What is that?

OSSIE DAVIS: This is a cap representing the only ship in World War II that was manned by black personnel. I didn’t know when I fought in World War II that the Navy even allowed black folks to fight independently in one ship. The USS Mason was that ship. So, we were doing a documentary about it, and they were kind enough to give me this hat. So in their name and in their honor, as veterans of World War II, I’m wearing this hat.

AMY GOODMAN: There’s a discussion —

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Davis, are you a veteran?

OSSIE DAVIS: Oh, am I a veteran? Oh, yes, I am. I remember in World War II sitting one day, August 7, 1945, and realizing that the bomb that had been dropped on Hiroshima not only killed 220,000 people over there, but part of it fell on me, too. And I recognized that something cataclysmic had happened, an earthquake in my world and in my thoughts had taken place. It called on me to make a choice. I didn’t know it at the time, but somebody finally said, the choice is to live together as brothers or perish together as fools. I come together to say, I choose to live for brotherhood and not for folly. I choose peace and not war. I choose life and not death.

ANY GOODMAN: Does the term shock and awe bring memories back of that time?

OSSIE DAVIS: Yes. It does. It also brings memories of what happens after shock and awe. It’s the disorientation and the depression, the dislocation of the human spirit. It’s something, you know, that we wear and bear forever. To go into a city and shock them with the power of our bombs and to awe into submission, to me, is not a sign of bravery. It is rather a sign of bullying. We have this tremendous power, and we exercise it at its full against people who have no quarrel with us. Mothers, children, dogs, cats, all life can be obliterated by what we do. Shock, yes. Awe, yes. How close do we come to the end of all civilization by when we do these things. Oh, yes. I’m shocked, and I stand in awe of the possibility of the destruction which might include me and mine.

AMY GOODMAN: As the bombs rain down on Baghdad, the Academy Awards are going to go on. There’s been discussion of a blacklist of actors who are speaking out against war, and some who might even use the Academy Awards as a platform to discuss their views. What are your thoughts about that as an actor?

OSSIE DAVIS: Well, in the first place, I confess that I have never taken the Academy Awards very seriously. It’s an exercise in salesmanship and hype, and little more. I do understand its important to those who participate, and I can empathize or sympathize with those who think that they must say yes and be innocuous in order to be loved. I’m sorry that they feel this way, because it is not true. I don’t think an Academy Award, I don’t think being a celebrity or being anything else overrides the responsibility to be a decent, humane citizen, fighting like hell to save the possibility of the continued existence of life on this planet. I’d hate to go to hell and say I was busy trying to save the Oscars. Mankind, humankind is at stake. So, I say, if necessary, damn the Oscars, full speed ahead to peace.

AMY GOODMAN: Do your friends, your colleagues who are actors feel the pressure right now?

OSSIE DAVIS: I have no way of knowing how they feel, and if I did, I have no — I would not speak for them at all.

AMY GOODMAN: What are you doing out here today?

OSSIE DAVIS: Oh, I have come to join those who believe that peace is the order of the day, and I want to be, you know, where the action is, and I think this is where it’s at. I wouldn’t miss this for anything in the world. Peace, peace, peace. This is where it’s at, and this is where I am.

AMY GOODMAN: Actor, civil rights and anti-war leader, Ossie Davis, speaking a few days after the invasion of Iraq began on March 22, 2003.

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