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UnknownThe following is a news release, followed by an open letter to Clint Eastwood.

A coalition of Monterey Bay Area organizations and individuals is calling on Monterey County resident, filmmaker Clint Eastwood, to condemn the violent extremism prompted by his latest film, American Sniper.

American Sniper is based on the autobiography of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, reputedly the deadliest sniper in American history. In his book, Kyle boasted of having killed 160 Iraqi “savages” during his four deployments in Iraq, following the U.S.-led invasion and occupation in 2003.

The film has broken box office records. It was nominated for six Academy Awards and won one.

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) has warned of a significant rise in violent hate rhetoric targeting Arab-Americans and Muslims following the release of the film. The signatories to the open letter ask Monterey County’s most famous resident to denounce the violent expressions of bigotry inspired, however unintentionally, by his film.

For further information, please contact Phillip Crawford or Michael Frederiksen at the Monterey Peace and Justice Center, 1364 Fremont Blvd, Seaside, CA 93955. 831-899-7322.

The text of the letter follows.

February 23, 2015

Dear Mr. Eastwood:

Since 9/11, hate speech and hate crimes against Muslims and Arabs have been increasing. Following the release of your film American Sniper in theaters across the US, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) has reported “a significant rise in violent hate rhetoric targeting the Arab and Muslim-American communities.” Critics of the film’s depiction of Chris Kyle have been subjected to hate-filled comments and violent threats on social media. (Source: Washington Post, Jan. 28, 2015.)

You are a world-renowned film director and the most famous living resident of Monterey County. As concerned citizens of this community, we call on you to join us in publicly and unequivocally denouncing the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry which has erupted in response to this film.

Sincerely,

Zahra Billoo, Council on American-Islamic Relations, San Francisco Bay Area Office*
Mishka Chudilowsky, Palestine Action Committee
Phillip Crawford, President, Monterey Peace and Justice Center
Carole January Erickson, community activist
Patti Fashing, community activist
Helga Fellay, community activist
Steven Goings, National Coalition Building Institute, Monterey County
Nashwan Hamza, President, Arab American Club of Monterey*
Peggy Olsen, Chair Pro Tem, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Monterey County
Sue Parris, Regional Director, National Coalition Building Institute, Monterey County
Larry Parrish, community activist
Wanda Sue Parrot, Unitarian Universalist Church of the Monterey Peninsula
Helen Rose, Monterey Peace and Justice Center
Sidney Ramsden Scott, community activist
Susan Sailow, community activist
Joyce Vandevere, Monterey Peace and Justice Center and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Joe Watson, President, Monterey County Branch, NAACP
* Organization listed for identification purposes only.

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Oscar - trofeo doratoIt was impossible to dip into the muddy waters of current events this week without being socked in the jaw by the realization that plenty of people, once again, are hopping mad about the Oscar nominations.

This year’s anger centered on the complete absence of actors of color from the nominees for the top acting awards, a phenomenon not seen since 1998.

I forget why everyone was ticked off last year when the Academy of Whatever announced the Oscar-worthy films and film people.

But I have no doubt there was great debate about how blind the academy voters — whoever they are — were by snubbing this or that film, actor or sound editor (not really, there is never the slightest kerfuffle over sound editing nominees, an ironic zone of silence amid the annual Oscar shout-fest.)

I have two theories about why Oscar nominations spur more vein-popping debate every year than, say, weightier issues like the widening income gap, state-sanctioned torture or the ethical considerations of buying Cuban cigars under the Obama administration’s new namby-bamby policy toward Castro’s Communist Cuba.

  1. A terrific outcry about who makes and who doesn’t make the coveted Oscar ballot generates more free buzz about more movies than if everyone were happy with the nominees. This is probably deliberate, a clever tactic devised by an industry that has cooked up nearly every trick in the heavy footlocker of press agentry.
  2. An abiding division among film cognoscenti set in motion by Marlon Brando in 1973 when, to demonstrate his solidarity with the American Indian Movement, he dispatched Salinas-born Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather to the awards ceremony to make the acceptance speech in his place for Brando’s magnificent mumbling in “The Godfather.”

This “right on” moment didn’t sit well with all the folks in tuxes and fancy dresses instead of buckskin and feathers and forever politicized all things Oscar.

Personally, I care very little about the Oscars, the awards ceremony, the beautiful people on the red carpet, or the tendentious acceptance speeches by the winners. I have never clipped out an Oscars ballot from a newspaper features section nor have I attended an Oscar party to watch the televised ceremony with a bunch of overdressed movie buffs.

I blame my overall grumpy attitude about the Academy Awards on Country Joe, lead singer for the Berkeley-based psychedelic band Country Joe and the Fish, one of those no-hit groups from the 1960s whose ridiculous claim to fame was to lead audiences to spell out the F-word at the tops of their cannabanoid-soaked lungs. Right on.

When I was young and impressionable, I caught CJ and the Fish at the Santa Cruz Civic auditorium in a concert one night in the early 1970s right after that distant year’s Academy Awards show.

Between songs, as he attempted to discern the tuning pegs on his guitar from the chemically induced waves of energy flashing around the stage, Country Joe rasped into the microphone,

“Did you see all those Hollywood sleazoids on television last night?”

Well, no I hadn’t. But I caught C. Joe’s disdainful drift. And ever since I’ve shied away from all things Oscar because of that long-ago insinuation that the whole deal is loaded with sleazoid cooties. Silly, yes, but true.

That is not to say I don’t enjoy some of the movies “honored” by the academy. In the past few years, I have seen and enjoyed the films “Nebraska,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Lincoln,” “Argo,” and, yes, even 1998’s “Shakespeare in Love.”

But I don’t make a point of seeing all the “best pictures” to personally judge my taste against the taste of the academy voters. It would be an exercise in self-reinforcement. Like most people, particularly movie buffs, I know I’m right and everyone else is wrong.

I still think 1988’s “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” got shafted by winning only four Oscars, and none of them in major categories. Those darn sleazoids. They’ll always put a good rabbit down.

I intend the see “Selma,” one this year’s best picture nominees about Martin Luther King Jr. and the battle to ensure voting rights for black Americans. Lots of folks are mad because its director and star were snubbed by the academy voters. There are others ticked by its portrayal of President Lyndon Johnson.

I just want to see “Selma” for its portrayal of a great American story of courage, faith and daring. Who knows, what with Supreme Court gutting the Voting Rights Act and many states giddily restricting voters’ enfranchisement anew, there may well be room for what Hollywood likes best: the sequel.

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