Our recent publishing of both Tim Robbins’ correspondence with Dale Petroskey, President of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, as well as Robbins’ speech before the National Press Club in Washington, generated a torrent of reader mail. Most of it was very supportive of Robbins but we did receive numerous letters supporting the Hall of Fame’s position as well. We reprint a sampling of the letters below.
Please convey to Mr. Robbins my appreciation for his position on Bush and the invasion of Iraq. He and Susan Sarandon are putting their necks on the line, and showing great courage. This is a lonely time for those who oppose Bush’s policies. I myself, a Vietnam vet (1966-69), have had my patriotism questioned; when they find out my past, they shut up–but why should that make a difference? Woody Allen made a movie about the McCarthy era, and I recall watching it in a rather condescending frame of mind, thinking “what was the matter with those people in the 1950s? How could they be so persecutorial?” Well, those times are back. We all have to fight this now. Robbins and Sarandon, by being famous, give strength to others.
It is truly deplorable that such institutions as the Baseball Hall of Fame are run by people who have no more tact than to use this sacred institution as an instrument of their own political views to force their opinions on the baseball-loving public. I guess we can only hope that future Hall of Famers will also share Mr. Petroskey’s political views for fear that they will also be subjected to such actions. And thank you, Mr. Robbins, for dispelling the notion that it is “un-American” to disagree with the war. Indeed, there is nothing more American than the airing of dissent of popular views in a public that seems wholly unresponsive to public debate. I guess we can only hope that our local cinemas don’t subscribe to the same brand of “patriotism” that Mr. Petroskey seems to favor. I for one like being able to choose the movies I watch regardless of the political backgrounds of the creators.
Shelter Island, New York
Thank you for bringing attention to the Tim Robbins vs. the Baseball Hall of Fame flap. I worked at the museum for nearly a decade, just prior to Mr. Petroskey’s arrival. I’m more surprised by the brazen political nature of Mr. Petroskey’s letter than I am by their decision to cancel the event. This is a very conservative institution, run by a conservative family within a conservative community. I think that just a few short years ago Mr. Robbins would have had to do a bit more reading between the lines. Democrats in Congress, celebrities and average citizens are being intimidated. Conservatives are bolstered by the arrogance and attitudes of Mr. Bush and his regime, and all debate and dissent is trampled under the guise of patriotism and the need to “support our troops.” Attending my daughter’s volleyball game at a local high school the other day, I was shocked to see a poster on display in the lobby which reads, “America, Love it or Leave it.” It’s deja vu all over again.
former director of exhibits and design, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
As a current member of the Army Individual Ready Reserve who was activated for the first Gulf War, I find Mr. Petroskey’s comments and actions to be utterly ridiculous.
I am sick and tired of neoconservative couch potatoes using members of the military as weapons to further their own agenda. We have not only the right, but the responsibility to question our leaders. This is a democracy (actually it’s a republic). This is not Saddam Era Iraq, where the leader’s word is law.
At the conclusion of this war, we will probably put on trial and execute members of Saddam’s former regime that unquestioningly “stood behind their president and the troops.” They will not be allowed to use that trite phrase as an excuse for the atrocities they have committed. Petroskey should stick to a subject that hopefully he knows something about…baseball.
During the first Gulf War my friends supported me in two ways. My prowar friends joined military family-support groups and my antiwar friends hit the streets. Both were trying to help me in their own way and both greeted me warmly upon my return.
When we fight and die, we do it for democracy and freedom. The men and women who serve should not be discouraged by Mr. Robbins’s comments. They should, however be scared by Mr. Petroskey’s actions. It is clear that he seeks to do through the private sector what the goverment could not. He seeks to prevent Mr. Robbins from exercising his constitutional right to free speech. He hides his criminal acts, by dying them red, white and blue.
It is Mr. Petroskey and those like him who threaten to undercut our armed forces. And, at the risk of being labeled unpatriotic, I find that I cannot stand behind the President’s savage and unwarranted cuts in veteran’s benefits. As a former officer in the Texas Air National Guard, he should be ashamed.
Port Angeles, Washington
I was astounded at the childish action taken against Tim Robbins (cancellation of the screening of Bull Durham on the occasion of its fifteenth anniversary), a fine actor and articulate critic of the Bush war on Iraq, by Dale Petroskey, president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. What on earth possesses so many of our self-proclaimed “defenders of democracy and freedom” to become small-minded, insulting and abusive when those freedoms are actually exercised? For the record, I appreciate everything that Mr. Robbins said–except for that part about the ’69 Mets. To me it’s the ’88 Oakland A’s that rank up there with apple pie and the flag.
TIMOTHY L. HOCKETT
Bowling Green, Ohio
As an American citizen and a baseball fan, I find it insulting that the president of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Dale Petroskey, would issue a de facto gag order to Tim Robbins for expressing his political views. I find it intriguing that a man who worked as an assistant press secretary in the Administration of Ronald Reagan would intimate that actors have no business in the political arena. While I consider myself a patriot, if patriotism means the irrelevance of the First Amendment, then count me out.
It is refreshing to see organizations standing up and holding “actors” responsible for what they are saying from their highly visible platform.
Tim Robbins doesn’t represent baseball fans or the majority of the American people. While he challenges President Bush (and others) for not serving in the military, he neglects to say he isn’t a veteran either. I am…and I very much support our Commander in Chief, President Bush. If the decision had been made during the Clinton Administration to control the problems in the Middle East, then President Bush wouldn’t have to clean up the mess.
Hopefully, Tim Robbins will get the point that he represents only about 20 percent of the American people. The very same people who are voicing their opinions because of the stand our current and former Presidents should have made to protect our freedom.
Freedom will continue to ring, but with no thanks to Tim Robbins.
LARRY J. TRICKEL
SGM (Ret), US Army
My deepest respect for Mr. Robbins for his letter to the head of the Baseball Hall of Fame (or rather “Shame”). News from the USA sounds more and more like historical pieces from Germany in the 1930s. Unbelievable!
New Orleans, Louisiana
I just want to thank Tim Robbins for utilizing his position in the public eye to say what needs to be said. I can only hope the Baseball Hall of Fame feels a shred of embarrassment for its behavior. I am from a family of die-hard Chicago Cub fans and we are all outraged by Mr. Petroskey’s blatant misuse of a national institution–baseball!
I found this conflict between Tim Robbins and Dale Petroskey interesting. The scary thing seems to be that the propaganda of the mainstream media, including here in Australia, seems to be obvious as just that to some and not at all obvious to others. Petroskey’s may be a political statement to protect himself, but I wonder if he has simply bought all the patriotic huff and puff that seems to be muddying truth, logic and common sense. The same thing happens here in Australia, especially this expression of belief in free speech on the one hand but the denial of it in practice.
Thank you for a good read in The Nation. Without you and other independent media, we would be overwhelmed with spin and lies (which are probably the same thing).
Regarding your calling for condemnation of the Baseball Hall of Fame over its decision to cancel an appearance by Tim Robbins, isn’t YOUR condemnation merely the pot calling the kettle black?
Tim Robbins has every right to his opinions, but the right of free speech doesn’t mean that others are obligated to listen. The Baseball Hall of Fame and its owners also have the right of free association, which they exercised by disinviting someone they considered a boor.
The left has often called for boycotts of organizations, individuals, and groups which it finds offensive…as is its right. Again, how hypocritical (crybaby-ish, even) to complain when the Left is boycotted.
I support, and will defend, the right of the Tim Robbins, Martin Sheens, Jeanen Garafolos, Susan Sarandons, et al, among us to have their point of view and to express it without fear of GOVERNMENTAL oppression or physical violence. However, I also support the right of anyone who decides to never watch another movie or otherwise provide financial support for those actors whose views and attitudes they find offensive. How can one feel otherwise if one truly believes in freedom of thought?
Alan Dershowitz once remarked that we should create a Bill of Rights Club, where members had to agree to support exercises of rights even though they might find the particular exercise repugnant. Based upon the articles I find on The Nation website, I don’t think that many on the left would be eligible for membership.