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Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from a the speech given by Newt Gingrich to the Republican Women Leaders Forum on May 12.
This is a great country – filled with good people, many of whom achieve amazing things. For every child who ends up on the cover of a magazine because he or she killed somebody, there are literally millions of children going to school trying to understand their roles in life, trying to be decent to their fellow citizens. For every child who ends up in a way that is tragic, there are hundreds of thousands who are trying to be American citizens – to be the kind of person their family can be proud of.
I think we need to start by placing in perspective both Littleton and Kosovo. We are the greatest society of freedom in the history of the human race. More people of diverse racial and religious backgrounds pursue happiness here than in any country in the history of the world. We should be proud that most of the time, America works – despite the news media’s negative coverage of this country. . . .
I want to give you my honest personal thoughts on both of those tragedies. Some of this might be a little controversial – and it should be. I want to do it in the spirit of history teacher Emil Zola, who wrote “J’Accuse.”
A Jewish officer in the French army had been framed, largely because of anti-Semitism. The elite culture covered up the framing. They were all going to go along with destroying him. Zola wrote a public letter saying this was wrong – and because of the moral courage of his letter, French society talked to itself. There was a great crisis and it changed. Captain Alfred Dreyfuss was exonerated and the people who framed him were punished.
So in the tradition of “J’Accuse” and Zola, I want to say to the elite of this country – the elite news media, liberal academic elite, the liberal political elite – I accuse you in Littleton and I accuse you in Kosovo of being afraid to talk about the mess you have made and of being afraid to take responsibility for the things you have done and instead forcing on the rest of us pathetic banalities because don’t you the have the courage to look at the world you have created.
Let me talk first about Littleton, a great tragedy, and a tragedy that should frighten every one of us, both for those who were killed and for the killers. Because it means any of us in any school – no matter how good – could lose our children. And it means any of us in any home could lose our child. We should have a national, open discussion about how we get here. How did this great country, filled with good people who do amazing things, allow itself to be degenerated to a point where young boys could think such weird, perverse thoughts and then act on them?. . .
We have had a 35-year experiment in a unionized, bureaucratic, credentialed, secular assault on the core values of this country. We should not be surprised, therefore, that eventually this would yield bad fruit – because the seeds were bad. For 35 years, God has been driven out of the classroom; we have seen the result in a secular, atheistic system in which God is not allowed to exist.
For 35 years, the political and intellectual elites of political correctness have undermined the core values of American history so our young people may not know who George Washington was – or who Abraham Lincoln was – but they do know what MTV is. That is not progress, that is decadence. We should say it bluntly. For 35 years, bureaucratic, credentialed unions have driven knowledge out of the classrooms. . .
Most teachers are decent and hard working; most teachers are trying. I am a product of the public schools and I actually care about them enough to try to change them – not just to have a mantra of paying the unions while doing nothing to save the schools.
Let me say this very clearly -and it will be very controversial: For a generation, Hollywood and computerized games have undermined the core values of civility. It is time they were stopped by a society which values free speech enough to protect it.
One of the great founders of CBS News, Edward R. Murrow, had a wonderful saying: “Just because you have the right to say it, doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to say.”
Let us say to Hollywood – and let us say to the Nintendos and the other games – if you are going to be sick, we are going to find a way to protect this country from you. Whether that means exposing movies to liability litigation; whether that means exposing computerized games to litigation; whether it means challenging the Democrats to cut off their fund-raising.
Don’t tell us you care about children and then have the people who are corrupting their lives raise your money while you tell us you care about traditional values.
If Al Gore and Bill Bradley really want to help America, they could lay a standard down: Let them agree not to raise a penny in Hollywood from anybody who doesn’t sign a standard that says they will make decent movies voluntarily. You don’t have to allow the most corrupt, the most depraved, the most violent stuff just because you personally don’t have the guts to say “enough.” They can set a standard and say, “We are only going to do fundraisers with producers and stars that do decent films.” If they did, you would suddenly see a real crisis of identity in both the Democratic Party and Hollywood.
I am not just trying to make a partisan point. I’m trying to make a deeper point: Don’t tell us the Constitution blocks us from civility. Don’t tell us that freedom of speech means the freedom to be so depraved, so violent, so disgusting that our children grow up in a country where they think that killing somebody else is reasonable behavior. It’s true on television. It’s true in the movies. It’s true in these games. I will challenge the lawyers of America: Don’t tell how you could protect those who are bad; tell me how well you can help us find some solution to bring Hollywood to its senses and to bring the computer people to their senses.
I’m not for censorship, but I am for society setting standards and shaming those who refuse to have a standard that makes sense.
Newt Gingrich was Speaker of the House of Representatives.
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