Saturday, April 12, 2008


For me and millions of folks across the globe Charlton Heston was more than just the incredibly talented actor who revived larger than life iconic figures such as, Moses, El Cid, Andrew Jackson, Michelangelo, General Charles Gordon, Buffalo Bill Cody and then literally brought to life Judah Ben Hur, Will Penny, Cardinal Richelieu and Major Dundee among many others. For many, especially in my generation, Heston was our alter ego, the man who inspired several generations to leave our couches, reach out and be part of the solution. He provided the great American example by actively living that role and probably at great personal expense.

Once a liberal Democrat Heston embraced conservative issues later in life literally holding all people accountable for their behaviors no matter their persuasion. Heston was an incessant and vigorous champion of civil liberties and was active in the civil rights movement, “long before it was fashionable in Hollywood.” When a segregated movie theatre in Oklahoma refused to allow
African-Americans into the 1961 premiere of El Cid, Heston reportedly joined the picket line outside the theater. He also traveled to Oklahoma City where he picketed segregated restaurants, much to the chagrin of Allied Artists.

Heston liked to quote Martin Gross who in his book, "The End of Sanity," wrote, "Blatantly irrational behavior is rapidly being established as the norm in almost every area of human endeavor. There seem to be new customs, new rules, new anti-intellectual theories regularly foisted on us from every direction.” The new political correctness confounded him.

In that spirit Heston took on the decision makers of Time Warner when as a stockholder he attended in their 1992 annual shareholder meeting in Beverly Hills. Heston rose during the meeting and objected to the lyrics of a song by rapper, Ice-T, entitled, Cop Killer on the now infamous album Body Count. In the song Ice-T glorifies the killing of police officers who had vehemently protested the song. Time Warner as producer of the record ignored the protests as the song was their current cash cow (profit no matter the cost).

Heston read the lyrics of the offensive song, in its entirety to Time Warner stockholders and then went on to read the lyrics of another Ice-T Body Count song, KKK Bitch where the rapper among many obscenities fantasizes about sodomizing the two twelve year old nieces of Tipper Gore. Heston then read the songs to the media waiting outside. Cop Killer was eventually pulled from the album and Ice-T’s contract was terminated. That wouldn’t have happened if Heston hadn’t taken a stand.

Heston believed that we are, “engaged in a great civil war, a cultural war that's about to hijack your birthright to think and say what lives in your heart. I'm sure you no longer trust the pulsing lifeblood of liberty inside you, the stuff that made this country rise from wilderness into the miracle that it is." He further believed that everybody needs to be willing to act, not just talk, via non-violent civil disobedience in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Not content to ride the bench Heston served as President of the Screen Actors Guild from 1965 until 1971. He was the president and spokesman of the National Rifle Association (NRA) from 1998 to 2003. At the 2000 NRA convention in a response to the prospects of an Al Gore led government eroding second amendment rights, Heston gave his now famous statement while raising a musket over his head stating that they would only take away his rights, "from my cold, dead hands." Where he saw injustice, he always stood up and spoke his piece.

Heston sincerely believed that, “Government is the problem. The armies of bureaucrats proliferating like gerbils, scurrying like lemmings in pursuit of the ever-expanding federal agenda testify to that amply. Tom Jefferson, the only genius we ever had, said that government is best which governs least.”

Charlton Heston was intensely proud of his Scottish heritage. While some think that he had Native-American roots (he was initiated a blood brother of the Miniconjou (Lakota) Sioux, he used that term only to reclaim it from Native Peoples and to punctuate his own American patriotism. Heston could trace his Scots ancestry back through the Fraser Clan on his mother's side. He characterized himself as a Scot on many occasions and identified with what he saw as "traditional Scottish values such as loyalty, honour - and stubbornness". He was a member of the Clan Fraser and the re-raised 78th Fraser Highlanders (along with this writer). While an American-Scot Heston admitted that hyphenated identities were awkward for him though he always put, “a capital letter on American."

Heston named his only son Fraser to perpetuate his Scots Family tradition. When Fraser became the screenwriter and producer of the movie Mother Lode in 1982 he penned the leading roles as Scottish twin brothers Silas and Ian McGee and put Father Charlton Heston into those dual roles.

Heston was an ardent student of Scottish history and would often reference Scottish Leadership. In one speech Heston quoted the great 18th century Scottish philosopher, economist, and historian David Hume, “It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once.” Heston continued, “I am a Scot myself. He was bloody right. For more than half a century, the shining Republic created by the blood of the Continental Army and a few great men has been nearly nibbled to death by the Democratic ducks in the Congress and a warmly cooperative Supreme Court.” Heston was no milquetoast.

Heston played the role of at least three US Presidents and while contemplating political service was known to have quipped that had he done so he would have done it with, "a dour Scot's sense of duty".

Commenting on his continuing battle with Alzheimer's Disease in a seemingly John Paul Jones inspired statement Heston vowed he was "neither giving up nor giving in".

When he announced his illness in August 2002 Heston reiterated, “I’m confident about the future of America. I believe in you; I know that the future of our country, our culture, and our children is in good hands. I know you will continue to meet adversity with strength and resilience, as our ancestors did . . .”

That will mean finding another responsible champion. In the meantime we will all contnue to be inspired by the life of this uncommon man. We can do that by always standing up for our own rights and for those that can’t defend themselves. Thanks Chuck


Ned Buxton

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