Jessica Lange Decries Bush Era of Torture, Prison Camps, and War

May 26th, 2008 1:51 PM

Actress Jessica Lange launched another assault on the Iraq War and the Bush administration on Friday as a speaker at her daughter Hannah Shepard’s commencement from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. "We are living in an America that, in the last seven and a half years, has waged an unnecessary war, established prison camps, condoned torture, employed corporate armies, eliminated the right of habeas corpus, practiced extraordinary rendition, and believe me, this is only a partial list," Lange said, before she launched into more personal observations about the joy of eating sun-warmed strawberries.

Lange has repeatedly launched public attacks on President Bush as a man who "has no heart," who runs a "regime of deceit, hypocrisy, and belligerence," and his tenure has been "an embarrassing time to be an American."

First, here is a larger chunk of Lange’s remarks at Sarah Lawrence, as transcribed and posted by the college:

I look out at your faces and guess most of you graduates are about 22 years old. I think of the world I was living in at that age. Very different from yours and yet, ominously similar.

At 22, for me, the Vietnam war was in its seventh year. Nixon was employing round-the-clock bombing. We were destroying the infrastructure, the people, and the countryside of Vietnam to save it from the Communists.

History repeats itself.

Today, for you at 22, the Iraq war is in the sixth year. Thousands of American soldiers killed. Tens of thousands wounded. Hundreds of thousands Iraqis dead. The infrastructure and land destroyed to save it from (and this is a movable feast) first, tyranny, and then, terrorists.

Now, some of you may feel this is not the proper occasion to make mention of this. However, I would be remiss in addressing a group of young adults if I were to deliberately ignore the political realities that they are faced with.

We are all citizens of a troubled world, yet it is your generation that carries the weight of the future on your shoulders. We are living in an America that in the last seven and a half years has waged an unnecessary war, established prison camps, condoned torture, employed corporate armies, eliminated the right of habeas corpus, practiced extraordinary rendition, and believe me, this is only a partial list—I had to keep myself in check.

I don't wish to dwell on the misery caused by this administration, but that legacy is being passed down to you. It is a heavy burden to inherit and will require tremendous dedication and hard work to put it right again. You must determine if we are going to measure ourselves on the basis of military might and economic power or if there is perhaps something deeper—more essential in our national character—that needs to be awakened.

We must commit ourselves, wholeheartedly, to the pursuit of peace, equality and justice. This should be the realm of your dreams, the altruistic motivation you go forward with as you are moving towards a world unknown.

I believe you've come of age in a complex and confusing time. The commercial forces surrounding you, the absence of meaningful culture, the constant assault by media, fashion, and entertainment. We have become a society that is placated by gadgets, soothed by consumerism and the empty rewards of upward mobility, the celebration of mediocrity and false celebrity, the obscurations of modern life. We need a sea change.

Lange ended her speech with one more political thought:

I hope that you will commit yourselves to the pursuit of peace—to the practice of tolerance and compassion. And be good stewards to our precious Earth. I wish you all the courage to have an adventurer's heart and a life lived in the moment.

Lange has unloaded a regular series of outraged remarks about the Bush team:

-- At a September 24, 2005 anti-war rally in Washington D.C. shown live on C-SPAN: "All their reasons for waging war on Iraq have been proven to be manipulation of facts, untruths, and lies, lies and more lies....Not one military funeral has been attended by George Bush or his Cabinet. [boos from audience] This disregard for human life only reinforces the knowledge that this man has no heart."

-- At a July 8, 2004 Kerry-Edwards fundraiser at New York's Radio City Music Hall, as reported by the New York Times: "Are we going to continue to follow a self-serving regime of deceit, hypocrisy and belligerence? Or are we, after four disastrous years, going to take a step toward our true responsibility as leader of the free world?"

-- At a September 25, 2002 press conference at a film festival in Spain, shown on the October 4 celebrity show Inside Edition: "I despise him [President Bush]. I despise his administration and everything they stand for....To my mind the election was stolen by George Bush and we have been suffering ever since under this man’s leadership....And I think this latest thing with Iraq is absolute madness and I’m stunned that there is not opposition on a much more global scale to what he’s talking about....There has to be a movement now to really oppose what he is proposing because it’s unconstitutional, it’s immoral and basically illegal....It is an embarrassing time to be an American. It really is. It’s humiliating." [Streaming Real video]