Jane Fonda Is Proving You’re Never Too Old To Take a Stand for What You Believe In

Actress/Activist Jane Fonda is arrested on the steps of the United States Capitol (Photo by Talking ‘Bout My Generation)

By Dave Price

For Academy-Award winning actress Jane Fonda social activism is nothing new. In the 1970s, she protested against the Vietnam War, an action that placed her on President Richard Nixon’s enemies list, drew government surveillance, and left her with the nickname “Hanoi Jane” from those who felt her activities, such as a trip to North Vietnam, were treasonous and un-American.

In fact, her mugshot, in which she raises a fist, became an iconic symbol for war dissenters and counterculture renegades of that time.

But her advocacy didn’t end there. In subsequent decades, she lent her efforts to the ongoing fights for civil, women’s, and environmental rights. She carried that activism into many of her best movie roles – the wife in the anti-war movie Coming Home, a news reporter in the nuclear plant disaster film China Syndrome, and with co-stars Dolly Parton and Lilly Tomlin, as a harassed working woman in 9 to 5. 

The money from her wildly popular Jane Fonda’s Workout video tapes in the 1980s was used to fund the leftist organization Campaign for Economic Democracy, an organization founded by her then-husband and left-wing politician Tom Hayden, a prominent ‘60s activist who wrote the Port Huron Statement for SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) and was a defendant in the infamous political trial of the Chicago 8 case stemming from the police riot marred 1968 Democratic Convention. 

Now, at age 81, Fonda is proving you’re never too old to take a strong stand for what you believe in. The actress, currently starring in the Netflix series Frankie and Grace with Tomlin, has moved temporarily to Washington, D.C. and unveiled her latest cause, Fire Drill Fridays.

Fire Drill Fridays is a three-part action aimed at forcing American leaders to take immediate action on climate change. On Thursday nights, from now until late December, Fonda is hosting a panel of experts on a Facebook program exploring various issues of climate change and suggesting actions to curb the problems. On Fridays at 11 a.m., Fonda, joined by experts and spokespersons for climate change groups, is staging a rally near the U.S. Capitol. At the conclusion of that informational session, Fonda, along with all those who choose to join her, engage in an act of civil disobedience, such as standing on the Capitol steps, which causes them to be arrested by federal police. 

At the first Fire Drill Friday on October 11, Fonda told those of us in attendance that while she has long been involved in the battle over a better, cleaner environment, the current government’s refusal to even admit the crisis is real, let alone act on it, drove her to consider more dramatic ways of getting the warning message out.

“Change is coming by design or by disaster,” Fonda told the crowd. “A green new deal that transitions off fossil fuels provides the design. “As (teenage environmental activist) Greta Thunberg says ‘our house is on fire’ and we need to act like it”.

“Our climate is in crisis. Scientists are shouting an urgent warning: we have little more than a decade to take bold, ambitious action to transition our economy off of fossil fuels and onto clean, renewable energy,” she added “We need a Green New Deal to mobilize our government and every sector of the economy to tackle the overlapping crises of climate change, inequality, and structural racism at the scale and speed our communities require”. 

At that initial rally, Fonda said she planned to enlist other of her Hollywood friends concerned about climate change to join in the protest. At the second session, Fonda’s co-star Sam Waterson was arrested. Last week, actor Ted Danson, the star of Cheers and the current show The Good Place, joined Fonda and was taken into custody by authorities.

Fonda told Booming Encore she realizes many leaders of government and business, particularly President Donald Trump, won’t be pleased with the Fire Drill Friday activism. “I can no longer stand by and let our elected officials ignore — and even worse — empower — the industries that are destroying our planet for profit,” Fonda said. “We cannot continue to stand for this”.

Fonda added that she isn’t concerned about any impact the planned three-month protest and arrests will have on her career. “I’ve been here before,” she said. “I mean, I can’t be attacked any more than I already have. So what can [Trump] do? I’ve got nothing to lose.”

(Photo by Talking ‘Bout My Generation)Fr

How Artists Portrayed Conflict and Morality During the Vietnam War

BY ROGER CATLIN

Vietnam II by Leon Golub, 1973 (Tate Collection © 2018 The Nancy Spero and Leon Golub Foundation for the Arts/Licensed by VAGA at ARS, NY, image © Tate, London, 2018)

In 1965, as the Vietnam War escalated overseas amid civil unrest at home, abstract artists as accomplished as Philip Guston wondered whether they were doing the right thing. “What kind of man am I,” he wondered, “sitting at home, reading magazines, going into a frustrated fury about everything—and then going into my studio to adjust a red to a blue?”

Vietnam pushed him into a more direct commentary on the world—and a sudden shift toward representational, though often cartoonish, satirical attacks on hate groups and elected officials.

One of them, San Clemente, a vivid painting targeting Richard Nixon in 1975, is part of a major survey titled “Artists Respond: American Art and the Vietnam War, 1965-1975” and now on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The show brings together 115 objects by 58 artists working in the decade between Lyndon Johnson’s decision to deploy U.S. ground troops to South Vietnam in 1965 and the fall of Saigon ten years later.

San Clemente by Philip Guston, 1975 (Glenstone Museum, ©The Estate of Philip Guston, courtesy Hauser & Wirth, photo by Christopher Burke

With devastating loss of life—nearly 60,000 U.S. casualties and an estimated three million soldier and civilian losses in Vietnam—the war produced some of the most significant ruptures in social and political life across the country and stoked a divisiveness that is still being felt today. Just as it changed America, the war changed art itself, shaking artists into activism and often into creating works quite different from any they had done before. The exhibition, organized by Melissa Ho, the museum’s curator of 20th-century art, is chock full of such examples.

Artists Respond: American Art and the Vietnam War, 1865-1975,” curated by Melissa Ho, continues through August 18, 2019 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. It will be exhibited at the Minneapolis Institute of Art September 28, 2019 to January 5, 2020.

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