Thursday night I hung out with filmmaker, Rory Kennedy, Nicholas Kristof, NY Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner for his writing about Darfur, actor and global activist, Tim Robbins, and the first inspector general off the Department of Homeland Security, Clark Kent Earvin.
They spoke in Hartford on the Connecticut Forum’s panel discussion, Saving the World. I wrote about the CT Forum before. We bring into town various people for on-stage discussions about things that matter–social justice issues, security, culture wars, comedy, literature, etc. As a member of the advisory board, the Forum often asks me to serve as a valet for guests. On Thursday they gave me Tim Robbins to look after.
The best part is that I get to hang out with these fascinating folks for five hours as we walk them through the press conference, cocktail party, dinner, and the main event. In the limo and while we are waiting, we talk. On Thursday the behind the scenes conversations ranged from form President Jimmy Carter’s legacy (eradicating River Eye Blindness) to the death of Anna Nicole Simpson (Tim Robbins worked with her on a film and confirmed that she really liked chocolate.)
Of all the people I met on Thursday, I enjoyed my conversation with Clark Ervin the most. A passionate Republican, he served in both President Bush’s administrations. A long time friend of George W. Bush, he headed the then newly formed Department of Homeland Security shortly after 911. He has since moved to the Aspen Institute and has become a vocal critic of homeland security.
A fellow Quaker asked me to ask Ervin why he is still a Republican. He explained that he believes in the traditional tenets of the Party–low taxes, a small central government and a robust foreign policy that will use military force when necessary but also relies on political and diplomatic methods. As a Republican, he wants to work within the party to voice the beliefs of the silent majority. He states that the two party political system encourages the extreme voices while the majority of people in both parties, who share many values with each other, get silenced.
I said that it sounds like he is somewhat of an outsider among his own people and how that must feel difficult at times. I shared that as a gay Christian, I feel I do something similar in trying to reclaim the name Christian from a movement that has taken it for un-Christian purposes and goals. Much of the church has lost sight of the original spirit in the life and message of Jesus. He told me how he cannot see how someone can use the words of Jesus and the Bible to oppose gays. This is not what Jesus was about.
We have since corresponded via e-mail, and I hope to continue a dialog about war, security, but particularly the role of the outsider who still choses to remain inside the system with the hope of rescuing the movement.