Ventura Should Keep Talking
by J. H. Huebert
November 5, 1999
My heart sank last month when I saw the headline: "Jesse Ventura to hold his tongue."
The Minnesota governorís announcement that he would no longer publicly express personal opinions came amid a firestorm of controversy which arose after the publication of an interview with him in the November issue of Playboy.
In the interview, Ventura expressed his thoughts on organized religion, suggesting that it serves as a crutch for "weak-minded" individuals; the problem of obesity, suggesting that its primary cause is a simple lack of self-control; and the legalization of drugs and prostitution, which he supports. Further to the matters of drug and prostitution legalization, Ventura noted that it is the religious right that stands in the way of those policies, regarded by many as making a lot of sense from both an economic and a moral perspective, because they "want to tell people how to live."
Reactions to Venturaís comments came immediately from all directions. He was quickly denounced from religious and political pulpits in Minnesota and all over the country. Special-interest groups, from fat people to feminists to deer hunters, all found reasons to jump on the Ventura-bashing bandwagon, calling for retraction, resignation, or both.
I was stunned--not so much by the governorís comments, but by this vicious reaction. I wasnít surprised by the politiciansí and special interestsí responses--they never hesitate to pounce on easy targets with unpopular ideas and, after all, an honest politician is an ordinary politicianís worst enemy. What surprised me was that the public was genuinely upset, too. Even if they disagreed, I thought people would at least be glad to have a public official who is actually capable of being honest.
Many Americans have been longing for a genuine, honest politician to arrive on the national scene. Here, it seemed to me, was their man: a tough-minded guy who is completely open about his past and his beliefs, and whose message is firmly rooted in the idea that people should take more responsibility in their lives. I would have expected such a common-sense, sort of Reaganesque straight-shooting conservative/libertarian attitude to go over well with the majority of Americans, but it doesnít seem to be happening. Could it be that people really just prefer to always be told things that sound innocuous and unchallenging, regardless of what the politicians actually say or do? Despite what they may often say, do people really prefer the status quo?
Republican politician Gary Bauer was quick to capitalize on Venturaís remarks by labeling him "The Bigot," because of his views on organized religion. But is that really fair? If most Christians can consider everyone who disagrees to be an evil sinner, destined for eternal torment, is it "bigoted" for Ventura to hold his opinions about people with other beliefs? And do religious conservatives believe that every office holder has to be a traditional Christian--or claim to be one?
Most disturbing is that the furor doesnít seem to be so much about the fact that Ventura believes these things, as it is about the fact that he said them. His detractors, for the most part, arenít asking him to change his mind--they just donít want him to speak it anymore.
Ventura, despite his well-known personality and unique celebrity status, was actually moving the focus in politics away from personalities and back to ideas--and it is for daring to do so that he is being rejected.
Sadly, Americans seem to prefer the typical slimy politician who will reverently invoke God when necessary and never take any position that they disagree with too strongly, to a man who always displays his true colors. As long as that is what they prefer, American voters are going to get what they deserve, in the White House and in most of their public office--the Clintons, Gores, Giulianis, and others, who appear pleasant on the surface but are rotten to the core.
Meanwhile, Iíll be hoping that Jesse Ventura renegs on just this one promise, and that he will soon once again be providing the nation with some of the most interesting ideas in politics.
© 1999 J. H. Huebert