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READERS DIGEST: [laughs]

SARANDON: And what are your choices? Where would you go? I mean, where do you go? What government can you support thats not guilty of some human rights infraction? This is an amazing country for all of its faults and for the fact that we dont have information and that theres censorship and that corporate America has taken over everything.

READERS DIGEST: [laughs]

SARANDON: I mean, what country is better?

READERS DIGEST: Right.

SARANDON: Where would you go and how are you safer somewhere else? I don't know, but thats true.

READERS DIGEST: Right.

SARANDON: So my feeling is, dig in and lets try to change the world. [laughs]

READERS DIGEST: Mm-hmm. [laughs] Small order.

SARANDON: But dissent is the cornerstone of what America as we know it is built upon. Dissent is not only your right, its your duty as an American. And you're never supposed to blithely follow your government. Your duty is to the citizens of America and to question always. Thats what makes this system, democracy, different from other countries. You're supposed to have access to information and you're supposed to question.

READERS DIGEST: But just for me personally, I mean, thats what I was saying about that Prozac comment, that dissent isn't as okay in this country as it used to be.

SARANDON: Are you kidding? It certainly is not.

READERS DIGEST: Why?

SARANDON: Because there are people actually running this country, and they're all tied into big business. And in order to have the kind of rights for these businesses to thrive, they are buying up every kind of communication outlet. So any dissenting opinion or any questioning of anything or anything thats not the party line, just doesnt trickle down. Thats one thing. Second, its very seductive for people to say I'll take care of it, you know?

This is the regime of the expert. You're no longer an expert yourself. Let the experts tell you that its okay to have genetically engineered foods, even though no other country will buy them unless they're labeled. We have to do this for our oil, even though drilling in Alaska wont give us enough oil, even before 10 years, nobodys questioning. They know, they know, they know. And, when everythings under control, then let them make the decisions about foreign policy. Let them go the way of providing you with comfort and protection. I mean, look at how many civil liberties people are willing to give up because they were told it would make them safer.

READERS DIGEST: Its fear.

SARANDON: Well, I'm sorry, the only way to become safer is to solve the injustices in the world, is to get to the core of the problem. When my boys are slapping each other around, it doesn't help to go in there and give them each a cuff on the ear. You have to ask them whats the problem. You have to get at the heart of what the disputes about. And when you have fewer and fewer people controlling the resources and more and more of the people living without food, without any say in their government, without any dignity, without any hope, people that already consider themselves dead, how do they find self-esteem?

I have to say that after the 11th, not knowing how to keep your children safe, not knowing what was going on, that kind of anxiety was very difficult for most fathers to live with. The loss of your image as a provider and, especially for men, as someone who keeps his family safe was very, very difficult.

So can you imagine being born into a situation where you have nothing, where your territorys being taken away, where you're not self-determining?

READERS DIGEST: Right.

SARANDON: When you are a teenager and you're growing up and all you see is humiliation and no hope, what happens to those people? What happens? And not just in foreign countries. In this country. Its a lack of hope that produces violence as an alternative.

READERS DIGEST: Uh-huh.

SARANDON: But its also really tough to explain why its wrong for one government to use violence to solve a problem and its not wrong for another government to use violence.

Its very confusing. And I know when the bombing started in Afghanistan, my kids did not feel safer. They knew that something was happening. We were escalating and, no matter what you called it or how many American flags went out, they understood that something was going on in which wed lost our moral high ground.

READERS DIGEST: I think my kids would feel safer if somehow they saw this bin Laden figure being captured or something.

SARANDON: So now imagine how they feel because it hasn't worked. All this talk of a new kind of war and whats come of it? Besides, violence fuels hatred. I mean, thats the bottom line. Violence is not a solution. And I hope that at some point we get leaders who start to look at a more complicated but more successful way of making us safe. We're going to expand into that whole region. And isnt it coincidental that these are all the areas where weve been trying to get pipelines in?

Any other, all the wars, I mean, not the Gulf War but all the declared wars, when youve had a war and you ask people to sacrifice, you ask them to not use stockings, or plant victory gardens and all these different things, and Americans today are being asked to shop and to consume. Nobodys talking about decreasing our dependency on foreign oil not even from an environmental point of view. To in any way start to look at the way we live our lives and how this might be contributing. Its like were babies, you know? [laughs] We're not taking any responsibility. Instead we just want to lie there and get more oil, more oil, more oil.

READERS DIGEST: How do you look at all that and still stay optimistic?

SARANDON: Because I think that part of the problem is that people just don't have the information. Its the story of the Garden of Eden. Do you want to be in the Garden and be taken care of and have this great life and not be threatened by anything, or do you want to eat of the tree of knowledge and get thrown out of this Garden and have to take some responsibility and suddenly feel your vulnerability?

And thats where we are, what our decision is. And also I've got to tell you, you dont hear about a lot of it because its not going to get on mainstream TV.

READERS DIGEST: Sure.

SARANDON: But I know the kids I met during Naders campaign were so well-educated. And the thing that has happened is that what all of these various groups and I include unions in those, I include environmental groups, indigenous people groups have started to understand is that there is this umbrella of, that all of their causes are related to the same global greed.

And so they are united not in the ways that we were when we demonstrated, but in a much more interesting way. And the Internet has made the exchange of information and the organization of people much, much easier. And so there are a lot of people who understand whats really happening in a lot of countries, not just the United States. Because contrary to what people would want us to believe, there are people who do not want violence all over the world.

READERS DIGEST: Mm-hmm.

SARANDON: You cant just say they really about any one nation. There is not an axis of evil that includes whole nations of evildoers.

READERS DIGEST: No, like if you see these documentaries in the Mideast, especially the children in Israel and Palestine, they'll all say they dont want...

SARANDON: Well, there were 300 soldiers, it was in The New York Times, who refused even like a month ago to serve any longer, that were in the Israeli Reserve, because they said they cannot humiliate and starve an enemy anymore.

READERS DIGEST: Right.

SARANDON: I mean, we cant do it. I'd like to know that story. I mean, how did they have the courage to do that? Thats like a major, major thing.

READERS DIGEST: Sure.

SARANDON: Now you dont hear about it anymore, but it was in the Times two or three times, about these guys, men and women probably, because they're conscripted, but who said, I just cant do this anymore.

READERS DIGEST: And what happened to them?

SARANDON: I don't know. I'd like to know that story. Theres people of conscience everywhere.

READERS DIGEST: Right.

SARANDON: And its, like the governor of Illinois came out against the death penalty and said, I'm sorry, but theres just too many... the system isnt working. Whatever you think of the death penalty, the way were doing it is not right. Now, he was a Republican. He wasnt some crazy bleeding-heart liberal. He was a decent guy who went against his party line and said, I can't take responsibility for risking the lives of innocent human beings anymore. This is not working.

And thats what gives you hope: people of conscience that rise up and are courageous. And I think everyone has it within them. Lorenzos Oil is the story of people who just started questioning authority.

And there are so many people whose stories are not told. They don't start off to be activists. They just cant take lying anymore or they want to know why. When we were doing Earth Day, there were these little girls there that were 12 years old from Georgia who are working to clear up all the dumping, because its racist, definitely, and the environmental issues are almost all about contaminating people who don't have a voice. I mean, racism enables that kind of rape of the earth. It cant happen if you don't have people who are voiceless.

READERS DIGEST: Right.

SARANDON: These little girls, one of them had a mom who was an activist. They were doing amazing things. They were all 11, 12, 13 years old from these neighborhoods in Georgia, and they were stopping the dumping in their water, they were cleaning up their water, they were buying land in South Africa to preserve, to protect the animals there. I mean, they were just amazing. It was so beautiful to see these young, young women empowered like that. And its happening everywhere.

You just dont get to hear about it.

READERS DIGEST: Right. [laughs]

SARANDON: There should be a section of the news that just says todays story of encouragement or todays...

READERS DIGEST: Todays good news.

SARANDON: Are you depressed? Listen to this story. Heres one person who stuck it out. Every now and then you read something. A woman who read about somebody and knew he was innocent and for 12 years supported him in prison until they finally exonerated him. A woman in New Jersey.

READERS DIGEST: Sally Rides mom. Did you hear about that?

SARANDON: No.

READERS DIGEST: Well, she was doing this prison ministry thing and she met this woman who was doing time for a murder. She was a former law student. And it turned out she didnt do it.

SARANDON: Yeah.

READERS DIGEST: She was framed. And Sally Rides mom paid an investigator first to check it out, and then helped her get a lawyer and she just finally got out. And shes going back to law school and...

SARANDON: See, one person saved another persons life completely.

READERS DIGEST: Its really great.

SARANDON: Thats a fabulous story.

[END OF TRANSCRIPT]

Readers Digest interview

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