Last week I received the Torch of Liberty award from the ACLU. It was a very moving event for me, in part because one of my dearest and closest friends, Arianna, was the one who presented it to me. As I told the audience, I first met Arianna in 1985 when I was a waiter at her house. The two of us started talking -- and by the end of the night not only had Arianna given me a book she’d written, but her mother had fed me as well!
Years passed without me seeing her again. In the meantime, I became a producer and made a bunch of movies. Then came a night in 2000 when I was hosting a fundraiser for Christopher Reeves’ foundation. This was just after Lieberman’s speech at the Democratic convention in L.A, and there were about 900 people packed into my house. At the end of the evening, I’m standing at the door saying goodbye to people, and who’s there but Arianna and her sister, Agapi. And Agapi says, “Arianna, remember? This is Lawrence the waiter!”
I had gone from being a waiter to a politically active producer, while Arianna had gone from being a Republican to a progressive activist. Since then, we’ve become the best of friends, and she’s been a huge influence in my life.
When she presented me with the award, they played a series of clips from my movies. They ended with a speech Matt Damon gave in Good Will Hunting. I was struck with a new intensity by how incredibly relevant it is to what's going on in Iraq. Robin Williams has just asked Matt Damon about his potential big break -- the NSA wants to give him a job. And here is Damon's rapid-fire reply:
Say I'm working at N.S.A. Somebody puts a code on my desk, something nobody else can break. So I take a shot at it and maybe I break it. And I'm really happy with myself, 'cause I did my job well. But maybe that code was the location of some rebel army in North Africa or the Middle East. Once they have that location, they bomb the village where the rebels were hiding and fifteen hundred people I never had a problem with get killed. Now the politicians are sayin' "send in the Marines to secure the area" 'cause they don't give a shit. It won't be their kid over there, gettin' shot. Just like it wasn't them when their number got called, 'cause they were pullin' a tour in the National Guard. It'll be some guy from Southie takin' shrapnel in the ass. And he comes home to find that the plant he used to work at got exported to the country he just got back from. And the guy who put the shrapnel in his ass got his old job, 'cause he'll work for fifteen cents a day and no bathroom breaks.
Meanwhile my buddy from Southie realizes the only reason he was over there was so we could install a government that would sell us oil at a good price. And of course the oil companies used the skirmish to scare up oil prices so they could turn a quick buck. A cute little ancillary benefit for them but it ain't helping my buddy at two-fifty a gallon. And naturally they're takin' their sweet time bringin' the oil back and maybe even took the liberty of hiring an alcoholic skipper who likes to drink seven and sevens and play slalom with the icebergs and it ain't too long 'til he hits one, spills the oil, and kills all the sea-life in the North Atlantic. So my buddy's out of work and he can't afford to drive so he's got to walk to the job interview which sucks 'cause the shrapnel in his ass is givin' him chronic hemorrhoids. And meanwhile he's starvin' cause every time he tries to get a bite to eat the only blue plate special they're servin' is North Atlantic scrod with Quaker State.
So what'd I think? I'm holdin' out for somethin' better. I figure I'll eliminate the middle man. Why not just shoot my buddy, take his job and give it to his sworn enemy, hike up gas prices, bomb a village, club a baby seal, hit the hash pipe and join the National Guard? Christ, I could be elected President.