Thomas Steinbeck

Thomas Steinbeck

Posted: September 27, 2010 10:21 AM

My father, John Steinbeck, was a man who held human history in great reverence, and in particular the biographies of those people who had risked their lives, their fortunes, and their worldly honor to defend the rights and prerogatives of those who were powerless to defend themselves. Under his guidance I read Herodotus and Thucydides before I got around to Wind in the Willows.

My father valued patriotism above all other social obligations, but he had his own particular interpretation of just how true patriotism was meant to function. His definition was directly geared to a socio-political axiom of his own invention, and I knew it by heart by the time I was seven years old. He said, "If the solution to a problem of absolute disagreement extends to a call for bloodshed, then neither party has demonstrated the intelligence to formulate the question properly." He also liked to affirm that only poets and composers should be made ambassadors. According to Steinbeck, most political placemen have neither the wit, nor compassion for such a profound responsibility that so desperately requires both.

With this in mind, the Steinbeck Award points to examples of American patriots who have made an indelible impact on our culture, and even influenced the core sense of ourselves on a worldwide plane. And they have all come to us with two rare qualities in common that are quite unique for human beings. First, they are all artists, poets, composers, writers, singers, playwrights, and so forth, and secondly, none of the award recipients to date has ever drawn blood over a bad review. On the contrary, as true patriots they have been willing, and morally well braced to endure, not only rank and file criticism, but also broad disdain, public ridicule, numerous slanders of every hue, and in some cases even physical violence. From my father's point of view, without a thought for self, a true patriot stands up against the stones of condemnation, and speaks for those who are given no real voice in the halls of justice, or the halls of government. By doing so these people will naturally become the enemies of the political status quo. J. Edgar Hoover hated my father with an abiding passion, and believed he was a full-blown Red communist, which, if you knew my father, would be found ridiculous on the face of it. But since J. Edgar had nothing he could pin on Steinbeck, he used his power to encourage the IRS to audit my father's taxes every single year of his life, just to be politically annoying. I'm quite sure that previous Steinbeck Award recipients like Studs Terkel, Arthur Miller, and Joan Baez would have blood-chilling tales to tell in that same regard, but they never faltered, in fact they all won handsomely against the forces arrayed against them, and they are now part of our proud public idiom of intellectual independence like Mark Twain, Louis Armstrong, and Woody Guthrie. So if this recipient of the Steinbeck Award, Michael Moore is half the man we believe him to be, then he has by now received at least as many written death threats as Steinbeck, Miller, and Terkel combined. My father believed, like Pericles, that a man's genius could be easily judged by the number of unenlightened fools set in phalanx against his ideas.

Be that as it may, John Steinbeck was the first person I ever heard use the phrases 'ecological balance', or 'conservation of organic energy'. He had watched us walk on the moon, and yet remain childishly embroiled in a pitiful and pointless series of military conflicts from which there would emerge no winners. And with this knowledge that everything had changed technologically speaking, he still witnessed voices of sanity and social equilibrium being politically smothered on a global scale. In that vein, he once sent me a letter in Viet Nam in which he stated that he had completely modified his perception of patriotism. Where the concept had once easily applied to one's county, state, country, or empire, it was obvious that the idea of patriotic principles now had to be applied to the whole world at large. Culture and language aside, the planet was now so chemically and financially interlinked, that the failure of one, meant the fall of many. He closed his letter by quoting Socrates. "Do not call me an Athenian. I am a citizen of the world."

In this particular instance, and without question, Mr. Michael Moore aptly fulfills every required parameter designed to guide the choice of award recipients. When once asked what his role was as a writer, Steinbeck said it was to reconnect people with a sense of their own innate humanity. This sentiment has been the guiding principle in all choices made for the Steinbeck Award, and Mr. Moore has carried the banner higher than the world ever expected. We are profoundly proud of him, and also proud that he accepts the honor as it was intended.

My father, John Steinbeck, was a man who held human history in great reverence, and in particular the biographies of those people who had risked their lives, their fortunes, and their worldly honor to...
My father, John Steinbeck, was a man who held human history in great reverence, and in particular the biographies of those people who had risked their lives, their fortunes, and their worldly honor to...
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Sam1jere   3 minutes ago (7:42 AM)
Passionately return. Your father would have loved reading Margaret Dickinson's book, "When Bullets Begin to Flower," poems of resistance from war torn nations such as Angola and Mozambique. The said poetry has been done by ex-warriors, those who've taken part in armed conflict only to realize the uselessness of such.

The American Civil War general, William Tecumseh Sherman is renown for this quote, ""There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all hell." An apt summation of the whole philosophy and point of war, which is pointlessness, utter destruction and needless loss of lives.

Standing up for one's convictions is among the greatest battles all of us have to fight, an epic battle as big as that in Tolkien's anthology. The true value of history is to avoid similar pitfalls to those our predecessors underwent. Otherwise we are forever doomed to repeat the same, like Sisyphus's punishment from the gods, as Carlos Santayana captured it.

If Michael Moore indeed qualifies to receive this award, he merely adds his name to the pantheon of lonely martyrs scattered throughout history, the kind of prophets Jesus the Christ said are feted once gone but highly unappreciated, even by their own, during their principles-driven lifetimes.
NickTAZ   14 hours ago (5:16 PM)
I love the term planetary patriotism. Our fear of unity leads to conspiracies of grotesque world government and religious apocalypse, but we don't stop to realize how closely expanding government and quality to life (globally) are related.
ftkl1234   19 hours ago (12:27 PM)
With the globalization of the world, global patriotiism and observance of universal human rights seem now to be a way to put all nations on the same page. It's not a matter of American, the West or individual nations trying to dominate the other nations but a matter of rights guaranteed for all people.

The argument offered by oligarchs that intrusion into national issues is not acceptable. When the people of those nations are denied the rights to life, liberty and decent housing, jobs, health and sanitation facilities, and respect for Constitutional laws, the family of nations has the right to intervene to bring those oligarchs to answer to the charges.
silverliner4   21 hours ago (10:33 AM)
Isn't Michael Moore both religious (Catholic) and a member of the NRA? Plus, he's from Michigan, not exactly a hotbed of liberalism. He's seen through the bull the right wing has built up over the years. You might not like the way he presents his points or his opinions, but they are built on facts, and maybe those facts are what you should really be looking at. For example, I liked 'Capitalism', but didn't agree that we should eliminate it entirely because there are good points about it. I have thought that the bad points about our capitalist system are what need to be addressed, the points that have been abused, and his film showed some of those and made me think about others. It's possible to agree with what's driving Moore's anger, even if you don't agree with the conclusion he's trying to push. He's out for himself in the sense that he's a film director, they are his films, and obviously wants his films to do well, but he has a better motivation for their content and views than many of his contemporaries.
Donald Simon   21 hours ago (10:29 AM)
Michael Moore shines a light on important issues that need light.
AlexNYC   22 hours ago (9:51 AM)
Starting with his first film, Roger and Me, and onward, Michael Moore has championed the people agains the greed, abuse and power of the corporations and the government. He stood up against the Iraq War at the Academy Wards just as the US was going into Iraq. He is more of a patriot than a thousand vacuous Sarah Palins.
Countess   22 hours ago (9:27 AM)
I am a fan of John Steinbeck and I'm very happy Michael Moore has won this award because he is showing us how corporate greed is the prime mover in politics.
Robg54   24 hours ago (8:14 AM)
I personally have been unable to watch an Michael Moore movie in it's entirety. Instead of sincere, he comes across to me as incredibly biased. His movies aren't about the truth, but about arguing a point. A point he set out to argue at the outset, and which he meticulously manipulates material to "prove". Even when I take the same view as Michael Moore on an issue, I have never been able to agree with how he makes his point. Talking with low level people for a long enough time that you get them to eventually say something silly that you can juxtapose with something that makes them look like a fool does NOT make you an American her in my book.
dtlewis   14 hours ago (5:28 PM)
No, Mr. Moore's films are not "about" truth but they do an exceptionally good job of exposing it. Could it be you're simply so pained by those truths that you consciously will it to be otherwise? I think that's the more likely explanation for your contempt for the messenger.
Dosadi   10 hours ago (10:03 PM)
You don't seem to get it.  Mr. Moore recognizes a falsehood and attacks it.  You seem to want a fake world to live in.  One where everything is debatable and there is no right or wrong.  Well in the real world there is such a thing as right and wrong.  Mr.  Moore puts wrong in the spotlight for all to see.  He presents facts with the issues he takes on.  Mr. Moore makes his point by showing us the real truths, he does not rely on propaganda or loose interpretations.  Can you extrapolate and explain which of his movies are not about the truth?  Can you tell us just what Mr. Moore has done that has not been truthful and factual?
desertmom   09:49 PM on 9/27/2010
Excellent choice! Another Steinbeck/Moore fan here. My fave: Grapes of Wrath, which I first read as a pre-teen, and gently awakened me to the realities of American life. I was "hooked on Steinbeck". Congrats to Michael--he truly deserves this honor! I look forward to his presence "telling America the truth" for many decades to come.
Ed Lipton   09:06 PM on 9/27/2010
What a great choice. A man of the people.
One of my fictonal heroes is Tom Joad. Another man of the people.
CeasetheBS   09:00 PM on 9/27/2010
As is typical with Thomas Steinbeck, you must wear your boots while listening to him or reading his material. I found it interesting that he said his father watched us walk on the moon. His father died on 12/20/1968. We first walked on the moon on 7/20/1969. PU, it's deep here.
Jimmyanthefruits   11:57 PM on 9/27/2010
Nice fact check there...I hereby award you the Michael Moore 'Up yours" award....Mike said I could honest!
nofriendofrepublicans   14 hours ago (6:08 PM)
Did man REALLY walk on the moon?
CeasetheBS   13 hours ago (7:08 PM)
I'm not sure, ask John Steinbeck. Oops! He's dead.
annienomad   08:26 PM on 9/27/2010
Thank you Thomas, for having the wisdom to choose Michael Moore for the Steinbeck Award!

Would that the political world paid more attention to the human/creative needs of their people above and beyond the need to be Top Dog.

Comes The Light a one minute animated poem... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_F2e84alIFg
Dnietz   08:19 PM on 9/27/2010
Both Michael Moore and John Steinbeck are/were American heroes.

In a family of liberals, I grew up reading Steinbeck and later watching Moore's films. Truly some of the best work this nation has had.
Jim bob   07:46 PM on 9/27/2010
I didn't actually know he had a son. I'm glad it's you.
rpmcestmoi   07:46 PM on 9/27/2010
Glad of it.
MM is often derided. Were there a different persona and less wryness, sloppy casual and teasing wit are not establishment favorites, MM would be a prince as honored as was the now properly disgraced man who warned us of the dangers of rear engine detroit.
Moore is a hardliner in a soft package. He is a frigging gadfly! They gave guys hemlock to cure that. This one gets a prize., Salut!

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