Over the last few months, actor Martin Sheen, who portrays the President of the United States on the NBC television program The West Wing, has appeared at a number of anti-war rallies and was the star of a TV commercial advertising the “virtual march on Washington” to protest a possible war. Thousands of Americans have chosen to express their distaste for Mr. Sheen’s actions by writing in or calling NBC and threatening to boycott the network’s commercial sponsors unless they dump Sheen from The West Wing. While these people certainly have every right to do so, I think NBC would be wrong to fire him.
Mr. Sheen has been a staunch liberal political activist for many years as well as an outspoken critic of the Bush administration. Certainly no one should be surprised by the position he’s taken concerning possible war with Iraq. While I’ve never been able to understand why the thoughts of one who ‘pretends’ for a living are important, Mr. Sheen clearly has the right to dissent as guaranteed by the constitution. If he wants to go on TV and advocate the ridiculously naive position of the anti-war movement and in essence offer protection to the Iraqi government, I certainly won’t stand in his way. I also, despite what I have said here, won’t malign his motivation, as I believe it is genuine in its sincerity.
Even if he wasn’t sincere in his opposition to war and was being, well, French about the whole thing, he shouldn’t lose his job over it. As a seven-year veteran of the Marine Corps I served my country to protect the rights guaranteed to all of us, the extremely politically confused included. There should never be reprisals for exercising ones free speech and NBC as well as others would be denigrating what makes this country the greatest on Earth if they were to initiate sanctions against those that take a stance even if many people believe it is anti-American.
All Americans should exercise their rights of dissent even if they happen to be naive like Martin Sheen. He’s within his rights to protest even though his activism is denying the people of Iraq their human rights. But NBC shouldn’t fire him over it, after all the way the ratings are plummeting on The West Wing, that gig will be up soon anyway.
Scott Wacholtz is a senior majoring in political science and a veteran of Desert Storm. All Joint Direct Attack Munitions can be targeted on firstname.lastname@example.org