Ethan Hawke on Donald Trump, Having Integrity, and Johnny Cash

Actor, Novelist, Screenwriter, and Director
Free speech is paramount, but how you use your speech defines you as a person. When our politicians stop demanding the moral high ground, we are in a very dangerous place, says Hawke.
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TRANSCRIPT

Ethan Hawke:  The idea that people somehow feel comfortable enough to cheer and laugh when Donald Trump is mocking somebody by calling them Pocahontas, right. Pocahontas – to be totally honest with you and not to be totally corny it makes me want to cry. Because we’re going to get the leaders in this life that we deserve. And if we walk around and we think that stuff is funny – what people I think admire about Trump is that he’s willing to say an off color thing. And I understand what people mean by that. That we live in a culture where – what’s the right – remember Martin Luther King said I prefer the racist because I know where he stands. What I don’t like is all the quiet people who might be secretly – I can’t work with somebody who’s secretly a racist. And so in a way bring it out Donald Trump. Bring it out. Bring out all the toxic stuff. Let’s everybody – and really make sure you want to cheer for that. Really make sure you think that’s funny. Really study who Pocahontas was and you really think that’s not something to be proud of? I mean I’d be honored if somebody were to call me Pocahontas.

If our elected officials aren’t demanding ethical higher ground than we’re in a very dangerous place. And I find that kind of jingoistic hate talk to be terrifying because it’s always – history shows it’s always the easy way. Whenever we’re upset and whenever we’re angry if somebody gives us a chance to express our anger it feels good temporarily. It does. When the two towers fall if you want to start making anti-Arab sentiments for a second it feels good because it feels like a place to put your rage. What it usually does is create a cycle of violence.

A large percentage of the people that I know that support the unmentionable game show host running for president, what they admire about him is that he doesn’t seem chained to some kind of political correctness and it makes him seem like a maverick and it makes – it immediately gives some kind of swagger to the whole thing. Because most of us live in such fear of saying the wrong thing.

I remember, I had the great benefit, I got to interview Kris Kristofferson, the great poet, songwriter, actor. And I was asking him what happened to the tough guy liberal. Like why are all liberals now kind of seen as kind of like somehow we’re lesser men than like kind of the hard core hate talk. Like why is that somehow – why is that equated with masculinity? Where in his generation, you know, he and Johnny Cash and my grandfather, LBJ. There was a great, you know, the southern progressive. The person who really walked the walk and talked the talk of the unwavering equality of mankind. Where did that guy go? And Kris talked about something that really bothered him that Johnny Cash used to say. People ask me, you know, they ask me if I’m a dove or a hawk and I say I’m a dove with claws. And Kris used to say, you know, I always wanted to say to Johnny, you know, no one things you’re a pussy. You can just say you’re a dove. A dove doesn’t have claws. And it’s okay to say I’ll fight to the death for the right for people to be free, for people to speak their mind, for people to treat each other with mutual respect. That I will die for.

I’ll fight to save this planet. I’ll stand for something. But you don’t have to be a dove with claws. I’ll fight for the doves, you know. I’ll fight so that they can live. And so I really always respected Kris for that and I long for that kind of integrity, you know, and for that kind of free speech.