By DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ
HILLTOWN – With the United States and its coalition of
the willing engaged in a war in Iraq‚ prolific‚ 72-year-old‚
Mississippi-born actor James Earl Jones used a Hilltown speaking
engagement Friday evening to stress the importance of understanding
culture in circumstances that otherwise defy comprehension.
“When there are mysteries or dilemmas or questions in
the areas of politics‚ history‚ sociology‚ even
psychology‚ the answers‚ I believe‚ lie in the
cultural‚” Jones told a crowd of more than 500 gathered
at the Calvary Church in Hilltown for the Indian Creek Foundation’s
fifth annual spring fundraising event.
“Culture is constantly reinventing itself‚ culture
is constantly reinventing us‚ and whether we know it or
not‚ we are constantly reinventing culture‚” said
Jones‚ of African‚ Cherokee and Irish descent.
The foundation offers a variety of services and assistance
programs to people with developmental disabilities. In addition
to raising funds for its programming‚ said executive director
Dave Crosson‚ the event is geared toward bringing a diversity
of speakers to the community to appeal to a wide variety of interests.
Jones spoke both academically and practically about culture‚
recounting how it has been misinterpreted over the years and
how it has taken various forms throughout history‚ from
the Renaissance through the Industrial Revolution to today.
“What is considered reasonable varies from culture to
culture‚” he said.
Jones pointed to a case in New York in which a Danish couple
was arrested for neglect after leaving their baby in a stroller
outside a store they had just entered. The event‚ commonplace
in the couple’s native Copenhagen‚ caused an international
The goal‚ he said‚ is to overcome the barriers that
block different groups from accepting the culture of others‚
nationally‚ internationally and globally.
“When you work with it‚ when you work at it‚
cultures can enrich others. Rising to that challenge‚ and
doing it well‚ can be our best legacy for generations to
come‚” he said.
With respect to the United States‚ Jones said‚ there
is much to be done before its various cultures are joined rather
“Not on purpose. No society becomes a melting pot on
purpose‚” he said. “It’s not an agenda‚
it just happens.”
Of his own culture‚ Jones said he finds little purchase.
“It’s really just a fantasy. It’s as much as
a fantasy as saying I want to go back to Africa and be an African‚”
he said. “I can’t speak Gaelic‚ for crying out
During audience questioning‚ Jones clung to his role
as baseball philosopher Terence Mann‚ from the film “Field
of Dreams‚” as his most cherished movie role.
“He’s as much of a philosopher as I’d ever
want to be‚” Jones said. “If there is a role that
defines who I would want to be‚ I would say Terence Mann.”
Speaking on the United States’ war against Iraq‚
Jones said there is no easy answer‚ but he suggested that
conflict builds character.
“That’s a hard (question) because many of us are
now trying to rationalize the point of view we took‚ whether
we were for or against the war‚” he said. “You’ve
got to understand all the elements that go into it.”
Referencing the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian
Authority’s quest for a separate state‚ Jones said‚
“I’m sure that‚ once they come out of it they
will be a greater society because of it‚ because of the
friction. Š I think the crossroads offer you much more productivity
than the back roads.”
The foundation presented Jones with a framed picture of the
Statue of Liberty‚ taken by foundation employee Pat McNulty.
Injecting a moment of levity prior to the presentation‚
Jones declared‚ “Woo-hoo!”