It was celebrity wrestling at its finest Friday
when Jon Stewart and Susan Sarandon grappled over politics and
world affairs at Pace University.
The activist actress urged Americans to try
to learn what is behind the hate that leads to terrorist acts.
"When you have a guy who thinks the best act
is to blow himself up, along with others, you have to ask, 'What
leads to that?'" she asked. "And is the response more violence?
A cowboy shoot-'em-up?"
Stewart immediately retorted: "Getting us
to understand that is like asking black people to understand
why the Klan puts on pointy white hats." He then called Sarandon
Affectionately. We think.
Sarandon, however, pressed on: "America is
the greatest country, with a tradition of dissent." Still, Gore
Vidal had trouble publishing leftist views in the current superpatriotic
climate, she observed.
"He's out walking around," said Stewart. "He's
not in jail."
The two joined playwright Wendy Wasserstein,
performer Spalding Gray and painter Karin Batten, whose studio
was on the 91st floor of Tower One, in a Tribeca Film Festival
panel on life after 9/11.
When a Sarandon fan in the audience said that
the U.S.-led embargo of Iraq has led to the death of 5,000 children
a month, Stewart, the host of "The Daily Show" on the Comedy
Channel, said: "Hey, Saddam is building himself golden palaces.
Why doesn't he buy sandwiches?"
Gray, who is recovering from a car accident
in Ireland, said "I have survivor's guilt."
Wasserstein said she has been able to deal
with any topic in her work except the attacks.
Sarandon added, "I have little kids, so I
went out," performing in a play, "The Guys," about a 9/11 firefighter.
She also said she supports Filmaid, which has sent a truck with
a movie screen on its side to show films to children around
"They showed 'The Wizard of Oz,' and the kids
had never seen a child sing before. When they saw Judy Garland
singing 'Over the Rainbow,' they were dumbfounded."
"May I just suggest," offered Stewart, "that
they not send 'Police Academy.' "