I was riding down Broad Street the other day, in a car with the radio tuned to WHYY. While not my favorite station, I do enjoy listening to Cherri Gregg for local news, and the syndicated program “1A,” the closest thing they have to a more moderate, middle-of-the-road take on issues. It was their fund drive, the one that seems like a daily ritual but which I am told only happens a few times a year. (Could have fooled me — I have nightmares where Terry Gross screams at me because I made the station miss their matching pledge of $10,000).
None of this is particularly interesting, I know. But the thing that caught my attention — and my sense of irony — was the advertisement for a Speaker’s Series coming to Philadelphia. As we were driving by the Union League, I heard the name “Jane Fonda” mentioned as one of the anticipated speakers. And I smirked, which the driver noticed.
He asked me why my lips were twisted into a very good approximation of the center part of a Philly soft pretzel, and I told him I found it rich that Jane Fonda was being given a platform to speak about anything. He asked why I had a problem with an 83-year-old woman who had already apologized for that dust-up on the Viet Cong rocket launcher ages ago. Now, he said, isn’t she just the lady who married Lily Tomlin and overdid the Botox?
READ MORE — Albert Eisenberg: The unbearable lightness of Helen Gym
And as I looked out my window at the façade of the magnificent Union League, I said: “That 83-year-old woman just told the world that pro-life Republican politicians should be murdered. And she meant it.”
Then I thought, what would have happened if a pro-life Republican politician like, say, Ron DeSantis had made a similar comment about trans politicians, saying all men who identify as women should be murdered, and I knew exactly what would have transpired: he would have been the subject of massive protests.
Then again, that’s already happened. A few months ago, the very photogenic governor of Florida was honored at the Union League with their highest prize, the Lincoln Award. There was a reception, DeSantis gave a nice speech, and the city erupted into hysteria. There were protests outside the building; there were op-eds written about how he was trying to destroy teachers’ lives, children’s lives, LGBT lives, and school librarians’ lives. These protests were organized and supported by the type of person who goes to the Union League to scout for money for their mayoral campaigns — a person like Helen Gym.
Which brings me back to Hanoi Jane. Ted Turner’s (and Tom Hayden’s, and Roger Vadim’s) former wife has thrown her support behind the former city councilwoman’s bid for Philadelphia mayor. She apparently likes Gym’s position on climate change. I suppose it makes sense that an 83-year-old woman with a lot of synthetic substances in her face would harbor some hostility toward warmer temperatures, because who knows what happens when collagen and Juvéderm hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit. It might not be so pretty.
But seriously, the reason Jane has decided to root for Helen is because they both support radical causes. Jane opposes most abortion restrictions, most restrictions on supplying “gender affirming care” to adolescents, most forms of incandescent lighting (which really is an 83-year-old’s best friend), and pretty much everything that makes one a moderate and inoffensive human being. Jane hates Republicans, conservatives, and anyone who disagrees with her.
What would have happened if a pro-life Republican politician like, say, Ron DeSantis had made a similar comment about trans politicians, saying all men who identify as women should be murdered?
I’m wondering if any of the people who disagree with her are willing to stage a protest outside the Free Library when she comes to speak on October 2 at the Kimmel Center as part of the aforementioned Speaker Series. I’m wondering if any of my conservative Republican friends who have a target on our backs because Henry’s daughter thinks the politicians we vote for should be murdered will organize a nice welcoming committee for the Oscar-winner-turned-terrorist-facilitator-turned-aerobics-instructor-turned-geriatric Greta Thunberg. I’m willing to put together a group of like-minded men and women who would love to tell Jane Fonda exactly what we think of her.
Of course, Philadelphia doesn’t usually allow liberal icons to be heckled and harassed. We only seem to gather outside of venerable historic venues and shout obscenities at duly elected politicians who are trying to protect children from being exploited by adults with an agenda. We only seem to want to drown out the words of pro-life politicians who have so far managed to avoid Jane Fonda’s fatwa.
Oh, yeah, and we seem willing to forgive the hypocrisy of mayoral candidates who do the Eva Perón “I’m for the poor people” shtick on the campaign trail while loading up on crudités and Chablis at the Union League, and hoping no one notices.
We noticed, Helen.
Christine Flowers is an attorney and lifelong Philadelphian. @flowerlady61