Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Open Letter

The following is an open letter written by Timothy Robbins the actor to Gregory Soumas, head of the Board of Elections in New York City.

As you may or may not have heard, Mr. Robbins' name was purged from the voter rolls in his polling place where he has voted since 2004. When he showed up at his polling place to vote on Nov. 4th, he was told his name was not on the rolls. In order to vote, he had to show up at the county courthouse and go before a judge to get a letter stating he had the right to vote at his polling place.

Following this event, Mr. Soumas wrote a letter to Mr. Robbins basically stating what a nit-wit Robbins was for not checking to see if he was an active voter at his polling place. Instead of sending the letter to Mr. Robbins, Mr. Soumas sent the letter to various media outlets including newspapers and the Internet. The letter contained a copy of Mr. Robbins' voter registration card containing his address and driver's license number.

Following is Mr. Robbins' reply to the letter written by Mr. Soumas. I only wish I could write like this. All I can say is, "Right on, Mr. Robbins!!"

Read on.

Mr. Gregory C. SoumasBoard of Elections in the City of New YorkExecutive Office 32 BroadwayNew York, NY 10004-1609
November 17, 2008

Dear Mr. Soumas:

I would like to publicly apologize for being such a dim-witted dilettante on Election Day. I was under the naïve assumption that I could vote where I voted in the last two elections. Your thoughtful letter pointed out that if I had voted in the recent primary election in September I would have discovered that I was no longer registered in the polling place I have voted in since 2004.

Considering your position at the Board of Elections and your deep respect for the democratic process I must assume that my local 14th St. poll worker, Betty J. Williamson's assertion that my name was on the active voter rolls for the primary in September of this year was erroneous and that she must be as confused and wrongheaded as I am. If Ms. Williamson saw my name in the book in September that would mean that you are lying. Certainly you wouldn't lie about a thing like that. That is unbecoming of a man of your bureaucratic stature. And why would anyone in the Board of Elections be eliminating legitimate voters from the rolls in late September and October of 2008? That's just crazy and un-democratic.

I should also apologize for the misguided actions of Justice Paul G. Feinman in issuing a court order on Election Day allowing me to vote on 14th St. He apparently thought that a printed out record from your own Board of Elections computer verifying my polling place as 14th St was justification for issuing the court order. If he had only thought to contact you, you could have helped him understand the logic and wisdom of eliminating my name from the book on 14th St. where I have always voted and leaving my name registered at a place I have never voted.

I must also thank you for sending your letter not to me but to all the major newspapers in the New York area and across the internet. I understand it was your way of clearing up this matter and for that I am grateful. I am particularly appreciative of your sending a copy of my voter registration card with my home address and driver's license number to all the newspapers and, by extension, to millions across the internet. What celebrity dilettante wouldn't want his private information made public? What kind of snob gets angry that his family's safety might be compromised? It comes with the territory, right?

I was thinking of returning that favor by publishing your home address in this letter but then I thought that maybe one of the thousands of New Yorkers that were taken off the voter rolls in the last two months might not understand what a patriotic upstanding man you are and might show up at your doorstep with the misguided assumption that you are a petty vindictive corrupt scumbag.

Tim Robbins
New Yorker since 1961
Voter since 1976

P.S. If anyone reading this letter had a similar experience on Election Day it can and should be reported at

cc: Commissioners of ElectionsMarcus Cederqvist, Executive DirectorGeorge Gonzalez, Deputy Executive DirectorPamela Perkins, Administrative Manager Beth Fossella, Coordinator, Voter RegistrationSteven H. Richman, General CounselTroy Johnson, Chief ClerkTimothy Gay, Deputy Chief Clerk
Election Day
Mr. Gregory C. Soumas Board of Elections in the City of New York Executive Office 32 Broadway New York, NY 10004-1609 November 17, 2008 Dear Mr. Soumas: I would like to publicly apologize for be...
Mr. Gregory C. Soumas Board of Elections in the City of New York Executive Office 32 Broadway New York, NY 10004-1609 November 17, 2008 Dear Mr. Soumas: I would like to publicly apologize for be...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Post Election Thoughts

I have long been a supporter of Barack Obama. I first heard of him when he was making a run for the Senate in Illinois. After seeing him interviewed I went and purchased his book, Dreams From My Father. I was struck by the elegance of his writing and by his straightforward and honest approach to his life. I read his second book, Audacity of Hope, when it was published and I thought at that time that this guy was really going to go places.

And so he has.

He has reached the mountain top. He has achieved what only forty three other men in the history of our country have achieved. And he is an African-American.

The general consensus of the black community seems to be that they would never see this day come in their lifetimes. And here they are witnessing history…making history. My heart is full. I celebrate with them and for them.

They can now tell their children and grandchildren….and mean it….that they can achieve anything and that there are no limitations. The path to the mountain top has been paved.
I celebrate for our country too; for looking past the color of skin and into the contents of the heart. For clearly recognizing the need for change and exercising their Constitutional rights to make that change. For hearing the reverberating cry of, “Yes we can!” and believing it and allowing it to vibrate in their hearts and minds.

I celebrate. And, I hope.

I hope that President Obama will be safe. I know full well that there remain pockets of hatred and bitterness in this country. I know well that there are those who deny bigotry but yet speak hate behind closed doors. I know the maniacal acts that can be committed when one has so much conviction that they are ‘right’ and they are acting on behalf of a higher power. These things grip me with fear.

I keep President Obama and his beautiful wife and daughters in my daily thoughts and I will hope with all my might for his success and safety, because his success means success for this country and his safety will mean that this country actually has progressed past judging a person by the color of their skin.

The passage of anti-gay propositions in several states has brought me sadness. Just as we seem to be collectively moving past the issues of civil rights with regard to race, we are bogged down in the mire of civil rights with regard to sexual orientation.

It is heart wrenching to me that my fellow brothers and sisters cannot see past their biases and fears to reach a place of understanding; the understanding that all human beings deserve to love and be loved, and to enter into committed relationships which allow them certain legal rights.

At one point in our American history and not so very long ago, people were not allowed basic civil rights because of the color of their skin. Whites marrying ‘blacks’ was an aberration. White people didn’t want their children to sit in the same classroom as black children. White people wouldn’t use the same water fountains as blacks. It was not uncommon for blacks to be hung or lynched. The more tolerant whites who weren’t for actually physically harming someone merely used slurs and insults as their weapons. Blacks weren’t allowed to vote which is a Constitutional right given to all citizens of this country. For years and years and years they had to endure harm, embarrassment, hatred, fear and sometimes death.

Slowly but surely as those brave souls who stood up and peacefully protested and continually fought in ways large and small, the country began to change. America’s citizens began to see that these people they had been afraid of posed no threat. They too had beating hearts, hopes and dreams and children they loved.

Yesterday on Election Day, people of all races stood with arms entwined celebrating the broken barrier of racism as Barack Obama became the 44th president of the United States.
Unfortunately, a majority of those people also voted to strip thousands of citizens of their basic civil rights. By denying citizens to marry whom they choose, we deny them the pursuit of happiness. Sure, they can live together, but they can never enjoy what we as “straight” Americans get to enjoy; the legal and public declaration that they are joined together as a committed loving married couple.

Just as blacks marrying whites didn’t create the downfall of the American family, neither will gay marriage. It is ridiculous to think otherwise. It is once again fear of the unknown that keeps us as a society from progressing.

I know firsthand what “gays” are like. They are exactly like you and me. They laugh and cry and hope and dream and long for children and for security for those they love. They donate kidneys to parents, care for partners with brain tumors, help their children through the brutal teenage years and support their parents in their twilight years. They also long to be in relationships that are recognized by society as legitimate and legal.

My heart aches for my friends who are gay. This election year was a setback in their quest for civil rights. I have sat in their homes and held their hands, sang with them, danced with them, laughed with them and cried with them. I love them dearly and long for them to feel as though they too are ‘real’ Americans; Americans who get the same rights and privileges as their countrymen.

So, today I feel both joy and sadness. But more than anything I feel full of hope. I hope for a better tomorrow and I dream of the day when I can stand shoulder to shoulder with all of my fellow men and know that we are all ‘free at last.’

Dear Mr. President

No matter what happens from this point forward, you have brought about a mighty change in the collective hearts and minds of this nation. You have opened the way for all of those who will come after you and they will see that there are no limitations in America.

Travel well to the White House that awaits you. Travel safely. I will keep you and your daughters and your wife in my thoughts and heart every day.

Go with the wind at your back. Let it push you to the greatness that is inside of you. You have told us that "yes we can." We believe you and we believe in you.

The future awaits you. Go well and travel safe.