Actor: Wars seeking power should cease

Actor: Wars seeking power should cease

Emmy Award-nominated actor Mark Margolis is best known for his supporting roles in acclaimed films including “The Wrestler,” “Scarface,” “Pi,” “Black Swan,” “Requiem for a Dream” and “The Fountain.” Darren Aronofsky (the auteur behind all those films save “Scarface”) wrote the role of Father Avila in “The Fountain” specifically for Margolis.

Margolis has had recurring roles on numerous TV shows, including “The Equalizer,” “Quantum Leap,” “Oz,” “Law & Order,” “Crossing Jordan,” “Californication” and “Breaking Bad.” He was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for his role as Tio Salamanca on “Breaking Bad,” where he portrayed a retired Mexican drug cartel enforcer, confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak. Margolis went to Temple University briefly, before moving to New York City, where he studied drama with Stella Adler and at the Actors Studio. He began appearing in films in 1976.

ROBIN BRONK: If you had five minutes in the Oval Office with President Obama, what would you discuss with him? What issue would you like him to know about? 

MARK MARGOLIS: We need to cease and desist from fighting wars that involve clan, tribal, ethnic and religious groups fighting, not for freedom, justice or liberty, but simply for power! There ought to be a clear understanding of these medieval societies and their values as well as a realization that none are in a battle to save or establish a democracy. They are simply pursuing ageless battles to establish their own rule over other clans, tribes, ethnic groups and religions. We have a great tendency to view the overthrow of Third World “strongmen” as a victory for democracy and liberty when, in reality, our indigenous allies tend to be future dictatorial strongmen vying for their own opportunity to take power.

We have to stop encouraging our young men and women from enlisting in a fight that costs them their precious lives and leaves so many of them horribly injured and infirmed for the rest of their days. Afghanistan and Iraq are like cesspools, and we’re asking our soldiers to keep peace between separate swarms of flies fighting to own them. Then, on top of all the double-dealing, embezzling, rampant corruption and prejudice within their unstable governments, our kids have to worry about being shot in the back by soldiers and policemen who are as dangerous as the declared enemy. It’s one thing to topple a dangerous megalomaniac, but quite another to sacrifice our sons and daughters in an endless morass of militaristic horses--t that garnishes profiteering, false patriotism, inept intelligence and deafening lies from a bunch of fat-cat politicos; for example, people like Cheney and Rumsfeld, who viewed the precious lives of our servicemen and -women as mere chattel in the service of their misguided and phony old-fart ideologies. In the end, these posturing and self-assured “let’s go to war” pitchmen end up apologizing — like [Robert] McNamara — as if their belated epiphany can expunge the needless deaths of 55,000 Americans [in Vietnam]. We are not fighting Tojo and Hitler today. We’re fighting medieval religious fanatics who want to control their fellow religious fanatics.

One more thing while on this subject: It’s a very nice thought — this business of America being the policeman of the world, but keep in mind that when a politician speaks those words it’s not just a nation and it’s policy he’s talking about, but Americans — real people, i.e., men and women in our armed forces whose lives are being put on the line. Yes, of course we have our own interests to protect and our own international strategies to play, but at some point someone has to be smart enough, honest enough and bold enough to ask, “Where the hell are the men and women of Iraq and Afghanistan who ought to be fighting for their own freedom and preferred way of life?”

We had some help when we fought for independence from England in 1776, but the real fighting and dying was done by Americans! Somehow we seem to have fallen into a collective mindset that it’s up to us to rescue nations so we watch our young men and women patrolling villages, cities, valleys and mountains while the “locals” look on or pretend to be supportive … and all the while our kids are hoping and praying that they don’t get shot in the back by some cowards who are supposed to be allies!

Has it really taken 11 years to “get back” at the perpetrators behind 9/11? Is that what we’re still doing? Do jerks like Karzai and this year’s head of Iraq really give a damn about your son or my daughter or the kid from Ohio who became a triple amputee two years out of high school? These so-called “guerilla wars” are not the best campaigns or strategies for superpowers to engage in and, in the end, we’re left wondering why the hell we listened to politicians and military advisers who think they were correct all along even when all of the evidence clearly points to dimwitted, baseless and rush-to-judgment decisions that fill cemeteries and hospital beds while flushing the money we need for schools, factories, roads, bridges, towns, cities, housing, jobs, etc., down an endless hole of Third World incompetence and corruption. Our soldiers can kick the asses of any enemy, and anyone who blames them as individuals for these debacles is surely misdirected. But what our soldiers don’t need is to be forced into positions of being the proverbial fish in the barrel while a bunch of medieval fanatics plant their mines and aim RPGs at them!

RB: If you could ask President Obama one question, what would that be?

MM: Mr. President, why aren’t you speaking in a more forceful, clear and simple manner when arguing your position versus the smoke and mirrors coming from your opposition? Your ideas phrased in straight talk to the average American would certainly get them thinking about what the other side is saying and whether what the opposition posits is fact or fantasy or outright nonsense. Granted, our VP sometimes puts his foot in his mouth, but he does have a way of speaking to the average person in a straightforward, clear manner, and you would do well to take on some of his speaking qualities — sans the gaffes.

RB: What piece of advice would you give President Obama as he’s campaigning for the upcoming election?

MM: Please make abundantly clear and simple the state that the nation was in when you entered office, and where it was headed had that agenda continued. And state especially the solutions you proposed during this first term, what they meant and how they were blocked (and why) by the other party. And please, please come up with a very clear way of explaining your health plan to the country ... there is too much misunderstanding of its positive effects, its costs, savings and value for all citizens. This health plan, proposed several years ago, has still never had its components clarified by anyone on your team in a way that is tangible for our citizens. That flaw has left it right out there as a punching bag for your opposition and allowed them to fabricate what it consists of in any negative way they choose.

RB: If you were going to send the president to one of your favorite places in the United States for one day, where would that be? Why?

MM: Please spend some time out in the great spaces of New Mexico. It has a mystic magic that brings you back in touch with how beautiful and precious life is. And it is rich in thousands of years of civilizations that existed before we ever got to this continent. Many of those original communities still exist in New Mexico, along with 500-year-old Latino communities that encompass rich, wonderful traditions. Otherwise, I would always suggest an empty beach anywhere along the Atlantic coast to reconnect, while looking at the vastness of the ocean, with the whole universe.

RB: What piece of music would you recommend that President Obama add to his collection? Why?

MM: Miles Davis, “Sketches of Spain.” I’ve been listening to it and gifting people with it for 50 years. It never fails to take the soul — and the spirit — to wonderful places.

RB: Would you ever consider a political career? 

MM: I would never consider a political career unless it was offered as a part in a drama. It is so all-consuming, and I think I lack the kind of high energy required. I also lack a certain level of diplomacy when I engage with others. I’d probably make too many enemies, and I’ve already alienated enough of my acquaintances without being an officeholder.

Robin Bronk is CEO of The Creative Coalition — the leading national, nonprofit, nonpartisan public advocacy organization of the entertainment industry. Bronk is a frequent speaker on the role of the entertainment industry in public advocacy campaigns and represents The Creative Coalition and its legislative agenda before members of Congress and the White House. She produced the feature film “Poliwood,” airing on Showtime, and edited the recently published book Art & Soul. Bronk pens this weekly column with assistance from Risa Kotek.