I never paid much attention to Richard Dreyfuss. If anything, I found his screen characters annoying, though he did win me over at the end of “Jaws.”
But life is full of surprises, and recently I found myself seated in a living room armchair emailing the legendary actor on a glitchy Android tablet and pledging fidelity to his cause. I even tried to send him $25, but either his site, thedreyfussinitiative.org, or my tablet wouldn’t hear of it.
I must try again.
It was an appearance by Dreyfuss on Fox News that caused the interest. He talked about sanctuary cities, and the court injunction blocking the Donald Trump administration from withholding funds to them.
But Dreyfuss laid out a crisp, impassioned argument for intellectual diversity on college campuses, the primacy of the U.S. Constitution over partisan whims, the return of a civics curriculum in public high schools (his cause), and a reaffirmation of shared American principles and values for actual and aspiring U.S. citizens.
His viewpoint was not new. His words were achingly familiar to Americans of a certain age. They spoke to a forgotten national ethos, to elemental assumptions about our country we once held dear, whether we were Democrats or Republicans — before many of us became brainwashed (or intellectually exhausted) by political rhetoric.
The interview didn’t happen in a vacuum. There are signs of nascent normalcy popping up all over. It’s normalcy, or a growing realization that America could spin out of control if it doesn’t start abiding by its basic constitutional tenets, without which we will have no national identity.
Could cooler heads be coming back into style?
Some of the fascination with Trump seems to be ebbing, too, if social media is any measure. Of course we’re still interested in Trump but his social media engagement, pro and con, has fallen 66 percent recently. That means the zeal of 2016 is slowly dissipating, as they invariably must. People can only fight so long.
I have no idea what Dreyfuss thinks about military spending, Planned Parenthood, corporate tax cuts or Trump’s wall. But what I do know is that he gets what it once meant to be an American, and that he’s working to remind others of it.
William F. B. O’Reilly is a consultant to Republicans.