An Open Letter to Susan Sarandon: Please help me decide if I should enlist for Bernie’s political revolution by answering my questions

Michael Mapes
14 min readMay 9, 2016


Dear Susan,

I’d like to ask you some questions about your support for Senator Sanders.

I appreciate Bernie’s candidacy, and I am proud of the Democratic party for having an important issues-focused debate in a year when the media seems to feel comfortable declaring voters too stupid and silly to desire substance. If they offered any substance they’d no doubt see the fallacy in their own self-excusing assertion.

…I found it hard to get up…after I realized the world likes the guy-who-makes-you-laugh more than the boy-who-cares-about-fixing-things-one-small-reform-at-a-time.

Frankly, people can keep the personal bashing of either Democratic candidate to the numerous easy-to-access echo chambers, excuse me Facebook groups, that happily welcome Bernie Bitching or Hillary Hating. My view is pretty simple: we have a country and a nuclear weapons stockpile to consider, and I’m sorry if someone’s feelings are hurt, but the stakes seem just a tad higher than personal animus at the moment.

I admire your work and advocacy greatly. You’ve made a lasting impact on film and culture through the depth, breadth, and variation of your work. You’ve moved me personally with your work in Rocky Horror, Thelma and Louise, and through your continued contributions year after year. It’s because I respect you that I’m writing to you.

I find your current crusade confusing, wrong-headed, and nearly impossible to comprehend.

I’m what’s known as a “Michael why are you so effing curious about everything” type of person who learned early on that asking questions often tells you more than talking. (Creative Commons)

Armed with this lesson, here I go again, rocking the boat when I should be, “Sitting quietly in class and listening to the teacher so you [I] don’t have to come to the vice principal’s office every day during advanced government.”

Why was I in the vice principal’s office?

The advanced government teacher insisted on making us watch Fox News multiple times a week making sure to repeat the “Fair & Balanced” slogan at every available opportunity to rationalize this insane decision.

He was, unsurprisingly, a man particularly irritated by my constant questions. Eventually I adopted a non-violent resistance strategy by slamming my book on the floor and storming out, all incredulous teenage eyes glued to my back; I simply couldn’t take another second of Colmes tangling limply with a omg-he-can-blow-even-harder Hannity in a manner more reminiscent of camp than debate.

Still, questions are worth asking even when government teachers get blustery.

Disclaimer: It’s entirely possible given how desperately I’ve always longed for acceptance from the cool kids* I’ve been brainwashed by Debbie Wasserman Shultz and other corporate Democrats, but I sort of think in a big and ideologically divided country small changes can make a big difference.

I’m giving you an opportunity to change my thinking, and by default the thinking of others you’ll need in whatever revolution you’re currently all about.

Plus, given your pretty candid public statements about Hillary, I figured you’d be open to my candid statements directed toward you.

* In the Ice Cream Capital of the World, Le Mars, IA, being a Democrat didn’t feel like the path to acceptance, and my Rural Iowans high school advocacy group TeenGays4Gore with its overly adjective’d press release and subsequent voter mobilization effort was met with considerable skepticism in Plymouth county.

On celebrity shaming

No one is more concerned with celebrity shaming than I am, and it mortifies me to even think about a celebrity being afraid at night because as you say, their “publicists are leaning on them.” Some of us literally can’t EVEN imagine what that would be like. Of nearly equal concern is the threat they face from supporting Sen. Sanders due to the “very difficult” nature of “putting themselves out there for” an interview. One shudders to consider.

Do you think this fear is higher or lower than the trepidation a Muslim American or a Mexican American feels when imagining a Trump Presidency?

How about a woman forced to go to prison after having an abortion?

On gay rights

You’ve criticized Hillary for not leading on gay rights. You have a ping-pong bar, Spin, in Dubai. It’s a crime to be gay in Dubai. Punishments include: deportation, prison time, fines, and even in some cases the death penalty.

Is this leadership?

Also, you echoed Sanders’ statements on the Human Rights Campaign riffing on his establishment verbiage by calling it the machine.

As a gay man I ask, given the lack of a gay rights establishment in Dubai should we consider this a model for our advocacy here?

Barack Obama, Joe Biden, John Edwards, John Kerry, Howard Dean, and many others were all against gay marriage. I couldn’t locate any public statements from you criticizing their leadership on this issue. I also couldn’t locate any criticisms of Hillary on this issue before this year.


When did this specifically become an issue for you?

What made you comfortable voting Obama given his lack of leadership on the issue?

Can you also discuss this relative to Bernie’s leadership on guns given your staunch, and I applaud this, support of gun control?

On revolution

Things got really really bad in Egypt and they are really really bad in Syria, so bad in fact that people actually did revolt. They rose up.

Is this what we should expect under a Trump Administration or do you have another plan for revolution that is less frightening?

On the other hand, things are really, really, really, really bad in North Korea, and still no revolution.

What advice would you give them?

What specifically should they do, in addition to the internment camps, forced labor, and despotism, to make things bad enough for them to wake up and overthrow Kim Jong Un?

On money in politics

You’ve questioned Hillary’s commitment to taking action to decrease the influence of Citizens United.

Are you aware the President doesn’t write Supreme Court decisions or decide which cases get granted cert?

Is there a case currently you think could present a Constitutional question large enough the Court would reconsider a decision so recently rendered?

Citizens United, which you’ve credited as the source of many of our contemporary problems, didn’t exist in the year 2000, 2004, or 2008. You were arguing than, as was Nader, that private money was corrupting.

What created the problem then if Citizens United is the culprit now?

What action steps do you support to curb the corrupting influence of money?

What do you propose to do about the other corrupting influences in politics, corporate control, and special industries that don’t stem from money?

Specifically, the NRA is not the richest organization and yet it’s considered the most powerful lobby in Washington. How will getting rid of Citizens United limit their influence?

Please link me to any public statements criticizing the aforementioned politicians you supported for taking this money. I can only find statements about Hillary.


Also, in your view, would Gore have appointed a justice as likely, more likely, or less likely to rule with the majority or minority in Citizens United.

On “lesser of two evils”

In 2000, you said you were tired of voting for the “lesser of two evils.”

What changed between 2000 and 2004 when you urged Nadar not to run and supported Kerry?

Kerry, in 2004, supported NAFTA, stated he “personally opposes abortion,”, opted out of supporting gay marriage, voted for the Iraq War, didn’t propose a universal healthcare plan, and committed the cardinal sin by accepting donations from AIG and other big money groups.

How did Kerry earn your support?

You’ve also criticized Hillary for changing her mind and evolving on issues.

How many times a day do you personally chide yourself for your evolution from Green to Democrat to Democratic Socialist?

I understand how tired you must have been in 2000 having to deal with Bill Clinton’s centrism! Not to mention Gore, I mean, they were calling that guy the same stuff they called me. Awkward. Uncomfortable. And, I’m risking assumption here, but given the complete absence of a social life and the sum total of zero invitations to puke my face off with my peers at their parties, I don’t think anyone wanted to have a beer with me either. Damn. Still stings.

I don’t think anyone wanted to have a beer with me either. Damn. Still stings.

Even at 16, I wasn’t naive to the destruction not being popular enough can sew. I understood perfectly well that perception dictates results much more frequently and reliably than reality.

In 5th grade, being deeply uncool, possessing less athleticism than an overcooked linguine strand, and preferring Tracy Chapman and Bette Midler to anything playing on the radio, I convinced myself brains and an authentic desire to make a difference would win out.

Official assignment: the D.A.R.E. 5th Grade essay contest.

The perfect opportunity to employ my advanced reasoning skills, present an original policy proposal, and challenge the authoritarian local, school, and law enforcement establishment by devising an essay so profound and poignant in its presentation and prescriptions even they couldn’t resist its demands.

Not only would I win the contest, I might even make meaningful change to the entire national program!

Fearless, I put my theory to the test, composing an essay, conducting original research by interviewing my police officer father and surveying students and teachers. A true tour de force really, a treatise explaining why the popular bring-police-to-school initiative known as D.A.R.E. was deeply flawed.

At 12, I was precocious not a nihilist, and so I went to work elucidating exactly how the program could be greatly improved through implementing a few key reforms.

At 12, I was precocious not a nihilist…

Naturally, the person administering this program would have to be replaced, he valued student likability over offering quality teaching, and making people laugh over providing useful, usable information.


We all liked him.

Well, I despised him, but I figured I should have liked him. But this wasn’t about liking someone, this was about the future of our children and their ability to protect themselves, avoid stranger danger, and resist the powerful siren song of drugs.

I did not come in first…or second…and I stopped hearing much after that, all my energy going to pretending to be interested in the remnants of paper caught in the spiral wire of my notebook as a way to defeat the urge cry. I’m not sure if there was a third place, but if there was, I didn’t finish in third.

Devastated I sought some kind of dispute resolution process, and objective body to examine the evidence and tell me exactly why I hadn’t been chosen.

Had they not read my work?

Did it lack internal consistency?

Was it my failure to explain the funding and budgetary implementation mechanisms? Surely that would be worked out in drafting the reforms into policy.

Had I failed to print the most recent draft and instead handed in a previous draft riddled with spelling errors?

No such process existed. I just didn’t win.

That’s why 5 years later, I knew what Al Gore was going through. I knew. But I wasn’t shocked or even surprised. I wonder how tired he must have been? I found it hard to get up for a couple weeks after I realized the world likes a guy-who-makes-you-laugh more than the boy-who-cares-about-fixing-things-one-small-reform-at-a-time.

No such process existed. I just didn’t win.

Do you think, you’ll be more or less tired than honest hardworking religious minorities who are purged and forced out of the United States if Trump gets his way?

Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King Jr. embraced the “lesser of two evils” in leading the suffrage and civil rights movements often making hard, heart breaking decisions.

Where do we land as Americans in this election? Imperfect altruism or perfect selfishness?

What advice would you give each of them, if you had a time machine, so they could achieve their goals more quickly?

On Obama’s failed presidency

This one is kind of a circle your answer and then explain with attached essay section.

Which of the following do you find so completely objectionable, abjectly anti-progressive, and manifestly problematic it leads you to believe revolution is the order of the day:

more Americans insured than ever?

gay marriage?


the stimulus?

ending the Iraq war?

almost entirely closing Guantanamo?

massive troop drawdown in Afghanistan?

reversal of the the global gag rule?

bringing Osama bin Laden to justice?

consistent private and public sector job growth?

Obama’s executive action on immigration?

changes to community college accessibility?

On Hollywood

Let’s begin short and sweet.

Would you mind laying out your objections to the political and corporate establishment that are distinct from the entertainment corporate structure and establishment?

International Creative Management, a firm who represents you, has made concessions to private equity and received major financing from Merrill Lynch and other Wall Street firms and shadow banks.

You’ve received large compensation in part due to these partnerships and the doors they opened for you directly or via your agency.

While commissions for agents shrink at ICM has your salary decreased or increased? Was your commission decreased, increased, or did it remain the same? By how much?

As one of their biggest, and best known clients, you help them profit and maintain a reputation allowing them to secure investing from questionable firms. You’re even quoted as saying these firms have “hijacked the system” and hurt Americans.

What responsibility do you play in that hijacking?

On corporations

In 2011, you said, “There are good corporations. I can’t think of any off the top of my head.” Your wealth and net worth has been created and sustained almost entirely by corporations and big money.

What level of responsibility do you accept for the financial crash of 2008 given the heavy investment in Wall Street and politics Hollywood and its executives no doubt participate in?

At what point, and how frequently do you remind them of your opposition to their greed and efforts to personally profit from a corrupt system? Describe a typical response.

It wasn’t easy, and I’d love you to point me in the direction of clearer records, but it seems you have holdings in Reframed Pictures, Spin Global Holdings LLC, and perhaps some other companies.

Are these bad companies? Or could you simply not think of them off the top of your head?

Since you have major interests in Reframed and Spin do you consider your personal contributions corporate in nature? Why or why not?

Is it possible any politician could receive, or has ever received, any signal from you about which way you’d like them to vote when you contribute given your sizable purse power? Is this concerning to you?

Do you insist on a living wage for all workers and vendors connected to these holdings?

Do you cap the amount of CEO pay for Spin at a percentage of what the average worker receives?

On breaking up with Obama

I know you had to break up with Hillary, and given their issue similarity, I assume by the transitive property you’ve also had to say goodbye to President Obama having previously supported him beginning in the primary process.

At what point did you become convinced that Obama was part of the problem?

Where specifically has money, corporate influence, and corruption affected his policy making and approach?

Obama received many big money donations, please point me to the public speeches and interviews you gave criticizing his commitment to reform and questioning his character?

Was it hard to support someone who engaged in practices you’d accused of destroying democracy 8 years prior? How did you cope?

On supporting other Democrats

Please point me to any public statements or advocacy with regards to Obama, Biden, Kerry (who are policy-wise closer to Hillary) where you’ve made similar assertions and claims about these Democrats that mirror your statements about Hillary.

I’ve found Tweets suggesting support for Vice President Biden who voted for the crime bill and the Iraq War, takes money from Wall Street, and opposed gay marriage.

Given the lack of public anger from you toward these individuals I assume Hillary must in some way be worse, explain in what way?

On supporting women

You supported Nader. Jill Stein is running for President as the Green Party candidate.

Why support Bernie over her?

You recently stated you want a woman President just not Hillary of the daughter of a rich person.

Does this apply to sons as well? Or is that acceptable?

Does this mean your daughter Eva Amurri, who has done powerful charity work, would not have your support if she sought elected office?

Do their parents have to currently be rich? Or simply ever have been rich? If they want to run will they be allowed if their parents give up their money? What constitutes rich?

On the release of your transcripts

I wanted to bring you a list of films and projects you’ve been involved with where there might be, unknowingly, connections to Wall Street financiers or special interest money, but when I started doing my research on films you produced and starred in, I couldn’t find salary, financing, or investment information.

Would you be willing to help me call studio executives and urge for the public release of this information?

A recent SEC ruling allows small dollar investors to help crowd fund projects and receive ownership in the project. Investing in film is considered one of the riskiest investments and small donors won’t have the money (plus contribution caps are imposed to limit risk) or option to buy slate, like most major investors in film would, making the likelihood of high returns pretty low.

As such, do you support full transparency and accountability around the financials of all studios so that small investors, who now have the potential for returns can make informed choices?

Would you be willing to release the financials for any project you’ve been a producer or exec. producer on to set a precedent?

Would you be willing to work with me to lobby congress to adopt legislation requiring the same?

Could we call on Rosario Dawson, Michael Moore, and others to join us?

Would you encourage all celebrities over the $20 million dollar net worth mark to do the same?

On progressives in politics

You mused on Comedy Central the last progressive President was FDR. He was rich, elite, and helped Wall Street and special interests.

What specific safeguards were in place, or did he adhere to, that made him immune from corporate duopoly you and Nader and others are concerned about?

In the same appearance you scoff at Lyndon Johnson and seem to imply he let down the left in some way.

Who would have been a better, politically viable, alternative? George Wallace, known segregationist came in 2nd, what about him?

Why do you think Martin Luther King Jr. supported Johnson publicly and in many ways? Did he lack progressive values?

On timing the revolt

Under a Trump Presidency what should we look for as the signs the time for revolt is upon us?

Will we be allowed to use guns given your opposition to them?

Prolonged guerrilla warfare or direct attack?

How can I best do my part?

My skills include analytical reasoning, reading quickly, making audio greeting cards, and marketing.

What is the income cap we’ll be looking for as we recruit soldiers? If it’s not about income what specific associations should we be on the lookout for in identifying potential allies or enemies?

On Sanders voters

Why are millennials, people who vote in caucuses, and white people able to avoid corporate control more easily than older voters, black and browner voters, gayer voters, female-er voters and render a smarter decision by supporting Sanders?

I can’t promise this is all of my questions, but it’s a really good place to start! This will give me much more robust body of information to decide if following your political wisdom is…well…wise.

Eagerly awaiting your reply,

Michael Mapes

p.s. You’ve spoken of the differences between the wealthy class and the middle class you describe as “just [wanting] to get a job and a home.” You also Tweeted on Feb. 17th, “HRC doesn’t represent my interests, @BernieSanders does. Simple as that.”

Does that mean Bernie represents the interests of the ruling class? Or does it mean that you’re an average American?



Michael Mapes

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