My Turn: Here’s why I didn’t stop the Obama movie
Thanks for the chance to address the controversy that arose due to the showing of the film Obama 2016 at the Flying Monkey in Plymouth last week. I would like to explain the course of events that led to up to the showing and hope that we can all move on as a community.
In mid-September, a representative from the local Republican Party asked to rent the Flying Monkey to show a political film on Oct. 28. I gave them the contact information for our booking agent and promptly forgot about it. Last week, I began receiving phone calls and emails about the movie, indicating that many people felt it was an anti-Obama film, with inaccurate, hateful and very negative content.
I explained that the Flying Monkey was not sponsoring the film but renting out the theater – with no support or endorsement, no advertising, or ticket sales on our part at all. Nevertheless, many friends and community members continued to urge, even demand, that I cancel the showing. So I set out to learn more about the movie.
I bought and watched the movie myself – twice. I talked to those who had rented the theater, talked to friends, talked to many who wrote or called, and listened to their reasoning.
Ultimately, I had to listen to my gut, which told me that canceling the show would be against something I, New Hampshire and America stands for – not just freedom of speech, but the importance of allowing unfettered access to information. Why should I be the one to judge who can or cannot hear a particular film, or can or cannot rent a meeting room at our facilities?
I was given a lot of reasons to go against my intuition. “You’re an Obama supporter! This could change the election! It could incite violence!” (In Plymouth?!) In the final analysis, I decided that showing the film was the right thing. I am not the government, but even as a private business owner, I do not want to get in the way of free speech. I hoped people would take in what they saw and heard in the movie with an objective eye, some critical thinking, some good old-fashioned New Hampshire independent thought.
The people renting the theater are members of the community just as much as the many people who emailed and called me in opposition. We are all in this together, and it’s not the time to get more negative than the ads and discourse have already become.
I let the show go on, as, they say. I even made a batch of beef stew to be a good neighbor. However, I also told everyone who attended that I was a proud supporter of President Obama. But, it’s not just about the candidate or the election. It is about a willingness to stand alone for democracy.
And how can we all do that right now? Vote on Tuesday. Get informed, think independently, stand up and vote.
Thanks to everyone who called and emailed, even those who said they would never come to the Monkey or a Com
mon Man Restaurant again. That’s what we get to do – make our own choices, not make them for others.
I will always be grateful for living in such a great community, state and country.
(Alex Ray lives in Ashland. He is the owner of the Flying Monkey and the Common Man restaurant chain.)