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Comic Relief

Robin Williams: Visionary

by LEE BALLINGER

As a combat veteran who once was homeless, there are two things that stand out in my mind about the long and winding career of Robin Williams.

First is the movie Good Morning, Vietnam. I actually served in Vietnam at the time that Williams’ character, Adrian Cronauer, was broadcasting music and sly jibes at the Vietnam War. But for whatever reason, I never heard him until the film, whose celebration of music and camaraderie, whose awkward attempts to depict awkward attempts at friendship with the Vietnamese, still resonate with me today.

Second is Robin Williams key role in Comic Relief, the series of televised benefits for the homeless which began its twenty-plus year run in 1986. Comic Relief was, to be sure, charity and not change, but it was also a loud cry against the crime of homelessness in the richest nation on earth and at times it offered profound social commentary.

Robin Williams left us too soon but it is not too late to realize his vision of a world of peace where everyone has a place to live. The future is up to us.

Lee Ballinger co-edits Rock and Rap Confidential and writes about music and politics for CounterPunch.