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Jane Fonda calls Vietnam controversy 'starch in my spine' as she takes on Trump: 'We're in an existential crisis'


Jane Fonda is one of Hollywood’s most notorious actresses and political activists, and at age 80, the Grace and Frankie star is hardly slowing down in the era of Donald Trump.

Jane Fonda attends the 1st Annual Environmental Media Association Honors Benefit Gala held on June 9, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo: Getty Images)

Fonda is now lending her voice to support “The Last Weekend” campaign. It is an initiative organized by Swing Left that aims to get people volunteering on the last weekend before the 2018 midterm elections in November. In an interview with People, Fonda explains what keeps her politically driven despite criticism she’s received over the years — particularly during the Vietnam War.

“I have grandchildren, and when I die I want them to be able to say to themselves that Grandma did everything she could to save democracy and make the world a safer, better, place for us,” says Fonda, who has three children and two grandchildren. “Whether I’ll succeed — I’m not alone — that’s what’s important.”

The biggest political controversy that follows Fonda to this day was her two-week trip to Vietnam in 1972. While visiting the country where the United States had been at war for nearly a decade, she made announcements over the Voice of Vietnam radio, begging U.S. pilots to stop the bombings. She was also photographed with North Vietnamese troops on an antiaircraft gun that would have been used to shoot down American planes. Fonda was called “Hanoi Jane” by veterans and critics with the State Department denouncing the actress upon her return. But it hardly deters the actress now.

Jane Fonda accompanied by soldiers and reporters while playing a song against war in July 1972 near Hanoi during the Vietnam War. (Photo: AP/Nihon Denpa News)

“As for the controversies that have followed me, [they’re] just starch in my spine — and the reason I keep at it is because, why not?” Fonda tells the magazine. “I don’t know — I just don’t see any other way to live. We’re in an existential crisis, you know our democracy has been challenged very, very gravely, and I’m scared.”

However, Fonda isn’t scared of Trump and his disdain for Hollywood. In fact, it fuels her.

“Well, the disdain for Hollywood arises because it’s an effective effort: When celebrities speak out, our voices are heard,” she says. “I’m not happy to say that. Women of color have been speaking out about sexual harassment for years and people didn’t believe them, of course the most notable was Anita Hill, so the fact is that when celebrities speak out for those whose voices are less heard it is effective, and that’s why Trump is attacking us.”

Fonda adds: “I don’t work by myself. I’ve worked with organizations that have proven themselves, and when you’re surrounded by people whose whole lives are steps working to make this country better and fairer and safer, you can’t help but receive energy and passion. That’s what I feel. I’m just so grateful that I can do this.”

The Book Club star also calls the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements a “major shift.”

“I never thought that I would live long enough to make this happen,” she says. “It’s way worse for restaurant workers and farmworkers and domestic workers who are so isolated and whose voices aren’t heard. What I love about Times Up is that it represents an intersectional movement of people, women standing together across sectors.”

Fonda cautions, “But of course, so much depends on who gets elected in November; it goes back to that.”

The Oscar-winning actress says she was drawn to “The Last Weekend” campaign because “I can’t remember in my 80 years a more important election.”

“I mean, 2020 is going to be important, but what happens in November, in terms of who’s going to be elected, is going to determine not just the foreseeable future — but for generations — what this country is going to look like,” she says. “We must elect people at all levels. We really need to protect our democracy and registering to vote if one hasn’t already, and actually voting this November, is critical.”

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