Jane Fonda: "Midterms Are the Most Important Elections of My Lifetime"

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Jane Fonda

"It's hard for me to breathe right now," she said, before she heads to Michigan with Taraji P. Henson to help with get out the vote efforts.

Jane Fonda took advantage of her Lumiere prize to shine a light on American politics. The Oscar winner said she is leaving from Lyon, France, to head to Michigan along with Taraji P. Henson to work on minority voting efforts in the swing state.

“The elections on Nov. 6 are the most important elections of my lifetime. So much depends on what happens,” said the actress. “It's hard for me to breathe right now.” Fonda was on hand at Cannes head Thierry Fremaux's hometown film festival to receive a career honor and to promote HBO's Jane Fonda in Five Acts, but couldn't help but talk about President Donald Trump.

Fonda said that she had maintained close ties with friends in Georgia after living there for 20 years with former husband and CNN founder Ted Turner, but is no longer able to speak to some: “I love them, but I can't talk to them anymore. And I will fight to my last breath to stop what they are trying to do.”

Fonda said she didn't realize before how much resentment against women and racism boiled underneath the surface in the U.S. Since the 2016 elections, she has devoted herself to working with activist groups, primarily Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC), to help raise the minimum wage in the food service industry. The actress noted that workers in many U.S. states are not entitled to a minimum wage if they earn tips, explaining the system to the audience in France, which has a minimum wage and national healthcare.

Fonda said she is particularly interested in issues that affect working women, since starring in the workplace comedy 9 to 5 nearly four decades ago. The work of her father Henry Fonda in the film Twelve Angry Men and Grapes of Wrath were also big influences on her political leanings.

She also discussed her film Coming Home, the 1978 Vietnam veteran movie co-starring Jon Voight, and said that the diagnosis of PTSD didn't exist then, adding that she believes President Trump suffers from the mental illness.

“I believe he suffers from PTSD because like many men he was, I believe, brutalized by his father when he was very, very young,” Fonda said. “And some men … lose empathy for others [and] also totally lack empathy. And he has been very brutal with his own sons. Father son, father son, it's very sad. I hate this. I have empathy for him, it's difficult, I try, I work at it.

“Martin Luther King said, 'I don't have to like you, but I have to love you.' It's not easy at this moment,” she said. “We live in the patriarchy, and the patriarchy makes us think that empathy and love is weak, but it's not. That is where our strength is. We have two strengths — there are more of us, and also we go forward with love and open minds and warm hearts.”