Monday, June 28, 2004

More Moore!

Fahrenheit 9/11 poster
Because of some advance reviews I saw, I went into Michael Moore's new movie Fahrenheit 9/11 braced for wild, extravagant claims, outrageous distortions, tricky insinuations, etc. I was surprised to find that most of the content was already familiar to me, already proven in the press and the halls of Congress, where truth is reluctant to show her face. If I was shocked by anything, it was by the fact that Moore left so much of the voluminous case against Bush unsaid. You can only do so much in two hours, I guess. But there were some fresh observations, for example, the physical similarity between the bombed sections of Iraq and the bombed out buildings in the neighborhoods from which American troops were recruited to fight the war. (An observation made not by Moore but by a kid from the Flint area.)

Bottom line: this is Michael Moore's best work to date. I had some big problems with his previous film, Bowling for Columbine--trying to explain something as complex as the shootings at Columbine was too problematic. The event was wrapped in layers of psychological and sociological complexities. But the war in Iraq offers Moore a subject that involves some clear rights and wrongs. Outright falsehoods and mistakes. No one's talking about this, but Moore's ultimate and very much emphasized conclusion here is simply that we should never send troops into combat and ask them to die unless it is a matter of supreme importance--saving lives, stopping a significant threat to the country, etc. US policy has gotten so out of line with common sense that it has cried out for a correction like this, a public event that is bringing people together in the theaters in record numbers. The most extreme material in this film--exploring the relationship between the Bush family and the wealthy Saudi elite--has been very well documented. It's funny how critics of the film don't seem to be contesting this point, or (m)any specific points at all. Instead it's just, "Michael Moore hates America." ANYONE WHO ACTUALLY SEES THE FILM WILL KNOW HOW MUCH MICHAEL MOORE LOVES HIS COUNTRY.

Here's what I want to know: when did politics turn into dumb sports in this country? When did people decide Republicans and Democrats are two teams in a never-ending football match? In my opinion, it's wrong to set any politician up as a hero, even (no, especially) if you voted for him or her. It's our job to supervise them, evaluate their performance and keep them in line or fire them when they fail. Being critical of the president--any president--is not unpatriotic if it's directly related to the job he's doing. It's the opposite. It's true patriotism. It's what we should be doing. I say it so often I get sick of hearing myself say it: we need to teach (esp. young) people to think critically. People think being critical means being negative. It doesn't! It means, among other things, looking for the truth, evaluating claims and their motives, to question statements before accepting them. In Fahrenheit 9/11, Michael Moore's intentions and motives have never been clearer, or better. Best of all, he has used his limited resources to raise important questions about the motives and the performance of vital duties of the most powerful.



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