Of Thee I Sing

· 2004 Election

We have just come back from the grand Grand Lake Theater after seeing Farenheit 911, the Michael Moore paen to America. Yes, it is. And perhaps also to mothers who weep when their children die in wars that are unnecessary. The people are flocking to see this movie because everyone is talking about it, not because Michael Moore wants to bring down a president.
And now I understand that everyone is talking about it because there is a lot in it to digest. We “see” once again the flaming towers but not because Moore shows them to us again. Instead he gives us the sounds of September 11th. He gives us the feeling of chaos and death as if we stood there ourselves. Then like a sock in the stomach we see–not just hear–the chaos and death of Iraqi people. I could not watch. Just as the American news shows have declined to show most of the carnage we are now wreaking on the Iraqi people.
Moore also shows us our president and the people close to him at play in the enclaves of money and power. He shows us our elected representatives in Congress turning a deaf ear to their disenfranchised constituents when they attempt to protest the ratification of a sham presidential election. We see (once again) the ruined neighborhoods of Rustbelt America, it’s young people, and the U.S. Marine recruiters come to offer them “jobs.” In Iraq. And we see the weeping mothers–one in Iraq and one in Michigan–who have lost their dear ones and are angry at America.
I came home thinking about my own feelings of shame and fury. In a way, I blame myself. As an American I have to feel responsible for what my country, my government does. Like the German who wasn’t yet born when the Nazis held Europe in a death grip I feel compelled to apologize for what my country has done. It’s in this way that I can empathize with David Brooks, reading his words today in the Times, and see why he might feel bad about Michael Moore traveling the world on a “mea culpa” tour saying things like, “Our stupidity is embarrassing.”
Well, it is. And David Brooks is feeling it. I can tell when I watch him spar politely with Mark Shields on the Lehrer News Hour. David is an intelligent guy with a heart, obviously. And an ardent idealist, I’m guessing. Which is where we meet on the commons. Americans are ardent idealists. At least they like to believe that about themselves. Americans are not, as Brooks summarizes Michael Moore’s view, “kind of crappy.” But they think their government–and their president–is.
Michael Moore isn’t the only one who thinks we’ve been hoodwinked by phantom weapons of mass destruction, and manipulated by fear into funding a military campaign to fight ghosts. Every person who goes to see his movie is afraid that he’s telling the truth. And he delivers the goods so we can decide for ourselves.