Saturday, June 26, 2004

Fahrenheit 9/11


am not a political animal. I do not spew my political views because I have none that perfectly reflects any one party. Socially, I might be viewed as a liberal. I am pro-choice because I believe every woman (or man, for that matter) has the right over their own body and their own destiny.

I believe in affirmative action, as well. While minorities should strive to achieve success on their own, we cannot ignore the overwhelming social consequences of a long history of discrimination. Secretary Colin Powell and Justice Clarence Thomas are shining examples of self-determination, but each minority--African American, Hispanic, Asian American, American Indian--has a different background and therefore a different experience, one that is usually, to varying degrees, stained with bigotry and prejudice and discrimination. And these experiences do not always lead to success.

However, I consider myself right-leaning on other issues. I think that role of government--particularly the federal government--is to guide and support the people, not to dictate to them. As such, government should play a smaller role in our everyday lives. Indeed, local government is far more important than the central government because in a country as wide and as diverse as ours is, local officials have a better idea of the people's needs. I also believe in a strong military, as our country needs to protect itself from the outside as well as play a leading role in protecting the world for everyone's interest--not just US interests. But this is my opinion, and I think everyone is entitled to have their own, no?

Anyway, I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican. I have my own set of values and refuse to follow the "party line" of any political party. I have, in my day, supported Ronald Reagan, Jerry Brown, Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton, and voted for candidates that I feel not only reflects my beliefs on various issues, but also represents me with dignity. Whether he is a governonr or a president, this man will represent me--us--to others. As a result, the most important thing I ask for in any public offical is intelligence, followed closely by conviction to his beliefs and the strength of independent will. As such, I did not support Jimmy Carter--his convictions seemed wishy-wahsy--remember his speesch on the crisis of confidence in the American people? (Damn, Jimmy, it was not your place to judge us!) I have never been a stong supporter of the Bush family, as well. Neither father nor son. When George H. W. Bush gave his speech on the 1000 points of light, he lost me. He seemed intelligent enough and far more effective declaring the evils of Reagan's "voodoo" economics during his first presidential campaign in 1980. But he had the bad fortune of becoming Reagan's vice-president and his successor, and he was obviously trying too hard to be the next "communicator". He did not have the strength to be independent, to be himself.

And then there is his son, the former alcoholic. Now, I'm glad he had the fortitude to overcome this disease and he has worked hard to make a name for himself: Governor of Texas, owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team. But leader of our country? Puleeeeeeze... At every turn, he has failed to impress me. Interviews during his campaign showed he had little knowledge of foreign affairs--remember his inability to name the president of Taiwan? And in speech after speech, he has not looked very presidential to me, the only exception being his speech at the ruins of the WTC when he praised the efforts of the rescue workers with a bullhorn. Of course, I am inclined to think that anyone with a bullhorn in a position of leadership at the site of a disaster of this magnitude would have looked impressive. In fact, I'd bet George Steinbrenner would have looked just as impressive, if not more so. But in virtually every situation I have seen Dubya, he seems as stiff as a board, as though everything that is comes out of his mouth is not coming from his heart but from others. And the administration seem less like an administration, than a board of directors with Bush as the figurehead chairman, the man who is the face of those who really make policy: Cheney, Rumsfeldt, Rice, maybe Powell. Just listen to ANY of their interviews on Meet the Press or some other news program. I don't agree with a lot of their views or some of their activities prior to taking public office, but at the very least these guys have strong convictions and are more intelligent than Bush... by lightyears. Bush seems to have gotten the job because of his daddy's connections.

And now we have Fahrenheit 9/11, a documentary by Michael Moore that underscores all these impressions I hold. He has put forward all that seems wrong with Bush and then some. His connections got him elected--specifically Florida. Many of his decisions are made by those around him, particularly decisions that are in the personal interest rather than the public/national interest. And, of course, Bush's intelligence is questioned to the point of incredulity.

* SPOILER WARNING * skip the next paragraph if you don't want to read about one specific scene in this documentary...

On 9/11, Bush was sitting in on an elementary class in Florida for a photo opportunity. He apparently knew that one plane had crashed into the WTC but he continued with his phot opportunity. With this, Moore presents Bush as either callous or insensitive to or uninterested in an event that is obviously disastrous. If you could effect change, if you were expected to lead a group of people--say, like, the USA--who among you would not have cancelled the photo op and moved to do something, anything? Did his handlers tell him to go on anyway? Then, he is insensitive to the magnitude of the event or, if he does, he is not independent enough to make his own decision as president. Then, when he gets word that the second plane has hit, he continues to sit in his chair in class. His face suggests that he is concerned, that he realized that something terrible has happened. But it took seven minutes for him to move. Can you believe this? When two planes fly into the WTC, he had to mull over a decision to begin to take action. I think any of us would have decided in two seconds--if that long--that we had leave a class and do something--anything--to address this event. Of course, there is the possibility that he was being polite and waiting for a good time to interrupt. Shame on Moore for not considering this possibility. (Now, let us all roll our eyes collectively...)

* End of Spoiler *

There are a number of other scenes and at first I laughed and shook my head at the absurdity of it all, but as the documentary progressed, as it delineated the decision go to war against Iraq and interviewed those who have gone and those who have lost loved ones in Iraq, I lost my willingness to laugh. The film was becoming un-funny. And scary. As technique, Moore did a great job. I'd bet this is exactly the reaction he wanted.

As I mention in my film class on Japanese culture, I never show a documentary because the director always has an agenda and it is never fully objective. This film is no different. Michael Moore is totally subjective. And given his well-known political leanings, I have to take this film with a very large grain of salt, despite the fact that he focuses on many of the doubts I myself have harbored. But some of the information is incredible. Forget about his manipulation and presentations of facts, if only half the documents and/or connections he presented are true, there should be a grand jury investigation.

But I think there will be one eventually. Not because of Moore, but because of the conclusions of the 9/11 Commission made public last week. According to the report, there is no connection between al Qaeda and Saddam, and there is no indication of weapons of mass destruction. This would suggest that the Bush Administration has manipulated and presented the facts to the American people in a way that is far more harmful and, to many families, more devastating than any film Moore could have directed. No one will ever be put in harm's way by watching Fahrenheit 9/11.

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