Sunday, June 27, 2004

after FAHRENHEIT 911 

My old friend Nail called me Saturday morning to talk me into seeing the new Michael Moore film before I went to work. She's been living in Mexico City with her new girlfriend, and I haven't seen her in more than a year. The idea of sitting in a dark room and not being able to talk with a dear old friend didn't sound interesting, and I tried to talk her out of the idea. "Conrad SHUT UP! LISTEN TO ME! This is something very big to experience together! I want to be able to say we saw this on its opening weekend 20 years from now when the world's much better, and much different!" Nail has always been an optimist with the optimal amount of assuredness. "Okay let's see it." I was planning on seeing it Sunday (today) anyway, on my day off.

The film is remarkable, and if you've now seen it, you know what I mean. Moore's ability to equally mix invaluable information and insight with real human emotion puts this film in a class of its own, to use an old adage.

Leaving the theater, I had the sense that things really can turn out all right. Even when confronting the many who will try to convince me Michael Moore is a sham, like that woman in the film who said, "This is all staged!" and the mother Moore had been interviewing made it VERY fucking clear that it was in fact NOT staged. I remember one student waving a copy of the Wall Street Journal at the microphone at Penn when Michael Moore gave a talk about Bowling For Columbine. The student said that the article said that he had staged the scene in the film about the bank that gives you a shotgun when you open an account. Moore laughed, and said, calmly, "Yeah, right. First of all, there's a certified fire arms sales certificate on the wall in that shot. I'd be in federal prison if I had forged such a document. The other thing is, do you REALLY believe I built a bank to shoot that scene? Just because the Wall Street Journal says something, doesn't mean it's true. I'll give you the address of that bank, and you can go visit it on spring break."

We're fortunate to have this man making films. And it truly felt good, walking out of the theater, knowing that we are allowed to see it, and to push the numbers of people to get in there and also see it. The more who do, then the more we can share in our understanding about HOW MUCH we stand to lose if we DON'T somehow manage to be here for each other. Frank Sherlock said to me, "this film is a gift," and I couldn't agree more.

And I'll say this, I'm glad it's Michael Moore's film, because he REALLY gets the poor and working poor, no matter what race. On television news, and that documentary ABOUT BAGHDAD, the soldiers have no background, no past to frame them in. They're always in their camouflage like some magician lifted them out of the dust. I'd like to see the assholes in the audience who were making fun of the soldiers in ABOUT BAGHDAD watch this new Michael Moore film. Moore gives these kids space to prove to the world that they're people who care about their families and friends, and how few their life choices have been. And how military recruiters feed these young minds lies to get them to sign.

Janet Mason has such a story, an army recruiter who nearly talked her into joining in Levittown. Her father and mother at work, and the recruiter slyly asking her what her dreams for her future were. She said she wanted to be a photographer. "Oh well! We need photographers!" She nearly signed her life away. Luckily her mother intervened, made the lies clear. And people can say, "Oh, how ignorant these kids must be to believe this!" Yeah, imagine what middle and upper middle class ignorance of poverty is capable of doing.

But compassion from knowledge is what this new film really can offer those who see it. The film made me contemplative. It made Nail CRAZY! I love her to pieces, but she got into one of her wild woman states, leaping around, yelling out "BUSH IS GONNA LOSE! HE'S GONNA FUCKING LOSE MAN! CONRAD! HE'S GONNA MOTHERFUKCING LOSE MAN!"

I suggested we walk up to the new constitution center before I had to go to work. Nail was looking forward to the presidential action figure dolls in the gift shop I told her about. On the way to the center, Nail was asking all the tourists outside Independence Mall, "Welcome to the birth of American independence man! Hey, have you seen Fahrenheit 911? No? Well, if you REALLY LOVE this country, get there! It's playing JUST DOWN the street man!"

My favorite conversation she had was with a park ranger:
"Hey man! Did you see Fahrenheit 911 yet?"
"Fahrenheit 911, the new Michael Moore film."
"Ah, nah. I heard it about it though."
"Yeah? You gonna see it man?"
"Ah, I don't know."
"You don't know? Do you love this country?"
"Huh? What does that have to do--"
"--what does that have to do with it!? Everything man!"
"What d'you mean?"
"It's for REAL Americans man! Americans who love and believe in this country!"
"Yeah, whatever!"
"Bush is doing an okay job!"
"Yeah, so we should be in Iraq?"
"We rid the world of a tyrant!"
"Yeah man, so why aren't you over there fighting? What's with the park ranger job man?"
"I've got kids--"
"--OH YEAH! Sure man, like you'd be there if you were single."
"Yeah, whatever man, I got your number man!"

There were several other memorable conversations with strangers about the film. One older couple liked Nail very much, asking her what her tattoos meant to her. The four of us met in the gift shop, and we all took a long look at the bobble-head dolls. I wanted everyone to look at the positioning of the hands. Both Laura and W. Bush have their arms folded over the solar plexus, you know, that body language that says, "I'm standing firm, and I don't care WHAT you think!" Jesse Jackson has hands folded, fingers crossed and at his groin, the kind of pacifist, reverence you'd expect. Jimmy Carter is waving and the most relaxed looking. Hillary Clinton is the one I question the most. She has one arm up, her thumb and pointer finger making that, "It's this small" kind of gesture. Hmm, really? Is Bill a grower, not a shower? Nail always turns such conversations into how big she'd like her cock, if she could have one. And of course, big surprise, she wants it big, and pierced.

Tomorrow night MOVEON.ORG is hosting a national on-line meeting with Michael Moore. In Philadelphia, you can go to the First Unitarian Church, 2125 Chestnut Street at 8pm. Everyone else can check out the MOVEON.ORG website for local information: www.moveonpac.org

I'd love to hear what others feel about the new movie,

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