You have to love Michael Moore, the bestselling author of “Downsize This!“, director of the groundbreaking documentary “Roger and Me,“ and creator and host of the Emmy Award winning series “Tv Nation“ and “The Awful Truth.“ And if you don‘t love, you at least have to appreciate what he does. Just when we‘re all getting a little too comfortable with issues we should be downright uneasy about, he‘ll come along and stir up some much-needed self-righteous indignation, all in the form of common sense questions.
This time it‘s through his latest book, “Stupid White Men... And Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation.“ “Mike Strikes Back!“ proclaims the book jacket, and I, for one, take great comfort in that. In true Moore fashion, he fires all cylinders at the “big, ugly special interest group that‘s laying to waste the world as we know it.“ That group is stupid, white men, and they‘re headed up by a cast of the usual suspects, most notably “President“ (as he likes to call him) George W. Bush, his “Co-President“ Dick Cheney, Bill Clinton, The Idiot Nation (to which we all belong), and Corporate America.
Moore writes like a surgeon cutting out false values, and he‘s got a lot of ground to cover. In the opening pages of the book, he wastes no time describing what the American dream has unraveled into, and challenges us to ask if most of this doesn‘t seems a little close to home:
“You‘re working two jobs, and so is your wife, and you‘ve got little Jimmy working down at McDonald‘s, too, so you can afford that new home on the tree-lined street with neatly trimmed lawns and little white picket fences, and - look, there goes Spot to greet Grandpa as he pulls into the driveway! - and next month you‘re going to make the last payment on that student loan you‘ve had for the past twenty years, but then... SUDDENLY, your company has announced it‘s moving to Mexico - without you! Your wife‘s employer has decided she‘s no longer needed because the new “human resources“ consultant believes that the one person can easily do the jobs of three, and little Jimmy has come down with an unknown illness from something he ate out of the McNugget fryer, and your HMO says they won‘t cover little Jimmy‘s operation, but they‘ll be happy to treat him as an outpatient if you‘re willing to drive to Tijuana twice a week, because, well. They‘ve built a new outpatient clinic just across the border, thanks to free trade, which may or may not be responsible for the worm found in Jimmy‘s half-eaten McNugget - oh, sorry, the collection agency just called and they‘d like your new Celica back because you‘ve missed a payment! Hey, maybe when you go to Tijuana and drop Jimmy off you can head down the street and reapply for your old job, where all the “associates“ are given their own outhouse and fed a free breakfast burrito when they arrive at work at five o‘clock every morning. Pardon me if I was dreaming, but weren‘t things looking up just a year or so ago?“
The author‘s primary target of attack is “Thief-in-Chief“ George Bush and his power elite, something that initially didn‘t sit to well with his publishers. The lore goes that Moore‘s book was about to be released when 9-11 sent the nation into shell shock and they got cold feet about seeing a tome (no matter how accurate it might be) hit the stands when the country was enthusiastically supporting Bush and giving him the highest approval rating a President had seen in some time. They demand editing and compromise, but Moore held his ground, and when the book was printed, it immediately went to No. 1 at Amazon.com within days. After all, who really can argue with his description of the White House as “Old white men wielding martinis and wearing dickies have occupied our nation‘s capital.... Launch the SCUD missiles! Bring us the head of Antonin Scalia!... We are no longer able to hold free and fair elections. We need U.N. observers, U.N. troops.“
The publishers may have been wary, but ultimately deferred to Moore and his loyal legion of readers, most of whom will find this as fascinating and funny as it is infuriating, even when he goes over-the-top, calling for the U.N. to overthrow the Bush Family Junta, African-Americans to place whites only signs over the entrances of unfriendly businesses, or fantasizing about Jesse Helms getting kissed by a man.
Not all of it works, but you‘ve got to admire Moore‘s creativity and nerve (Arafat should beat Sharon with Gandhi‘s nonviolent shame tactics, and blacks should put inflatable white dolls in their cars so racist cops will mistake them for chauffeurs), raging against the land in which we now live, one where “crooked courts select the president and money rules the day.“ Now, more than ever, we need Michael Moore‘s wit, voice, and outrage. Even as he argues against the greatest of absurdities in the American way of life, he makes us think and laugh and puts some of the unreality around us into perspective. Bless him for that.
Michael Moore will be a guest of Northwestern Michigan College‘s new student chapter of the Green Party this Monday, April 1, at 8 p.m. with a presentation at the Milliken Auditorium. Doors open at 7 p.m.